What are House Sidings?
Using attractive and durable sidings on the exterior of your house are a good way to weatherproof, protect and make more attractive an old and tired building. There are many types you can use and their relative merits and costs will be discussed in this article.
Why do we need them?
Often an older house needs updating or starts to let in rain or is losing heat or is just plain old unattractive. What do you do if you cannot or do not want to move house? Simple, just give your tired old home (or even a new home) a new overcoat! In many cases it can be cheaper than the fees and other costs associated with moving house.
Different types of sidings can be chosen or designed to do a variety of jobs depending on the materials used to cover your house. As with all home improvement projects, it is a good idea to shop around for the best price or if you have the necessary skills and time, you can consider doing the work yourself. It is worth remembering that the skills needed may take a while to learn.
If your house is of the traditional bricks and mortar type or is made from rendered concrete blocks, then it may be that the cement has cracked or weathered to a point where it is letting in water. In this case it may be beneficial to cover the walls with a new waterproof covering.
What is the style of your house? If your house was built in the decades after the Second World War, it will probably benefit from a facelift and makeover either to give the house more kerb appeal with a view to selling or just to make the house more of a pleasure to live in. It is no problem to make a brick house look like a colonial style timber dwelling.
In previous decades heat insulation was less of a priority than now and less importance was given to conserving energy. So why not include a layer of insulation between the existing house shell and the new siding?
The materials needed to provide a watertight and attractive exterior to your home are many and varied. The type you choose is dependent on your budget, what your priorities are and your home’s aesthetic appeal. Another thing to consider is the ease of repair of the siding.
How to choose a style
What is the existing style and period of your house? You will want to choose a type of siding that matches or is easily changed to suit your existing architecture.
Is your house new or old? When was your house built? Building practices and methods change over the years and one particular siding style will probably suit your house better than another.
Is your house a building of historic interest? In some countries many houses are situated in Conservation areas where there are very strict regulations governing the outside décor of a building. Obviously if the area has a particular historic link with a certain era, then the building facades will be required to be sympathetic to the architectural styles prevalent when they were built. Always consult the planning department of your local municipal authority before going ahead with your project.
Is your house detached or joined to others? Irrespective of what style you want your house to look like; if it is connected to another house then you may be constrained to installing sidings consistent with the existing décor.
What about energy efficiency?
If your house is modern then there is a good chance that it will have been built with inclusive insulation. If it is an older house then consider choosing a siding where insulation can be incorporated.
Do your doors and windows need replacing? If you are going to the expense of siding your walls, it makes sense to consider whether your external doors and windows will need updating too. It may very well be easier to replace these before or during the siding project.
What about safety?
As well as style and energy efficiency, it is a good idea to incorporate any safety considerations into the project. Does the window glass need replacing to modern standards? Should you think about installing fire escapes to upstairs windows or balconies?
What is your budget?
When you are deciding on the reasons for the new siding to your house, you must also take into account your budget. If you are like the majority of people and need to raise the extra cash to complete the work, prepare a written proposal to your bank or mortgage lender outlining the reasons why you want to improve your house. Give approximate costings for the work as well as mentioning the increase in value the proposed work will give your house.
Vinyl. There are various types of vinyl siding designed to withstand different levels of ultraviolet (UV) light. This type is very popular because of its durability and low cost. The finished material does not require painting and is resistant to rot and insect attack. It is easy to install and its colour does not fade when exposed to the weather or UV light. Disadvantages are that it is easily damaged by physical knocks and by high winds; it can expand and contract with extremes in temperature allowing moisture to enter behind the siding hidden from view.
Wood. Clapboard or bevel edged wood is traditionally used on homes as a siding material. The wood is made from spruce, pine, cypress and Douglas fir. Other woods include cedar and redwood which are naturally rot resistant, but are correspondingly more expensive. Siding made from wood will always look good and provide a quality product at a reasonable cost. Advantages are that it is easy to install; looks good; easy to repair damaged sidings even as a DIY project; easily painted or stained; there are lots of different options. Disadvantages are that it needs regular maintenance to prevent rot and to keep the surface paint looking good; will probably require replacing after five years or so; prone to insect, fungus and water damage.
