Vinyl siding is among the most popular choices for residences in North America. What makes it so? Affordability, minimal maintenance and, if it's properly cared for, longevity.
The demand for vinyl siding comes primarily from consumers seeking alternatives to maintenance-intense siding products such as wood and plaster. Some of the appealing features are ease of installation, its resistance to structural pests, such as termites, and the fact that it doesn't require painting.
Even with its growing acceptance, vinyl siding is still the subject of controversy. Product integrity and lasting quality were once of significant concern, however, technological and manufacturing advancements in the vinyl industry have essentially made this a non-issue.
Today, the debate involves aesthetics. Does vinyl siding offer a home the beauty and character that traditional finishes such as wood, stucco, masonry and stone provide? That, really, is a matter of personal taste.
Vinyl siding is used in both new construction and remodeling. When used in the latter case, the material can be applied over existing siding. However, in this instance, strapping or removal of uneven siding might be necessary. In new construction, the use of green (not fully dry) lumber as a substrate should be avoided. The siding can only be as straight and as stable as the underlayment.
Applying weather-resistant sheathing over old siding is the fastest, easiest way to provide an even, nailable surface for vinyl siding installation. When sheathing is not used, furring should be installed on uneven walls or masonry surfaces to provide an even and nailable base. Shimming out the furring at high and low spots will help achieve a final even surface.
There are several steps that should be followed before installing vinyl siding. Any rotten material should be removed and replaced with new, and loose boards should be resecured. Remove loose caulk around windows, doors and other trim, and install new caulk to improve moisture resistance. All protrusions such as gutters, downspouts and light fixtures must be removed and all cracks and penetrations sealed with caulk or expandable foam to make the house more energy-efficient. Tying back shrubbery around the house will allow for a safe and comfortable work space.
While vinyl siding can be installed by a do-it-yourselfer, the vast majority of the product is installed by a professional. Vinyl siding is subject to expansion and contraction from weather conditions, and, therefore, to avoid buckling and other damage, the material must be installed in strict accordance with the manufacturer's instructions.
Rigid vinyl siding is made from organic materials and will melt or burn when exposed to a significant source of flame or heat. Precautions should be taken to keep sources of fire, such as barbecues, and combustible materials, like dry leaves, mulch and trash, away from it.
Enough can't be said about the importance of trim material. It can make or break the appearance of the finished product and the lasting quality of the job as a whole. Only manufacturer-approved trim should be installed as prescribed by the manufacturer.
One of the selling points of vinyl siding is that it doesn't require painting. In fact, manufacturers recommend that it not be painted. This can be a problem for someone who wishes to change the color of his house somewhere down the road. Therefore, it's best to select a neutral color that you will be happy with for years.
Even though vinyl siding doesn't require painting, it is still subject to becoming dirty and soiled. The Vinyl Siding Institute (VSI), an industry trade association, suggests several methods to clean vinyl siding and remove stubborn stains.
According to the VSI, usually a heavy rain is sufficient to clean the product, or it can be washed with a garden hose. If neither rain nor hosing does the job, the VSI suggests a soft cloth or ordinary long-handled soft bristle brush. For textured surfaces, use only a soft-bristle brush to avoid smearing the stain into the grooves of the texture. When washing an entire house, start at the top and work down to the bottom to prevent streaking.
For difficult-to-remove dirt and stains such as topsoil, motor oil, lithium grease, crayon, felt-tip pen, caulking, lipstick, grass, bubble gum, mold and mildew, the VSI recommends a readily available household cleaner such as Fantastic, Murphy Oil Soap, Lestoil or Windex.
Most cleaners are not sufficient for cleaning stains such as pencil, paint, oil and tar. In these cases the VSI suggests using a mildly abrasive cleaner, such as Soft Scrub, Ajax, Bon Ami, etc. The use of any abrasive material, however, could affect surface appearance.
Cleaners containing organic solvents or other aggressive ingredients should not be used because they also could affect the surface appearance of the vinyl. Examples of such cleaners are chlorine bleach, liquid grease remover, strong soaps and detergents containing organic solvents, nail polish remover and furniture polish/cleaners.
For more information on cleaning vinyl siding, visit the VSI website at www.vinylsiding.org
You can also contact the VSI for more info at: Vinyl Siding Institute, Inc. National Housing Center, 1201 15th Street NW, Suite 220, Washington, DC 20005.