I'm a contractor in southern New England. My business, the
Storm Tite Company, installs replacement doors and windows,
porch enclosures, and gutters, but our specialty is vinyl
siding. There are a lot of older houses in our area, many of
which feature extensive trim and ornamental woodwork. We have a
reputation for knowing how to apply vinyl without changing the
character of structures that were originally sided with wood,
so we're often hired for those types of demanding jobs.
Why Installation Matters
Most builders and homeowners are already familiar with the
benefits of vinyl. Vinyl siding is durable, installs easily,
and resists fading, denting, and scratching. Once it's
installed, it requires no maintenance other than an occasional
wash with a garden hose — a major selling point for
modern homeowners who don't have the time or patience to scrape
and paint every few years.
When good siding goes bad.
Like any building product, though, vinyl can be installed well
or badly. Unfortunately, you don't have to look hard to find
ugly siding jobs. But the siding itself is seldom to blame. A
lot of siding jobs go bad because an inexperienced installer
overdrives the nails, preventing the siding from expanding and
contracting with changes in temperature. Even a few overdriven
nails can cause siding to crack or buckle.
An even more widespread problem is that many siding installers
care more about getting the job done quickly than about the
appearance of the finished product. Far too many applicators
make a habit of tearing off projecting trim and architectural
detail and burying other important design elements under the
new siding. That approach allows the contractor to do the job
for a rock-bottom price, but the featureless, flat-looking
exteriors that result are an embarrassment to the
In the mid-1960s, when vinyl siding began to compete with
aluminum, few colors and patterns were available, and trim
options were pretty much limited to J-channel and skinny
inside- and outside-corner posts. But today, there's a wide
range of siding and trim products on the market (see Figure 1).
That range of choice is especially useful when a homeowner
wants to re-side an existing house while keeping the look of
the original exterior. So many types of siding are available
that we can often come up with a close match for the original
Figure 1.Unlike the poorly detailed vinyl siding
of the past, today's siding and trim are available in a wide
variety of patterns and styles, including these products from
CertainTeed (top three images) and Alside (bottom three
Going with the grain. The
differences between sidings can be subtle, and we'll choose
from one manufacturer or another depending on the effect we're
after. For example, both Mastic and CertainTeed make cedar
shingle siding from polypropylene. To my eye, the grain of the
Mastic version, Cedar Discovery, looks like red cedar.
CertainTeed's Cedar Impressions, on the other hand, looks more
like white cedar to me.
The texture of lap siding also varies from one manufacturer
and product line to the next. You can get perfectly smooth
siding or siding with an exaggerated rough-sawn look. For many
applications, I recommend a lightly textured "brush stroke"
finish that gives a convincing representation of painted