Installing & Cleaning Vinyl
Like it or not, vinyl siding has taken hold among the most popular choices for residential siding projects in North America. What makes vinyl siding so popular? Affordability, minimal maintenance and, if 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. A few of the most appealing features of vinyl siding are its ease of installation over existing siding, its resistance to structural pests, such as termites, and the fact that it doesn’t require painting. This makes it a particularly appealing choice for people with limited incomes or who cannot devote the time and energy needed to maintain a home’s exterior.
Even with its growing acceptance, vinyl siding is still the subject of much 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 principal debate involves aesthetics. The question: does vinyl siding offer a home the beauty and character as do traditional finishes such as wood, stucco, masonry and stone? As is true of virtually all building finishes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, therefore, making its acceptance a function of personal taste.
Vinyl siding is used in both new construction and remodeling. When used in remodeling, the material can be applied over the existing siding, however, strapping or removal of uneven siding may be necessary. In new construction the use of green lumber (lumber not fully dry) should be avoided as a substrate. 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 which should first be followed before installing vinyl siding. Any rotten material should be removed and replaced with new material 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 should be sealed with caulk or expandable foam to make the house more energy efficient. Tying back shrubbery surrounding the house will provide a safe and comfortable work space.
While vinyl siding can be installed by the do-it-yourselfer, the vast majority of the product is installed by the professional. Vinyl siding is subject to expansion and contraction as a function of climate and weather conditions, therefore, the material must be installed in strict accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions to avoid buckling and other damage.
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, such as dry leaves, mulch and trash, away from the vinyl siding.
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, when considering a color, it’s best to select a neutral color that you will be happy with for years to come.
Even though vinyl siding doesn’t require painting, it is still subject to becoming dirty and soiled just as with other exterior finishes exposed to the atmosphere. The Vinyl Siding Institute (VSI), an industry trade association, suggests several methods to clean vinyl siding and remove stubborn stains.
According to the VSI, in most cases a heavy rain is sufficient to clean the product or it can be washed with an ordinary garden hose. If neither rain nor hosing does a satisfactory job, the VSI suggests a wash sing 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 in order to prevent streaking.
For difficult to remove dirt and stains such as top soil, motor oil, lithium grease, crayon, felt-tip pen, caulking, lipstick, grass, bubble gum, mold and mildew, the VSI recommends using a readily available household cleaner such as Fantastic, Murphy Oil Soap, Lestoil and Windex.
Most cleaners are inefficient in 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, but the use of any abrasive material could have a negative effect on surface appearance.
Cleaners containing organic solvents or other aggressive ingredients should not be used because hey 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 Vinyl Siding Institute has a wealth of installation and care resources for builders and consumers at its website at www.vinylsiding.org.