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Things You Should Know About Siding

Siding doesn’t just protect your home’s exterior; it also adds personality and creates curb appeal. It is one of the first things visitors and passersby notice. Whether you’re purchasing for the first time or you’re considering replacing existing cladding, here are some things you should know about siding.

The Purpose of Siding

Siding serves a number of purposes both aesthetic and functional. These include:

  • protection from the elements, anything from the sun beating down to driving rain to punishing winds
  • enhances the design of the structure
  • brings together all the aspects of the home’s exterior – visual harmony
  • expresses the character of your home while blending in with the community

Siding Material Variety

Vinyl siding is the number one siding choice in North America. Other popular siding materials are aluminum, wood, and fiber cement. But, according to sources, there are over 15 different types of siding available to the consumer. While aluminum is a typical siding material other metals such as steel are being used.

If you love the idea of cedar shingles but don’t want to commit to a high-maintenance material, there are fiber cement siding and vinyl siding finishes that imitate the look of real wood siding without the cost and upkeep. The same goes for real stone or brick – for almost every natural siding material there is a faux alternative. In today’s market, there are more options than ever, including an impressive range of colours to complement any residential style and design.

Siding and the Environment

Excluding wood siding, siding is generally low maintenance, being durable and requiring fewer resources to maintain.

Aluminum siding and steel siding are 100% recyclable.

Some manufacturers are environmentally conscious when manufacturing siding products, employing processes that do not consume too much energy and reduce the number of toxins released into the environment.

In the past, asbestos was commonly used in the construction industry because of its low cost and fireproofing properties. The manufacture of materials made of or containing asbestos such as siding, roofing, and insulation was banned in Canada in 1979. However, non-friable (cannot be reduced to powder) products containing asbestos continued to be used in the construction of homes well into the 1990s. If an older home with asbestos siding becomes damaged, it must be inspected, repaired, and/or removed according to strict guidelines by a licensed asbestos contractor. Canada is set to implement a complete asbestos ban by 2018.

While it is true that different types of siding better insulate your home than others, siding, in general, helps regulate heating and cooling cycles, reducing energy costs.

Getting Your Home Ready for Labour Day Weekend

Labour Day long weekend typically marks the last big celebration of summer. If you plan to spend it in the backyard with family and friends, getting organized now ensures plenty of fun for everyone later. Get outside and enjoy your patio or deck, but first get your home ready for Labour Day with these simple tips.

Home Exterior

Cleaning your home’s exterior will add instant curb appeal. It’s surprising how much grime, environmental pollutants, and tree residue can build-up up on siding and dull the windows. Skip the commercial or lightweight pressure washer. Instead, use a garden hose with a pressure nozzle. Plain water should be enough to remove surface dirt. Use a soft bristle brush and soapy water for stains and marks that need some extra attention.

Wash the driveway, stairs, and sidewalks. As with the siding, start off with plain water and then spot clean stubborn stains.

Windows and Doors

Even if they aren’t all that dusty, smudged glass panes aren’t welcoming. Clean windows with a mild solution or an environmentally friendly glass cleaner.

A sparkling front door can change the appearance of your home’s exterior.

Check door frames and window trim for cracks, gaps, warping and peeling paint. Do any minor repairs now if you have the time, such as caulking and sanding.

Deck and Porch

Wash your deck and/or porch. Wipe down the outdoor furniture. Replace or remove worn cushions, damaged patio furniture, and anything else needs repair. Add some decorative touches such as a seasonal wreath on the front door, colourful plant pots on the steps, or hanging baskets.

Clean the light fixtures and replace any bulbs that are burned out or not energy-efficient.

Get the grill ready for the long weekend. If you have a pool or fire pit, make them kid friendly and safe.

Backyard Prep

Before family, friends, and guests arrive, mow the lawn; trim back overgrown shrubs and trees near where you will be entertaining; and weed flower beds, tidy up landscaped areas.

Divide your backyard into well-defined zones. Rearrange outdoor furniture to create conversation areas. Add side tables for guests to use; add larger tables for serving food and drinks. Have a place for kids to play.

Make sure the grill is safely positioned away from the flow of foot traffic. It should not be placed close to siding or underneath an overhang.

