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Doing Vinyl Rightption, continued

Vinyl and Aluminum Trim

Even more than the siding itself, trim is what makes or breaks a siding installation. It's the first thing you notice when you look at a house, and if it looks wrong or awkward, the overall effect will be wrong.

Vinyl corners. We finish both inside and outside corners with manufactured vinyl trim. As with the siding itself, we offer our clients a wide range of choices. But because my customers hire me to provide a good-looking job, I don't hesitate to offer my own opinion, especially if they're headed in what I think is the wrong direction.

For example, a number of manufacturers now offer wide, fluted corner trim. This can look great on a two-story colonial, but I sometimes have to talk people out of using it on a ranch house, where a simpler, narrower corner is more appropriate.

The bottom line is that if you try to make a house into something it's not, it just looks goofy. I've occasionally passed up a job when the customer was determined to do something that I knew wouldn't look right. An ugly installation makes you look bad, even if the owner is happy with it.

Site-bent aluminum. Although we use vinyl corner trim, we make most of our other trim from site-bent .019 aluminum coil stock. We buy prepainted aluminum from Alcoa because it comes in a wide range of colors that match perfectly with the Alcoa vinyl siding we most often use. We also use colored stainless-steel nails and tinted caulk from Alcoa.

I don't like the look of J-channel around door and window casings, so we use a method that makes it unnecessary. Our "J-less" trim has an integral channel to receive the siding (Figure 2).

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Figure 2.The vertical leg of this site-bent window casing stock is designed to be fastened to the wall with stainless-steel nails that are concealed by the siding. Mitered corners where the side and head casing meet are secured with a single stainless-steel face nail. The lower horizontal leg is dimensioned to wrap around the window casing and be caulked in place (right). The base of the side casing is caulked to the aluminum-clad sill to provide a clean-looking "J-less" window surround (left).

Not all portable brakes have the ability to make the tight reverse bends required; we use the Pro-III Port-O-Bender from Tapco (800/521-7567, www.tapcoint.com). Another big advantage to our method is that we're not limited by the width or style of available vinyl trim. We can bend up whatever we need for any application.

Saving existing trim. Site-bent aluminum is ideal for rake and eaves trim on older houses, because it can be customized to compensate for out-of-square or out-of-level conditions. We use vinyl for soffits and porch ceilings (Figure 3).

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Figure 3.Beaded vinyl soffit has been applied to this porch ceiling (left); the headers are clad with prepainted aluminum coil stock. The tapered square columns will be refinished with paint. Vinyl's natural flexibility is useful for many trim applications. This curved soffit closely resembles the original version, which was made from tongue-and-groove boards (right).

Fitting the siding, soffit, and aluminum around existing wood trim on an older house can take a lot of time. But if the job is done right, it can be difficult to tell where the wood ends and the vinyl or aluminum begins, even at close range (Figure 4).

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Figure 4.A well-thought-out combination of polypropylene shingles, vinyl siding, site-bent aluminum trim, and original wood trim gives little indication that this older house is not sided entirely with wood (left). The eaves brackets and carved fascia with its ornamental "canoes" are original. Soffits are vinyl, while the frieze assembly and cornice above the wood fascia are aluminum (right).

As with doors and windows, minimizing the use of J-channel goes a long way toward maintaining a convincingly wood-like appearance. In some areas, though, there's no way to avoid it (Figure 5).

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Figure 5.Like the rest of the wood trim on this period structure, these wood columns were repainted before the siding was applied. The column base and adjacent horizontal trim are aluminum.

Painting. When original wood details are left exposed, some limited areas of the house will still need to be painted periodically. We don't do painting or general carpentry, so it's up to the homeowner to make sure that any exposed details are in good repair and painted before we come to install the siding. Any good paint store can computer-match the trim paint to the color of the siding.

Ed Ladouceuris president of the Storm Tite Company in Warwick, R.I.