Laminated & composite board. This type of siding is made from manufactured plywood or laminated wood sheets. The layers are bonded together using glue that is waterproof and resistant to fungal and insect attack. The outside layer can be pressed into a profile to mimic real wood grain and can be supplied already painted. Its advantages are that it is easier and quicker to install than real wood, has an authentic and fault free surface; is resistant to insect and fungal pests; is strong and durable; ecologically sustainable; easy to customise the finish. Disadvantages are that if no ventilation is provided, it can trap moisture in humid areas. It is relatively new material so few long term trials have been done.
Fibre cement board. This is a mixture of cement and cardboard fibres and the most popular brand sells under the name of Hardie Board. It has been in regular use for many years and has been proved to be durable and low cost. It is rot and insect resistant; weather resistant; easy to paint and repaint; fire resistant; can look like wood without the disadvantages of wood. Conversely it is expensive to fit due to more manpower needed; it is heavy and difficult to replace; it need regular painting. Any knocks, dents or other physical damage can be repaired easily using a cement grout.
Aluminium. This material is very popular with homeowners who live in exposed and cold areas. It is light; completely waterproof so does not suffer water damage; rustproof; fire resistant; insect and rot proof; recyclable; required very little maintenance. Disadvantages are that it is easily scratched; noisy when expanding or contracting in extreme temperatures; not as visually pleasing as other types; Prone to dents and difficult to match new with existing pieces; requires regular painting.
Asbestos. Asbestos panels used to be a cheap and durable siding material before the links with cancer and other health problems associated with this material were proved. If you find you have an existing siding made from asbestos panels, they should be perfectly safe as long as there is no physical damage. The board can be painted easily but as soon as the board breaks or requires repair, it should be removed and replaced with one of the other types of siding. Asbestos must always be handled and disposed of with care using specialist handling procedures by a licensed asbestos contractor.
When installing timber, vinyl or sheet sidings, there will be cut edges exposed which are not only unsightly but in the case of wood will allow ingress of moisture into the end grain or will allow moisture to seep behind the sidings and cause damp problems. For this reason these surfaces will be covered with additional pieces called ‘Trims’. These are usually moulded pieces of wood or vinyl designed to hide and protect the edges. Additionally some form of sealant will be used, either mastic or silicon based, to seal against all traces of moisture.
The sidings will need to be fitted using rustproof nails or screws. Either stainless steel or galvanised steel fittings are suitable depending on the specifications and product lifetime required.
Once you have your chosen siding installed, how do you make sure you don’t have to replace it too soon? The answer is to keep the siding maintained. The siding material will be exposed to all weathers, not only to extreme cold and heat, but also continual rain, wind and ultraviolet sunlight. The methods of maintenance are determined by the type of siding chosen.
Vinyl or other plastic material. If you have vinyl sidings then the only real maintenance is to keep the surface clean and prevent any physical damage from breaking through the surface. As this material cannot be repaired your only option if damage does occur is to replace a convenient length.
Wood (real wood and laminated board). Wood will need to be painted or varnished along with some type of wood preserver, although if the wood is chosen properly it should arrive on site already tanalised (pressure application of preservative), and just waiting for your chosen colour of paint. Once painted the surface will need to be inspected regularly to prevent any defects in the paint appearing allowing the weather to affect the wood underneath.
Cementitious surfaces. Render and other types of cementitious siding will need regular inspection, especially as the render dries out. Any cracks will need to be filled and bare surfaces sealed and painted.
Many factors affect costs of installing new and repairing existing sidings.
Quality. Low quality, cheap siding might save you money, however you must remember that low quality means it will not last as long as good quality, high price siding. Low quality means early replacement or repair and probably high costs afterwards. Always buy the best that you can afford.
Building size. Large buildings will need more material to cover the walls and will require more time to do the job.
Shape of the building. Simply shaped houses will need less material and will require less work than multiple storeys, eaves or turrets.
Replacing or overlaying over siding? Some can be placed over existing without the need to remove the old one, while other types will need to be completely removed. Removal of existing siding and its transport from site will require more time and therefore more cost.
Time of year. Choosing the time of year to have the job done will also have a factor in the overall price, duration of job and quality. The contractor will generally be more busy during the months when it’s warmer so the price will probably be at a premium as these are the months when they are requested more. Conversely autumn and winter, with the worse weather prevailing in those months will make the job more difficult and will take longer to complete.
