Restoration Guide: Choosing and Avoiding Problems with Vinyl Siding

Rob Sabo

Editor's Note: This is article 7 of 18 in Chapter 2: Exterior Walls of the Old House Web Restoration Guide. This guide was developed and edited for old homes from original material in the U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Rehab Guide.


Section 1--Overview

Vinyl siding is the most widely used siding product in production today, with 60 to 70 percent of the re-siding market and 40 to 50 percent of the new siding market. It's used most often in homes and buildings east of the Mississippi.

Vinyl siding was introduced in the 1960s, but early versions of the product were marred by cold-weather cracking and fading problems. However, the vinyl siding manufactured today is a high-performing product that readily withstands cold weather. Many manufacturers are making vinyl siding with such a high level of detail that it's often hard to tell the vinyl siding from the wood products being imitated.

1.1: The Leading Cause of Problems With Vinyl Siding

More than 90 percent of the problems associated with vinyl siding are caused by improper nailing patterns. When installing vinyl siding during a home restoration, it is imperative that you allow the siding to expand and contract freely by allowing sufficient space for the siding to travel within the nailing slot or tab. Nails placed too close to one edge of the fastening tab can bind the siding, and as the panel expands or contracts, it can bend, warp, and twist. Nail heads that pinch the siding tab cause similar problems.

1.2: Grades of Vinyl Siding

Vinyl siding is classified by its thickness, and prices vary accordingly. The classifications range from thickest to thinnest:

  • Super premium
  • Premium
  • Standard
  • Economy
  • Super economy

Some super premium products can cost almost twice as much as super economy siding. Price siding accordingly when remodeling an old house--you won't want to replace damaged sections of old vinyl siding with high-end newer products that don't match existing siding thicknesses and styles.

The thickest vinyl siding products better resist damage from impact and weathering. Advances in manufacturing techniques also have led to higher resistance to fading. There also are low-gloss finishes available that replicate cedar siding products, which might be a good route to investigate during cost-conscious home renovations.

Additionally, high-end siding typically has reinforced nailing tabs, stronger locking profiles, and increased rigidity.

Section 2--Vinyl Siding Styles

Building products manufacturer CertainTeed offers siding in most contemporary wood siding and shake patterns, including:

  • Rough split
  • Board and batten
  • Half rounds
  • Clapboard
  • Dutch lap
  • Beaded

Section 3--Insulated Siding Panels

Progressive Foam Product's ThermoWall features an insulated underlayment panel that attaches to the exterior wall over existing siding products. In addition to providing an important rigid and flat base for new vinyl siding, ThermoWall is an excellent way to increase a home's insulation value. The half-inch thick underlayment panels are 20 inches tall by 4 feet long and work with most models of vinyl siding.

Section 4--Trim and Accessories

Many manufacturers produce window, door, and corner trim pieces that eliminate standard J-channel trim. Newer trim styles closely resemble wood trim in appearance and at joint lines. When using vinyl siding, trim is required on all outside and inside corners.

Section 5--Removing Stains from Vinyl Siding

Vinyl siding fades with age, but regular maintenance and cleaning can prolong the appearance of the material. Vinyl siding can be cleaned with a scrub brush and household cleaners such as Fantastik or Windex. You can also use a power washer for more stubborn dirt. The Vinyl Siding Institute provides further information on cleaning grease, paint, and other blemishes from vinyl siding, as well as maintaining vinyl siding.

Section 6--Repairing Vinyl Siding

Home renovations performed on houses with vinyl siding often require replacing small portions of buckled, dented, or cracked siding. A device called a Zip tool is designed to release the locking lap on vinyl siding. Slip the tool under the top and bottom edges of the damaged section, remove the damaged piece, and replace. Siding patches won't match existing siding, however, due to fading with age.

Section 7--Replacing or Covering Existing Siding

Old siding with significant deterioration should be removed to provide a clean surface to hang new siding. You also can inspect the sheathing for rot or other damage, as well as install ThermoWall for a higher R-value. Vinyl siding cannot be hung on wood framing members; it must be hung over plywood sheathing, rigid foam insulation, or fiber-cement sheathing.

If you choose to keep existing siding in place during a home renovation, you'll have to install vertical furring strips to make the wall surface flush and to provide a clean surface for the new siding. You must still install a rigid sheathing over the furring strips, and trim and door jambs must be extended outward.

Section 8--Attaching Vinyl Siding

Vinyl siding should be hung with rust-proof nails or staples. Nail heads should be 1/16 of an inch to 1/8 of an inch away from the slotted nailing hem so that the siding can move. Pneumatic nail and staple guns cause more problems with binding than nailing by hand.




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