Tips for Cleaning Any Type of Siding

With summer heading toward fall, now is the time to do those seasonal home maintenance chores that will help your home survive the cooler, rainy weather ahead. When layers of dirt, sap, pollen, and dust accumulate, siding becomes dingy or stained, creating negative curb appeal. Take advantage of these tips for cleaning any type of siding to make the exterior of your home look new again.

Schedule a Time

Choose a day and time for cleaning the siding and let everyone know. This will help avoid the unexpected open window (after you made sure it was closed) or someone opening and closing the back door when you’re near by cleaning the siding.

Quick Inspection

The purpose of a quick inspection is to alert you to any potential problems you might need to fix or contact an exterior finishing contractor to fix them for you. Use binoculars if your house is more than one storey or if you don’t plan on using a ladder until you have to. Damaged siding – small holes, dents or missing panels – is vulnerable to water damage and moisture build-up. Before manually washing or spraying siding with a garden hose spray nozzle, look for: loose siding panels or cedar shingles; loose and/or missing nails; worn or damaged sections of siding; and missing siding panels.

Cleaning Siding Don’ts

Don’t skip prepping the area around the house. Cover sources of electricity; remove obstacles like toys and patio furniture; and protect landscaping, especially when using a bleach solution to clean mold/mildew/algae from siding.

Don’t use a pressure washer on “textured” siding or siding with a raised surface such cedar shingles, brick, and stucco.

Don’t use harsh cleaning products. It’s probably best to avoid anything with “industrial strength” on the label.

Don’t use abrasive cleaning tools such wire brushes, scrapers or steel wool. Avoid pressing down too hard.

Cleaning Siding Dos

Gather together all of your supplies before you begin. This includes giving the ladder you’ll be using a thorough safety check.

Start at the roofline and work your way down to the foundation. Clean one section at a time; this will help eliminate dried-on residue and streaking.

Most types of siding can be cleaned with a bucket of water and mild detergent. When cleaning mold, mildew or algae off siding use this popular homemade solution: 45 grams (1/3 cup) of powdered laundry detergent, 85 grams (2/3 cup) of powdered all-purpose household cleaner, 947 millilitres (1 quart) liquid bleach, 3.8 litres (1 gallon) of water.

Use a soft-bristle brush, especially on aluminum siding, vinyl siding, and stucco. Any cleaning tool used on siding panels and cedar shingles should be blunt-edged and non-abrasive.

How does Fiber Cement Compare with Cedar Siding?

In some circles, it might start a war if you suggested that fiber cement siding is a good alternative for cedar siding. For homeowners living in a Craftsman style house, Cape Cod house, or another style of historic home, there’s no substitute for real wood. If you feel the same way (whether or not you live in a heritage home), then it might surprise you that fiber cement and cedar siding are relatively comparable.

Similarities between Fiber Cement and Cedar

When it comes to the main things to consider when purchasing siding – cost, aesthetics, and durability – both fiber cement and cedar meet all three criteria. While fiber cement is somewhat less expensive than cedar siding, both types of siding materials are priced mid-to-high end.

Like cedar, fiber cement siding can be used with traditional North American architectural styles such as lap, board-and batten, and half round shingles.

Fiber cement siding is just as durable as cedar. Depending on local climatic conditions cedar siding can last three to five decades.

Both cedar siding and fiber cement siding are equal when it comes to aesthetics. Some professionals, including siding experts and architects, admit they can’t tell the difference between the two siding materials from a distance; only up close can they see that the wood grains of the fiber cement are uniform.

Differences between Fiber Cement and Cedar

Cedar siding is a natural siding material; the two most common kinds used for siding are red cedar and white cedar. Fiber cement is man-made by pressing sand, wood fibres, and cement into a mold to form planks, shingles or shakes.

Fiber cement cannot be recycled. However, as an inert material, it doesn’t release toxins as it sits in the landfill.

Hands down, fiber cement siding wins the low maintenance contest over cedar. While cedar is less labour-intensive than other kinds of wood siding, cedar siding must be regularly maintained to prevent rot, mold and other moisture-related damage.

Some homeowners select untreated white cedar so that it will develop that special silvery patina over time. Or a clear sealant or semi-transparent stain is applied to white cedar siding to prevent weathering while revealing the wood’s natural colour. These options aren’t available for fiber cement siding, which can only duplicate the appearance of painted wood.