Cost of repairs
The cost of labour to repair or install sidings will depend on the area of the country where you live, type of siding and time of year. On average however you can expect to pay a minimum of $30 per hour. Most types of small repairs can be done as part of a DIY project so a significant saving can be made by doing the job yourself.
Cost of new sidings
|Hampton Red Woodgrain Dutch Lap ||$143 per 100 sq. ft.||
|Coastal Blue Woodgrain||$192 per 100 sq. ft.||
|Cellwood Evolutions 4.5 Dutch Lap ||$75 per 100 sq. ft.||
|Georgia Pacific Dutch Lap ||$100 per 100 sq. ft.||
|Blue Ridge Dutch Lap ||$272 per 100 sq. ft.||
|Engineered Wood Board||
|Smartside Engineered Treated Wood||$33 per 4ft x 8ft panel||
|Sell Even Double 4 inch Aluminium Horizontal Textured Hollowback||$200 per 100 sq. ft.||
|Sell Even Double 4 inch Aluminium Horizontal Textured Foamback||$250 per 100 sq. Ft.||
|Cedar shingles ||$50 to $80 per 25 sq. ft.||
|Pine bevel ||$120 per 25 sq. ft.||
Cost of hire items
Most people who are reasonably good at DIY will already have most of the tools needed for repair and installing of sidings. Additional tools can be hired from your local tool hire shop.
|Item||Average Rental Cost
|Pressure Washer||$35 per day
Cost of installing new sidings
|Install sidings||Labour cost
|Clapboard||$14,000 to $23,000 for average 2 storey house
|Cement fibre board||$13,000 to $22,000 for average 2 storey house
|Vinyl||$6,000 to $13,000 for average 2 storey house
|Engineered Wood Board||$7,000 to $12,000 for average 2 storey house
|Synthetic stone||$12 to $25 per square foot
The Vinyl Sidings Institute publish figures to show the total installed cost (including materials, labour and painting) of using vinyl compared to other types of sidings.
|Type of Sidings||Total installed cost (according to the Vinyl Sidings Institute) per 100 square feet
Qualifications needed for the contractor
The Vinyl Sidings Institute (VSI) runs a certification scheme for vinyl sidings installers. The programme ensures all their certified professionals are trained to:
- Fix and fasten vinyl sidings while making allowances for the material’s natural expansion and contraction properties.
- Seal and waterproof around windows, doors and other openings in the vinyl.
- Secure vinyl sidings securely to existing walls.
There are installation codes of best practice that will be followed by responsible contractors and a list of these will be provided by your contractor if you request them. They will also be available from building codes department in your local planning authority.
How to choose a contractor who offers good service/fair price
Like any other home improvement job, if you are going to have someone else do the work for you then you need to have a properly skilled and certified contractor. Your house is worth a lot of money and you will be paying out even more to a complete stranger on the understanding that you will have a good job done lasting you many years to come. You will want to know that all work has been done to the highest standards and that if anything should happen in the near future that can be traced back to the sidings work, that you will be able to have the work re-done properly at no extra charge. This means that warranties and guarantees must be offered by the contractor to insure against faulty materials and workmanship.
Because of these requirements you will want someone who is established locally or nationally as a respectable business dedicated either to installing sidings or general building or carpentry and with the correct credentials.
- Ask friends and family for names of contractors who they can recommend.
- Contact the local chamber of commerce for names of member businesses.
- See if your local council has names of approved contractors.
- Look on the Vinyl Sidings Institute’s website for their list of certified installers.
- Once you have a shortlist with names of your preferred contractors, contact them by phone or email to ask if they are willing to take on your job.
- Find out when they would be able to start and decide if that date is convenient for you.
- Ask what appropriate qualifications their employees have.
- Ask what appropriate professional memberships the company has.
- Ask what guarantees and warrantees are offered for materials and work.
- Ask for references for previous similar jobs. Follow up the references and find out what kind of workmanship to expect.
When you have satisfied yourself that these questions have been answered, ask the remaining contractors to visit your house and give a quotation to do the work. The contractor will have to measure the wall area and know what kind of sidings you require before being able to make a detailed quotation so be prepared for behind the scenes research beforehand to decide which style you prefer.
A qualified and trained contractor will plan the job carefully to make best use of standard sidings lengths. Here are just a few of the areas to look at on his plan.
- Avoid slivers of material above and below doors and windows.
- The sidings should progress evenly up the wall.
