The demand for vinyl siding comes primarily from consumers who seek 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.
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. However, vinyl siding products of late have a low-gloss finish that resembles painted wood. Moreover, most manufacturers offer realistic looking grain patterns and have improved the look and integrity of trim material. Fading and yellowing are no longer an issue with finer vinyl siding products, nor is rigidity if they are correctly installed.
Vinyl siding is available in varying widths and with smooth or textured panels. The latter resembles the look of real rough-sawn wood that has been stained. Both horizontal and vertical panels are available... with horizontal being best-suited for traditional architecture and vertical offering a contemporary look.
When it comes to minimum manufacturing standards, vinyl siding is subject to the American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM) Standard 3679. Thus, any vinyl siding that you purchase should come complete with this designation on both product fact sheets and packaging. Keep in mind that these are minimum standards. When it comes to building materials minimum standards is not a good thing. Thus, to select a product that exceeds this minimum standard, use the following guidelines:
- Panels should be at least .040 inches thick; .042 to .045 is better. The ASTM standard requires only .035 inches.
- Soffit panels should be about .05 inches thick. Because soffits are suspended horizontally and secured at the edges only, the extra thickness prevents the panels from sagging.
- Look for anti-weathering protection. The warranty is your best clue. Few building products come with the long warranties offered by vinyl manufacturers... 50 years is standard. Some products even come with a lifetime warranty that can be transferred to the next owner of your home. Unfortunately, most warranties only cover the product and not the labor to replace it.
- A contractor's experience and craftsmanship are essential to a professional installation. 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.
Trim material 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.
Vinyl siding 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.
Vinyl siding is subject to becoming dirty and soiled. The Vinyl Siding Institute (VSI) suggests several methods to clean it.
Usually a heavy rain is sufficient to clean the product, or it can be washed with a garden hose. If neither does the job, 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. When washing an entire house, start at the top and work down 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, VSI recommends a 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, use a mildly abrasive cleaner, such as Soft Scrub, Ajax or Bon Ami. 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.
The VSI publishes two free brochures. "What Homeowners Want to Know" and "Cleaning of Vinyl Siding." Send a self-addressed stamped envelope to: The Society of the Plastics Industry, Inc., Attn: Vinyl Siding Institute, 1275 K Street NW, Suite 400, Washington, DC 20005.