Vinyl siding first made its way into the home building marketplace in the 1960s. Back then, it offered an attractive alternative to aluminum siding, which was prone to dents and dings. Its low-maintenance qualities, and its availability in a variety of pre-finished colors made vinyl a popular choice for lower-end homes. But as the decades rolled on, and manufacturers started offering more style and color options, vinyl siding started to be used to clad all types of homes. Vinyl remains the most popular type of home siding today. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, about 33% of the new single-family homes constructed in 2011 were clad in vinyl, making it the number one exterior siding that year. Brick came in at second with 24%, and fiber cement, also known as hardie siding, edged up to 15%. What keeps vinyl siding so popular with homeowners? It requires little maintenance, is budget-friendly, and can fit in with any architectural style.
Vinyl Siding Has Come a Long Way
At first, vinyl siding was prone to cracking and warping, but advances in the 1970s reengineered the product to make it weatherproof, insect-proof, fade-resistant and, under normal conditions, virtually indestructible. Some manufacturers offer vinyl siding that can resist wind speeds up 240 miles per hour. Of all types of home siding, vinyl has the cheapest installed cost, according to the Vinyl Siding Institute (VSI). This durability, low price point and new offerings in size and texture have further boosted its popularity. Today, vinyl siding comes in a range of colors and designs, some of which closely resemble wood grain. These are suitable not only for new construction, but also for replicating the look of vintage siding in renovations of older homes. Fiber cement siding offers many of the same advantages of vinyl. Known as hardie siding, after the Australian company that invented it (James Hardie, Inc.), fiber cement first became available in the mid-1980s and quickly gained a reputation for its realistic wood-like appearance, resistance to pests and extreme weather, and long-term durability.
A Low Maintenance Option
You don’t have to paint vinyl siding every few years (like you would with real wood siding), but vinyl does require some occasional maintenance. To clean mold or grime that might accumulate, VSI recommends applying a solution of 30 percent vinegar and 70 percent water with a long-handled scrub brush. You can also use a power washer, but be careful not to shoot water upwards behind the panels. Though vinyl siding has drain holes for water and allows air to circulate behind it, it’s never a good idea to get the wood of your home’s exterior wet. Vinyl siding will eventually fade, but usually only slightly. Adding a coat of a latex exterior paint, which flexes in keeping with the expansion and contraction of the siding, can keep the color vibrant.
Getting Quality Siding
The best way to ensure your siding is high quality and installed correctly is to find a reliable contractor with extensive experience in siding installations. A contractor’s expertise is crucial to a good siding job. Because vinyl expands and contracts, even the most expensive siding will buckle and warp if it’s not put on correctly. Experienced contractors take a number of steps to keep this from happening. Your contractor should be licensed, bonded, offer a written guarantee and be able to produce references. They should also have established relationships with the best siding manufacturers and their installers should be certified. A good contractor can advise you on which vinyl or fiber cement siding will offer the most durability and the least amount of fading. The warranty offered by the manufacturer is an excellent clue to how weather resistant a product is. A fifty year warranty is standard. Some products even come with a lifetime warranty that can be transferred to the next owner of your home.