Summer Curb Appeal Tips

Curb appeal isn’t just about real estate value. Whether entering from the backyard or through the front door, returning to a home that’s visually appealing is deeply rewarding. Here are a few summer curb appeal tips that will increase your sense of well-being, while those driving by will appreciate the view.

Exterior Cleaning Services

You clean the gutters regularly, wash the windows when they’re really dusty, and remove stains from the siding on an as-needed basis. But you can’t remember the last time you cleaned the roof and the only time the driveway gets “power washed” is when you water the flower beds. Consider hiring a professional exterior cleaning company at least once every two years. Typical services include:

  • roof cleaning
  • roof moss removal
  • gutter cleaning
  • siding soft wash
  • window cleaning
  • driveway cleaning

When a home’s exterior shines, it invites and welcomes visitors.

Painting the Trim

Painting the exterior of your home will definitely improve curb appeal. But who wants to spend the summer repainting the house? A high impact, low-cost trick is to paint just the trim. Selecting a complementary bold shade or intense earth tone will give your home an updated appearance.

Painting Concrete

Perhaps it’s time to paint the concrete driveway, walkway, or stairs if scrubbing doesn’t make a difference anymore. Applying one or two coats of paint to the front steps can greatly improve curb appeal. You don’t have to stop at “plain.” Explore Pinterest for some really creative DIY projects – pinstriped stairs, checkered porch floor, faux tile patio – all accomplished with tape, stencils, paint, and a little imagination!

Landscaping Tweaks

Flowering trees and shrubs automatically increase curb appeal. However, you can have too much of a good thing. Limit the number in a particular area, a small front yard for example, to under five.

Seed bald spots to bring a patchy lawn back to life.

When flower beds contain perennials, landscaping can be given a seasonal look by adding containers of annuals on either side of the front door, in the corner of a porch or by the steps.

There is a variety of landscape lighting available. Consider what type of light you would like to install. Sidewalk from the front gate to the entry door a bit dark after the sun sets? Choose lights designed to boarder a pathway. The porch lights don’t reach as far as the stairs? Add a down light so visitors can see the stair treads.

Popular Siding Choices for Vancouver Homes

Choosing the right siding material for your home is a big decision. Siding, no matter what type, should do two things – look good and protect a home’s exterior from the elements. Popular siding choices for Vancouver homes braving our rainy winters, moody springs, and moderate summers are cedar shakes, aluminum siding, vinyl siding and fiber cement.

Cedar Siding

Cedar shakes and cedar shingles give lower mainland homes a natural appearance that is versatile, welcoming and long-lasting. When properly installed with the right kind of house or building wrap, cedar siding is ideal for our coastal climate. Real cedar, as opposed to products manufactured from composite or engineered woods, shakes and shingles are typically more expensive than aluminum or vinyl siding but is comparable in price with fiber cement siding.

Aluminum Siding

Aluminum siding is a popular siding material because it’s cheaper than wood siding and cedar shingles. It is also very durable and low-maintenance. It can be easily repaired by replacing damaged or colour-faded panels with new ones. This lightweight cladding material suits Pacific Northwest weather conditions because it is wind-resistant, rust-proof, and low-maintenance. Aluminum siding is also a popular choice because it comes in a range of colours and textures and complements almost all architectural styles.

Vinyl Siding

Vinyl siding is the least expensive cladding material on the market. While it doesn’t rot or rust, it can become brittle with age. The color of vinyl siding is prone to fading especially when in direct sunlight for extended periods of time. However, that being said, vinyl siding is cost-effective, relatively maintenance-free, and well-suited to Vancouver’s temperate climate.

Fiber Cement Siding

Fiber cement siding is a good choice for homes in the lower mainland because it’s water-resistant and won’t crack, burn or rot. Made from cement, sand and wood fibers, it can be made to mimic almost any other siding material including cedar shingles, wood grain, and stone. It performs well in most climatic regions, from mild to extreme.

Vinyl Siding – a Controversial Choice

Where functionality, aesthetics, and cost are equal concerns when building a home vinyl siding makes sense. But nothing seems to draw a line in the sand faster than the topic. It’s popular with consumers because it’s the most inexpensive cladding material available. However, it’s less popular with architects, builders, and other construction industry professionals because many feel that vinyl siding has more cons than pros. To help you decide if vinyl siding is right for your home here are the top four reasons it is a somewhat controversial choice.

