Vinyl siding is the predominant choice for home exteriors in the United States. Its popularity comes from its versatility; vinyl siding can handle extreme temperatures, fierce winds, and torrential rains. Although it is extremely reliable, sometimes it buckles, warps, or shows signs of wear that need attention. It is important to check vinyl siding visually several times per year since most problems will be evident from the exterior. With simple maintenance, you can avoid turning small problems into large ones.
How do I spot issues in my vinyl siding?
A quarterly perimeter check will reveal almost all the possible problems you may have with your vinyl siding. As you walk around, look for the following clues:
- Bulging, wavy, or uneven pieces
- Loose panels that appear to be pulling away from the structure
- Warping, especially near the ground
- Exposed nails
- Water stains or mold
- Vertical lines where the seams meet
- Cracks or chips
- A chalky texture on the siding
Inside, if you experience peeling paint or bubbling wallpaper, it may be a sign that you have a siding issue on the other side. Musty smells may also indicate that there is a mold or rot problem stemming from the exterior.
What causes vinyl siding problems?
As with everything in your home, the smallest – and sometimes the oddest – things can cause significant problems when it comes to your siding. Installation issues, heat, and water are the most common troublemakers, but they aren’t the only ones.
Improper installation is the leading cause of most vinyl siding issues. Siding is designed to hang from metal fasteners in a way that allows it to expand and contract with temperature changes. If the siding is nailed to these fasteners too tightly and it can’t move, then nails will pop and create bulges, or the siding will buckle and warp because of its inability to move.
You should be able to move one of your siding panels one-quarter to one-half of an inch horizontally. If you can’t, it has been nailed too tightly, and you should have a contractor fix it before you start experiencing issues.
Building movement is a less common problem, but it is a major cause for concern especially in older homes. When a dwelling settles, it can cause the siding to bulge or buckle. Sometimes, though, loose panels and wavy siding may indicate a much larger structural issue that needs repair.
Insect damage is a rare issue, but it can still happen. If termites or other pests cause damage to your home’s structure, siding may warp or buckle. Make sure to check ground-level siding well for signs of pest issues.
Moisture is one of the main contributors to siding problems. If your home has inadequate moisture protection, then water will get under siding and allow it to warp. Installing a plastic house wrap will solve this issue and help keep unwanted water away from your home’s structure.
Also, check to make sure all your architectural elements, like windows and doors, have the proper flashing. If your home has not been waterproofed correctly, moisture can infiltrate roofing and siding – leading to significant structural problems down the road.
Sometimes mold is unavoidable. If one side of your home stays in the shade, its siding may attract mold periodically. In this situation, all you need to do is power wash the siding to keep it clean.
Wear and tear happen to everything on your home eventually. If you can see the vertical seam lines on your siding, it means that the caulk has cracked, shrunk, or worn away. Fresh caulk can have your siding back to working order in no time.
If you see holes, cracks, or a chalky substance on your vinyl siding, it means that the siding is breaking down, and it is time to replace it.
Heat is a trickier nuisance than most of the others. A grill or other heat source may be melting your siding if it is too close to your home. Although it seems pretty straightforward – especially when the heat source is something obvious – often the source of the heat is tough to locate.
Believe it or not, sunlight reflecting off your neighbor’s windows can melt and warp your siding – and it’s not that uncommon. To alleviate this issue, ask your neighbor to install screens over their windows. The screens will diffuse the light, making it less intense as it hits your house. You can also consider planting some fast-growing trees or shrubs to block the reflection, or investing in heat-resistant siding.
What should I do if I have problems with my siding?
If you leave problem areas untreated, you run the risk of letting water leak into your home’s structure. Eventually, you could experience rot, mold, or structural issues. Warped siding is a great place for insects to hide, as well. And during a storm, loose siding may blow off your home – threatening bodily injury and property damage.
There is no way to fix siding that has already melted or bulged. The only way to repair vinyl siding that has already warped in some way is to replace it. It is possible to fix panels that are loose or too tight, though, without having to buy new ones. Just make sure that you follow proper installation guidelines when you are laying new siding or fixing old pieces.
Vinyl siding is ideal for all seasons. With a little diligence, you can recognize siding issues before they become major disasters. Battling against that bulging siding is quick and easy as long as you keep an eye out for it.