Vinyl house siding can be an economical and low-maintenance choice for cladding the exterior of your home. It's available in a number of different profiles that encompass virtually all of the traditional types of wood siding such as clapboard, shake and board-and-batten. But vinyl siding goes beyond that, with styles that mimic the look of stone, brick and log siding.
Considerations include whether or not to select standard vinyl siding or the insulated variety which adds both efficiency and durability benefits.
Color is another factor to consider because once you choose a color there's really no turning back since vinyl siding doesn't offer a practical surface for painting.
There are also different grades of vinyl, each with their own price point. Cheaper vinyl may cost less but it can also look cheap too. Premium vinyl siding offers better quality but may ultimately cost as much as other non-vinyl siding choices. The environmental aspect of vinyl is another consideration with advocates on both sides of the "green" debate.
Whether or not to choose vinyl house siding comes down to your preferences and valuation of what vinyl can provide in the way of maintainability, looks, cost and durability.
Becoming familiar with vinyl siding is your first step toward making a more informed decision about whether it's going to be the right choice for your home. You'll want to get to know the various styles and forms that are available and the options you can choose from.
Typical Horizontal Vinyl Siding Terms
Image Courtesy of CertainTeed Corp.
Lap style siding is available in single, double and triple "courses". Courses are the rows that represent wood boards in a single piece of vinyl siding.
The important part to remember about the length of the siding is that it will affect the number of seams that are visible on your house.
Typical lengths are 12 feet long however 16 and 20 foot lengths are an option. But before you decide that 20-foot vinyl siding is the way to go, remember that the longer the siding piece, the more flexible it is. To counter this flexibility better vinyl is thicker and has heftier flanges and nailing hems which helps it stay more rigid. A good installation job is also key to avoiding waviness when using long siding pieces.
Vinyl Board & Batten Siding
Photo Courtesy of CertainTeed Corp.
Vertical siding is another option with vinyl. A common variety is the board-and-batten style which uses vertical "boards" accentuated by narrower battens, also oriented vertically.
Photo Courtesy of CertainTeed Corp.
The look of wood shakes is one more vinyl option with a number of style choices available. Polymer vinyl shakes are molded from polypropylene resin in a different process than what's used to make clapboard vinyl pieces.
The molding process used to make the shakes allows the manufacturers to achieve deeper grooves in the material resulting in a more convincing look. As a result molded vinyl shakes are thicker than standard horizontal vinyl siding.
In addition to the siding itself there are multiple selections of trim pieces you can choose. In fact a wise selection of trim can sometimes do a better job camouflaging the fact that a house is sided in vinyl. That's because some of the more detailed and substantial trim options do a better job of looking like wood trim. Examples include fluted corner posts, window and door mantels, dentil moldings, window crowns and rosettes.
Trim options also offer more design flexibility when it comes to creating or maintaining your home's architectural style, be it Georgian, Queen Anne, Victorian, Federal or Cape.
Photo Courtesy of CertainTeed Corp.
The main benefit is that it increases the exterior wall's insulation, making your home a bit more energy efficient.
Typical R-values (R-value being a measure of thermal resistance) for insulated vinyl house siding are around 4. It might not sound like much but that could mean about a 20% to 25% increase in your exterior walls' efficiency if they have an R-value of about 20 to start with (assuming 2x6 stud construction and fiberglass batt insulation). Keep in mind you'll pay more for insulated vinyl siding.
Another benefit of the insulated variety is that it's more durable since the foam backing provides some resistive force against impacts.
It also can make the vinyl siding's appearance more realistic because it "fills out" the profile. A lot of the clapboard style of vinyl siding, particularly thinner products, have a concave profile which doesn't resemble wood and is a visual giveaway of vinyl siding.
The Vinyl Siding Institute, the trade organization supporting vinyl siding manufacturers and installers, sponsors a vinyl siding product certification program. Through this program various vinyl siding products can be certified by an independent third-party organization. Certified products meet quality criteria established by the ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials).
The 3 ASTM standards that might be of relevance to any homeowner considering vinyl house siding are the following:
The point here is that there are standards established to ensure quality vinyl siding products and installations. If you're concerned about inferior products or shady installers, you can check the VSI website to see which products are certified as well as which installers (by U.S. state or Canadian province) are certified.
If you really want to get technical and delve into what these standards are all about, simply put the ASTM number into a search engine (for example, 'ASTM D3679'). What you'll get is the ASTM specification along with it's summary. If you want to read the full specification you'll need to buy it from the ASTM.
A great attribute of vinyl house siding is it's low maintenance requirements. However along with that feature there are some drawbacks too. Here's a list of vinyl siding pros and cons.
So let's say you understand what vinyl house siding is all about and you're familiar with their high and low points. If you're going to choose vinyl, here's what you should look for.
Image Courtesy of CertainTeed Corp.Thicker products are more rigid and robust and will stand up to knocks better than thinner products. Average vinyl siding thickness is about 0.045" thick with thinner versions around 0.040 and thicker products at 0.054" thick.
Vinyl siding colors are probably the next most fretted-over consideration after the style and cost issues.
The color of your house makes a statement to the neighborhood and you don't want to be the resident who's house is consistently described as the "garish home up the street."
Vinyl siding colors are typically offered in a range of neutrals and tones that are common among house colors. The quantity of colors will differ based on the manufacturer of the siding. If you prefer earth-tone neutral colors there tends to be a sufficient amount of overlap with regard to vinyl color choices among manufacturers. In that sense you're not locked in to a particular make of vinyl siding.
Darker, richer vinyl colors do exist but they're not as plentiful. Manufacturers like KP Building Products offer the Norman Rockwell™ line of vinyl house siding that's offered in vibrant colors like deep barn red and dark ocean blue. If you want these kinds of vinyl siding colors, you'll have to shop around for the manufacturers that offer these shades.
However as vinyl coloring technology continues to advance there will probably be more companies offering these colors.
Beyond color choice the next issue to consider is fading. The effects of sunlight and the environment on vinyl siding colors won't be cured but the technology has come a long way. According to a Consumer Reports test on vinyl siding the resistance to fading has made great strides.
That fact is corroborated by the vinyl house siding manufacturers' warranties against excessive color fade. However the criteria used to evaluate fading is a bit complex, quoted in terms of "Hunter units of delta E."
"Hunter units" is a reference to the measurement scale developed by the laboratory specializing in measuring color as seen by the human eye. So while it's true that manufacturers warrant against excess fading it's questionable how easy it would be to prove any fading occurred. Hopefully, you won't have to.
The final point on vinyl siding color is on the question of whether or not it can be painted. You'll find information on the web and DIY procedures that suggest it's possible to paint vinyl siding but in reality, it's not a slam-dunk.
Vinyl by nature expands and contracts a lot and whatever paint is applied has to move with it. But there aren't many paints that can tolerate this and those that don't will crack and peel. Some materials are just better than others, being more stable with less "movement". Vinyl isn't one of them. So painting vinyl is probably best described as 'not practical'.
At this point you might think that vinyl siding is the right choice for your house. The only other questions have to do with who can install it for you and how much it's going to cost.
If you need some help in that area and would like to find local vinyl siding professionals, take a moment to fill in the form below. HomeStyleChoices.com partners with Reliable Remodeler to help homeowners find local contractors and sources of products.
When you use this form you'll be contacted at your convenience by several siding professionals that can provide free estimates for your project. Just click the appropriate radio buttons on the form and then input your zip code. There's no obligation and it's a convenient way to make contact with local sources that may be able to assist you.
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