Eco-Friendly

Opponents’ View

Nothing about vinyl siding could be considered eco-friendly. In the manufacturing of PVC (polyvinyl chloride), greenhouse gasses and carcinogens are produced. Sulfur dioxide, a by-product of vinyl siding production, is the main cause of acid rain and smog. Studies are inconclusive regarding toxicity during regular use but do consistently show that when vinyl siding catches fire or is subjected to intense heat, lethal amounts of toxic fumes are released.

Supporter’s View

Under certain conditions vinyl siding is very durable – the longer it lasts, the longer it is kept out of landfills. Technically it can be recycled. However, most vinyl siding ends up not being recycled because many depots don’t accept it due to its high handling costs.

Low Maintenance

Opponents’ View

The longevity and general appearance of vinyl siding largely depend on climatic conditions. While manufacturers maintain that vinyl siding can last anyway from 25 to 30 years, opponents claim that there is no conclusive proof because siding made of vinyl has been known to crack, fade or split within 10 years of being installed depending on environmental factors.

Supporter’s View

Considered to be low maintenance, since it doesn’t have to be painted or repaired, vinyl siding can easily be washed with a mild cleaning solution. While some detractors say vinyl siding can’t be repaired, it actually depends on the type. Some manufacturers produce vinyl siding panels that can be easily snapped in or out of place.

Appearance

Opponents’ View

Fake is fake – regarding older, historic, and landmark homes, opponents of vinyl siding cite inauthenticity as its greatest crime.

Supporter’s View

Since vinyl siding imitates other siding materials including stone and wood, it provides homeowners with inexpensive siding options. For those who own an older home, maintenance costs are automatically higher, so a siding material that looks like wood, is easy to install, and simple to maintain is an ideal budget-stretcher.

Installation

Opponents’ View

Vinyl siding is the number one choice of do-it-yourselfers. Detractors of this siding material point out that it needs to be installed properly in order for it to fully protect a house. Most opponents feel that DIYers and contractors not specifically trained and certified to install vinyl siding do not have the right skills, potentially allowing water to seep in and water damage to occur.

Supporter’s View

Vinyl siding is inexpensive and easy to install, relevant factors to someone with a large home. But the naysayers are right – vinyl as a siding material contracts and expands. While it’s fairly simple to install, the installer, whether a DIYer or a contractor, must be aware that if nailed incorrectly, during an expanding-contracting cycle, the siding could crack, bulge or warp.

Give Your Home Exterior a Facelift this Spring

Spring heightens our senses and inspires us to refresh our homes, both inside and out. It’s a time when we shake off the gloomy days of winter and get our backyards ready for summer entertaining. Here are some low-budget ways to give your home’s exterior a facelift this spring.

Windows

Cleaning the windows, interior and exterior, will make your house smile. It’s surprising how much light gets blocked out by even a light film of dust or grime.

While you’re out there anyway with the sudsy pail of water wipe down window sills and trim. Examine window and door frames for peeling paint, warping, cracks or gaps. If you need to fill in gaps and cracks with caulking you can do the repairs now or plan to make them in the fall before winter comes back.

Front Door

A new front door can change the whole appearance of your home. It doesn’t have to be “new.” Painting the door a bold blue, red or yellow is an economical way to brighten the main entrance to your home.

Underutilized Areas

Transforming the underutilized areas of your property can greatly improve your curb appeal. Adding outdoor furniture to a bare porch turns empty space into an inviting place to relax in warm weather. Park a bench next to a flowerbed or in front of a birdbath and a patch of lawn becomes a place to enjoy the view. Container gardens are an excellent way to beautify an entry door, deck, patio, plain fence or cement steps.

Landscaping as Camouflage

Don’t have time to paint the fence? You plan to replace the siding in the next two years, but in the meantime, the stained and dented section is very noticeable. Planting shrubs or flowering bushes can hide flawed areas of a home exterior. Camouflage air conditioner units, tanks, trash cans and pool equipment with fencing panels or outdoor screens. Use trellises and flowering climbing vines to bring spring colour into your backyard.

