If you own a home that still has it's original exterior, chances are that you've considered exterior siding at some point.  Although "purists" react in horror to the idea of covering beautiful historic structures in what is essentially plastic, there are many benefits to installing exterior siding.  The main benefit is that siding removes the need to frequently repaint your house.  Plain paint will probably last about 5 years, while vinyl siding will look like new for years beyond that.  Of the current options available - aluminum, vinyl, fiber cement, and wood - vinyl provides the best option because it is attractive, affordable, and durable.  Indeed, more than one-third of existing homes have been covered in vinyl siding. Before embarking on any siding project, however, it is important to educate yourself about the product itself, and what the installation will require.

Vinyl siding is a great way to protect your house, improve resale value, and make your home look fantastic.
Vinyl siding is a great way to protect your house, improve resale value, and make your home look fantastic.

What is Vinyl Siding?

Vinyl siding is made up of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and other additives which help to resist fading.  One clear superiority over paint is that the color penetrates all the way through the vinyl, so it can't chip or flake off.  Many companies today have a range of attractive options from which to choose.  Vinyl siding comes in textured or smooth panels, and some companies even make siding that mimics the appearance of wood shingles.  The range of available colors should satisfy even the most discerning of tastes.  Vinyl siding also comes in a several different widths, and in either horizontal or vertical configurations.      

How Much is Vinyl Siding?

Although the initial expense of siding your home might be great, in the long run, you will end up spending less in exterior maintenance.  According to Rod Matthews, business manager of siding for Ohio-based Owens Corning, vinyl siding is 11% cheaper than cedar siding, and 26% cheaper than aluminum siding.  Expect to pay anywhere between $160 to $250 per square foot (100 ft) of product.  Keep in mind when choosing your siding that the fancier or more ornate your pattern, the costlier it will be.  Make sure to fix any existing exterior problems before installing siding, as the siding will only mask issues such as leaking or moisture condensation.  Anything left untended is sure to become an expensive problem in later years.  

What Options are Available for Vinyl Siding?

Vinyl siding comes in textured or smooth panels. Some companies even make siding that mimics the appearance of wood shingles, and even others make siding meant to look like the exterior of older homes. Once panels are installed, soffit and trim pieces are used to create a more attractive appearance. When purchasing siding, check the product itself for technical information and specifications. The American Society of Testing and Materials establishes a minimum standard thickness for vinyl siding of .035 inches, but products in the .040 to .045 range are going to be better.

How Durable is Vinyl Siding?

The durability of vinyl siding has vastly improved in recent years.  Critics used to cite fading color, a lack of rigidity, and moisture issues as problems with vinyl siding, but products on the market today generally do not have these problems when installed properly.  Quality siding should come with some sort of anti-weathering protection, since sunlight can be very damaging to raw vinyl. While companies keep the ingredients of their weather-resistant coating proprietary, one thing you can look for is titanium dioxide. Additionally, while shopping for a product, don't be afraid to ask questions!  Have the dealer explain why and how the product will resist weathering.  Another clue to a quality product is a warranty; the warranties offered on most vinyl siding is for 50 years.  Some manufacturers even offer lifetime warranties, and yet others only offer prorated warranties, where the protection decreases the longer the siding lasts.  As with any warranty, be sure to read the fine print.  Some companies only promise to re-coat damaged siding rather than replacing it.  

More Tips on Choosing Vinyl Siding

An essential important issue to consider before deciding to install vinyl siding is the nature of your community and immediate neighborhood.  Community-wise, be sure to inquire ahead of time as to any rules or regulations on the books for historic homes.  Some communities actually forbid any time of exterior siding on homes past a certain age.  As for your neighborhood, do some serious looking around.  If none of the other homes on your block have exterior siding, yours may appear out-of-place.  The value of your home may even be affected if it is the only vinyl-sided home in the neighborhood. When in doubt, consult a realtor for an expert opinion.

Finally, shop around before committing to any one product or contractor. Compare products, prices and even recommendations from previous customers.  Although time consuming, careful consideration of all available options will surely lead to years of satisfaction with your new vinyl siding.    

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