Machine priming of siding was first developed in the 1940s, but the use of preprimed siding didn't take off until recently. Fred Churchill, owner of a machine finishing company called Churchill Coatings in Grafton, Mass., recalls, "When we started more than 30 years ago, the lumberyards laughed at us." Today, a wide selection of wood siding, as well as some fiber-cement and composite siding, is readily available preprimed or prefinished.

Although wood siding has been installed unpainted for hundreds of years, there are several disadvantages to doing it the old-fashioned way. The unpainted siding can pick up moisture while being transported or stored on site, meaning paint is less likely to adhere. Moreover, when unpainted siding is exposed to the sun, it loses its paint-holding...

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