Vinyl siding is a low maintenance, inexpensive exterior home cladding. The main issues with it directly relate to improper installation. Vinyl siding that has been installed by unskilled, inexperienced contractors can cause serious damage to the interior walls of a home after a few years. Homeowners in New England know all too well about the toll inclement weather takes on home siding. The most common signs of poor vinyl siding installation are easy to spot, even for homeowners unfamiliar with the minute details of installing exterior cladding. To help homeowners avoid costly repairs in the future, this article discusses the most common installation defects of vinyl siding.
Properties of Vinyl Siding
Vinyl siding consists of polyvinyl chloride material (PVC). This material is inexpensive for manufacturers to produce, and it is versatile enough for them to create siding panels of many sizes and colors. Simply stated, vinyl siding is arguably the most versatile siding material of all.
The main problems to keep in mind relate to the cutting and fastening of vinyl siding. PVC is soft enough to be cut with ordinary tin snips, which makes the material the preferred choice of do-it-yourself craftsmen. Easy cutting, unfortunately, tends to lead to uneven, hurried cutting. To install vinyl siding properly, contractors should take care to size all siding panels before beginning the installation process. One common mistake of inexperienced contractors is to cut siding panels as the job carries on rather than taking the time to measure and mark panels first.
PVC expands and contracts easily in hot and cold weather. Homeowners who reside in regions prone to wide swings in weather should take care to inspect new siding installations thoroughly to ensure that contractors have accounted for this property of vinyl siding. For instance, accounting for the proper clearance of all openings and stops where siding panels come into contact with windows is absolutely critical when installing vinyl.
If nailed improperly, vinyl siding will rip as the material expands and contracts in hot and cold weather. Poorly nailed siding can also lead to warping and buckling of the panels too. Nailing vinyl siding is simple, but the fact of the matter is that even experienced contractors can make simple mistakes. Fortunately, proper vinyl siding nailing has a few general rules to follow.
Specifically, the Vinyl Siding Institute (VSI) strongly recommends that contractors remember to place nails directly in the center of the nailing slots. Center-aligned nails allow for the expansion and contraction of PVC siding. Also, contractors should take care to drive nails at least 3/4″ deep into either furring or a framing stud. This technique will help the stability of vinyl siding panels over time.
Another common nailing mistake is driving the nails tightly against the nailing hem. Contractors should allow approximately a 1/32″ clearance between nail heads and PVC panels. This technique accounts for the expanding and contracting thickness of vinyl siding, which is easy to overlook for inexperienced contractors. Homeowners should take care to inspect all openings and stops. The general rule of thumb, according to the VSI, is to allow at least 1/4″ clearance to account for expansion and contraction. The problem is that homes in colder climates such as the New England region must have vinyl siding panels installed with a slightly larger clearance. Homes in regions of the country with temperatures near or below the freezing point should have vinyl panels installed with at least a 3/8″ clearance. Surely, the freeze-and-thaw cycle of the New England area places a large amount of stress on the integrity of vinyl siding.
Inspecting Sensitive Areas
All doors, miscellaneous openings (i.e. siding glass patio doors), corners, and areas where walls come into contact with roofing are sensitive areas. Proper panel cutting will ensure that panels allow for the proper clearance in these sensitive areas. These areas are the most vulnerable because water can seep behind the vinyl siding and cause wood rot in as little as a few months. Installing flashing properly will prevent this water seepage and allow for proper draining.
Windows in particular should have flashing that extends beyond all nail flanges. This technique will allow rainwater and snowmelt to properly drain without penetrating exterior walls. As a general rule, the VSI recommends that contractors install flashing underneath windows first before moving on to other sections of the window. Also, when sizing panels to fit around windows, contractors should allow for an additional 1/4″ to allow for proper clearance. Doorframes should have surrounding vinyl siding installed similarly. Lastly, proper vinyl siding installation should be consistently aligned on both sides of an opening. This defect is the easiest of all to spot.
Installing vinyl properly is simple, but it does take a certain amount of skill to complete well. If homeowners carefully inspect all nailings and sensitive areas, they can avoid costly repairs in the future.