- Each course must be level with no dips or rises
- All vertical joints must be staggered and must line up with fixing battens.
- All courses must line up when they meet at a corner.
- Anticipate problem areas.
- Drill pilot holes for nails or screws to avoid splits and cracks.
- In all materials except vinyl, seal the cut edges to prevent moisture from entering the siding boards.
- Seal vertical cuts and joints with the appropriate sealant.
Sometimes it is almost impossible to follow all these so the secret to an attractive finished job is to concentrate on the most visible side of the house and leave the compromises to the other sides.
DIY vs professional. Which is best?
The question whether you decide to have the work done by a professional or yourself will depend on your budget and your DIY skills. Remember that if the work is done by a contractor you will have guarantees if something goes wrong.
The different siding materials require different skills and knowledge which any good professional will already know about. If you are planning to do the job yourself however there are certain types of siding which are easier than others. If you are reasonably good at DIY but have never tackled a job like this before, there are plenty of books in your local library or look on the internet for video tutorials. In brief the following points should get you started and provide some help.
Horizontal Wood Lap Siding.
Wood lap always looks good and is the classic traditional exterior. This choice can be easily done by a homeowner with a little basic knowledge and a mitre saw.
Fibre Cement Lap Siding.
This type is a good alternative to wood with the added advantage that it is not prone to rot or insect attack. This material comes in 12 foot lengths and is just as easy to install as wood lap.
Tongue and Groove Wood Siding.
This type is easy to fit by amateurs as well but the tongue and groove may not give the required protection from weather conditions that are required for your area. Check before you start using this material.
This material is one of the easiest to fit. It cuts to length easily, can be fitted quickly and needs no painting. However the preparation is quite extensive and it is recommended that you take your time and put in a lot of effort beforehand.
10 questions to ask the siding contractor
Before making your final choice of installer from your shortlist, ask a few questions just to make sure they know what they are doing.
1. Do you have Liability and Worker’s Compensation Insurance?
Some contractors may not have liability insurance or may have some but not coverage in this speciality. Make sure the contractor has insurance to cover any damage specifically when installing sidings. If not, and something untoward happens, you may have to pay to put the problem right and then sue the installer for the amount. Worker’s compensation covers the contractor if any employee is injured or killed while working on your house. If there is no insurance then you may be liable for the cost of any medical bills. Always ask to see proof of this insurance.
2. Can you add extra insulation while replacing the siding?
Obviously before the new siding is installed it may be advantageous to have any insulation fitted underneath. This will help reduce any heating or cooling bills and the contractor will be able to discuss with you the various options that are available.
3. How do you want to be paid, and when?
When comparing the pros and cons of the various installation companies, find out how they like to be paid. Some may like to have a certain amount up front to pay for materials when delivered to site and then stage payments as each section of the job is completed. Some may just require full payment at the end of the job. Do not pay the total amount before any work is started!
4. Do you offer any guarantees or warrantees?
Most reputable siding contractors will offer a guarantee for their labour and most material comes with a manufacturer’s or retailer’s warrantee.as long as certain conditions are complied with. Find out what is offered before you make your final choice of contractor.
5. What type of siding will be fitted?
A good siding contractor will provide a written estimate or quotation. This will specify the type of siding to be installed and any brand name or specification where applicable. For example rust proof fixings such as galvanised or stainless steel nails and screws; types and thickness of any insulation; a water or vapour barrier and its specification; if the siding is wood, is it already treated with preservative and what type?
6. Is the contractor licensed to install sidings?
Many states or countries require that a contractor is licensed and certified to carry out this type of work. Ask for a license number and satisfy yourself that they are qualified to carry out sidings installation.
7. How long has the contractor been in business?
Some contractors will have many years’ experience in installing sidings and others will have just started out. The difference in experience will show in the smoothness of the job and the finished quality. It may also show in the difference in quoted prices.
8. Are there any references?
Knowing that the contractor has satisfactorily completed other siding installation jobs and that the customer was happy with their work is a sensible precaution to take. Ask for at least five references with phone numbers and phone a few to find out what kind of job to expect.
9. Is the contractor local?
Using either a local business or a well-known national company is an important safeguard. Often ‘storm chasers’ will descend on an area after significant severe weather damage has occurred and then disappear after the work has been done, leaving you with no way of contacting them when things go wrong.
