Taking Sides: Choosing the right siding for the job

Once siding is damaged enough to require replacement, finding a contractor who will take carer of damage behind the siding before properly installing new siding, is vital. Courtesy photo.

In rural areas, the wind and severe weather can be especially punishing, causing damage to vehicles, crops, and buildings. Homes are often the victims of damage from severe storms as well as from years of exposure to the elements.  

Andy Hesse, a siding contractor with Sorensen Roofing and Exteriors in Greeley, Colo., works extensively with rural homeowners and has seen record damage to homes this summer from severe weather. He said durability is king when selecting a siding product. 

Vinyl siding is on the bottom of the list in terms of durability but he said is valued for its ease of maintenance as it doesn’t require painting every seven to 10 years. While it is cost-effective initially for many homeowners, Hesse doesn’t recommend it. 

“The problem with vinyl siding is it’s very susceptible to breaking in a storm,” he said.  

While he said today’s vinyl siding is more durable than its predecessors, vinyl is not the best choice in rural areas prone to high winds and hail.  

A more durable siding available is lap siding, an OSB board that is painted and does require periodic re-painting. When lap board siding is subjected to hail, the paint is chipped, typically leaving the siding mostly undamaged, making it more durable but requiring more frequent maintenance. 

“Rather than having to re-side the entire side of your house, you can just repaint it,” he said. “It’s a midrange-priced product for most homeowners.” 

The high end, most durable siding, and the one Hesse recommends to his rural clients is Hardy Board concrete siding. This product is available painted from the factory but does add to the initial expense. It is the most durable option available and the paint typically carries a lengthy guarantee. 

“If people are looking for a durable product that doesn’t require frequent painting, this is a good option,” he said. 

Stucco is a common product in many areas and its durability is good for the cost associated. He said the trim on a stucco home is the area most typically damaged in severe weather as it’s not typically as thick in those areas as in the main body. 

Hesse said it is vital that homeowners complete due diligence in researching contractors and only choose a contractor that will properly complete installation of siding. A contractor, he said, must understand what goes behind the siding. 

Hesse has noticed more contractors who are failing to install a house wrap product behind siding, especially vinyl. This leaves the plywood susceptible to moisture and eventual damage. 

“Just like a roof, you need a barrier between the actual plywood and the siding itself,” he said. 

A good quality contractor will completely remove old or damaged siding, apply a Tyvex housewrap, and a flashing around all window and door openings to seal the house from water penetration around open areas, before installing siding.  

Siding is more than just a cosmetic product, he said, and while it can drastically improve curb appeal, its most important job is to protect the structure from water, the enemy of wooden structures. 

A good contractor, he said, should inspect the condition of the material behind the siding prior to delivering a quote. Any damaged material, rotted wood, or warped boards should be replaced before installing new siding to ensure longevity. 

“The cost does go up with that but you’re not risking siding falling off because it’s not on a good nail-able surface,” he said.  

Hesse suggests homeowners keep trees and plants are away from the home, adjust sprinklers to not hit the home, and slope the landscaping properly away from the home to prevent water pooling. Gutters should also be periodically inspected for proper attachment to the home. 

“One of the big things I see is gutters that are getting clogged up which is causing overflow either out of the gutters or getting high enough that it goes behind the gutters and causing water damage around the trim and facia,” he said. 

An annual pressure washing is another step in proper maintenance. Inspecting the seams of the siding for proper caulking is also key for the siding’s longevity.