10. How do you solve customer complaints and grievances?
Although this is an important issue, many customers feel embarrassed about asking a contractor this question. If the company has been in business for a considerable length of time, they will have picked up along the way a number of complaints. This is nothing to be ashamed of. The key to knowing whether they are a reputable company is to know how they deal with the problems and resolve any issues. A reputable company will welcome your inquiry and will have no hesitation in providing you with the information you want. Don’t forget to ask your local licensing departments and the Better Business Bureau if there are any complaints lodged with them.
How to spot a scam
The vast majority of siding installation contractors are honest and hardworking professionals who take a great deal of pride in providing a good finished job for a reasonable price. There are however some individuals who unfortunately delight in ripping people off and the resulting ‘bad press’ gives everyone a bad name.
There a few scams to be aware of from this unscrupulous type of person and we will list a few of these. You must be warned that this is probably not a full list of scams and more are being invented all the time.
Up-front payments. It is normal practice in the building and construction industry for the contractor to ask for a small up-front payment before the job starts. It gives the contractor reassurance that the customer is serious about the job and has the money to proceed. The up-front payment however should never usually be more than 10% of the total cost. After this initial payment, stage payments should then proceed at the agreed schedule. If the contractor asks for a considerable sum as a deposit then it may mean that the company is having financial difficulties or at worst the contractor may take the money and disappear for good.
Extras on top of the original price. No matter how well your siding project has been planned there will always be little ‘odds and ends’ that change along the way that couldn’t have been foreseen by either the contractor or the customer and therefore not specified in the contract. These are called ‘extras’ and can include anything from moving or installing a porch light up to a change in the paint colour. In fact anything that has varied from the original contract and will affect the final job, either in time, price or quality must be included. What you don’t want is for the expected price to be, say $5,000 but you are presented with an invoice for $10,000! In order to prevent such a shock, all changes to the original contract must be discussed and the revised price calculated and agreed before any work continues.
No license so job can be done cheaper. If you are ever told by a sidings contractor that the job could be cheaper because he hasn’t got a license or any insurance, walk the other way. If you allow someone to work on your house when he is not qualified to do so could make your own house insurance invalid if anything went wrong. Likewise, if an accident happened and someone was injured then you will be presented with the medical bills. Employing someone without the correct credentials or insurance is not worth the risk.
Cash–in-hand work. Sometimes a contractor might imply to you that the job could be cheaper if you didn’t tell anyone how much the job was and kept the cost secret between yourselves and didn’t insist on a proper invoice. The contractor may be doing this because he wants to avoid paying tax on his labour or maybe the materials are stolen or are surplus from another job. If you agree to his terms then you could be committing a criminal offence as well as not being properly insured.
We were just in the neighbourhood…. This is a very common scam and usually involves a story similar to the following “We were just working nearby and had some sidings/paint/shingles left over and would you like me to use them on your house to save wasting them? The job will be a lot cheaper than usual” The chances are that the materials are of poor quality or stolen and there will be nothing but problems from start to finish. The scammer may also ask for money up-front in which case you will probably never see either them or the materials ever again. It is probably wise to close the door on this kind of scam.
All these scams can be safely avoided by following a few simple rules.
1. Always have a written contract and ask for any extras to be agreed before work continues.
2. Always ask to see the contractor’s license and certificates of insurance and check that they are genuine.
3. Always ask for references so you can check what there workmanship is like. If you can visit the property and see for yourself the kind of work done, then you probably won’t have any nasty surprises.
What other services will this type of contractor usually provide?
The experienced contractor who is able to work with wood or vinyl sidings will have carpentry skills. He should therefore be able to also install doors, windows and other similar tasks. If the contractor fits brick sidings then he will have useful bricklaying and masonry skills, maybe landscaping your garden will be in his skillset.
Fitting sidings to your property, whether in wood, vinyl, brick or any of the many other materials available will not only liven up a tired old house but will also improve its resistance to damp, insect and fungal attack and if you install insulation at the same time then your energy savings may go a long way to help pay for the job. There are many contractors available to do this kind of work (or you could do it yourself if you have the necessary skills) and as long as they have the correct credentials and insurance and provide you with a comprehensive contract, there is little that can go wrong. If in doubt always ask around, get references, contact your local Better Business Bureau, and look on contractor referral websites. If you decide to have this work done and you correctly maintain the sidings, then hopefully you will have many years enjoyment before having to have this job done again.