General Cleanup

The appearance of your property will be greatly improved with a general cleanup. Power wash hardscape elements such as a flagstone sidewalk, a concrete driveway, a fire pit, a wood deck or a paved patio. Use a power washer on siding and gutters with caution.

Remove dead plants, trees and any sections of shrubs that have become withered. Rake the lawn to get rid of leftover storm reminders like bits of twigs and decayed leaves.

Dos and Don’ts for Choosing the Right Siding

When it comes to siding for your house, there are a lot of choices. It’s a big investment; you don’t want to have to do it all over again in just a few years. If you’ll be purchasing siding in the near future, here are some helpful hints for choosing the right siding for you, your home and where you live.

Do Choose Durability and Low Maintenance

While wood siding is more eco-friendly than engineered wood products, they both are very durable. Wood siding can be higher maintenance than any type of engineered wood siding, but if not properly cared for both natural and engineered woods are prone to rot and pest infestation.

Vinyl siding has a relatively long lifespan but can become brittle when exposed to direct sunlight. Vinyl siding is no maintenance, which essentially means in most cases it can’t be repaired.

Aluminum siding is durable, low maintenance, and lightweight yet strong.

Fiber cement siding is available in a wide variety of finishes that mimic real wood grain, cedar shingles, and staggered edge cedar shakes. Easy to maintain, it is strong, durable and a versatile siding material.

Don’t Forget Restrictions

If you live in a gated community, own a heritage home, or live in a townhouse, your property could be subject to zoning laws, municipal bylaws or the guidelines of a homeowner’s association. Municipalities and other governing bodies might specify what type of siding material, paint color and style can be used. Check first.

Don’t Ignore Climatic Conditions

Some types of siding materials are better suited to our Pacific Northwest climate. For example, stucco is a popular cladding material, but not really suitable for homes in the lower mainland because of its porous nature. Good choices for our local region are fiber cement boards, aluminum siding, and cedar shakes.

Don’t be too Bold

You want your home to stand out, but when it comes to exterior colour choices, it’s probably best to err on the side of lighter shades or neutral colours with darker undertones. Bold colors can hurt the resale value of your home. Avoid trending paint colors for the same reason. Choose something you like and can live with for a long time.

Do Match Siding with Architectural Style

The siding you select should emphasize key architectural features. For example, the siding colour shouldn’t clash with the roof, or a contemporary siding material shouldn’t be applied to a Georgian-style house. Coordinate siding material with your home’s architectural style for maximum curb appeal.

Do Plan to Hire

An exterior finishing contractor will be able to advise you about the best type of siding for you and your home. Siding installation done by a professional installer will ensure that your home is well-insulated, protected from the elements, and lasts for many years.

Why You should have a Landscape Plan

Landscaping that incorporates and harmonizes the different aspects of a home’s exterior creates the best curb appeal. It’s not just about what types of plants and shrubs go where. An effective landscape plan utilizes a variety of elements to create the outdoor space you envision for your home, such as a deck or patio, a flagstone pathway, perhaps a pond or a gazebo.

Purpose

Decide what the purpose is of the landscaping – to entertain, increase resale value, create more visual appeal, replace annuals with eco-friendly plants. When creating a landscape design that is multipurpose, select a unifying theme to connect the different elements or areas together.

What’s Included

If you want a deck, will it include a barbecue or grill? Will you park a wrought iron bench near one of the flower beds? You picture more formal landscaping – would a gazebo be out of place? Since you’re upgrading the garden anyway, maybe the landscape plan should include trees near the southwest corner of the house to protect the living room from the mid-afternoon sun.

When choosing what is to be included in your landscaping design take into consideration height (you don’t want to block your neighbour’s view), building codes, permits, and safety (swimming pool or pond and small children).

Budgeting

You have all these dreams for your perfect backyard, but now you have to make then a reality. Take the time to set a budget: it will help you focus on what’s important and ensure you don’t run out of funds in the middle of repaving the driveway or building the deck. A general rule of thumb dictates that a project involving construction will cost more than adding shrub containers by the entry door or replanting the flowerbeds at the front of the house. Include labour costs for anything you don’t plan to DIY.

Tree Placement

If your landscape plan will be adding more trees to your property, don’t forget about your gutters, siding, and roof. Trees grow tall enough to shed leaves and needles into the gutter system, brush up against siding or damage the roof in a storm. Plant trees to provide shade or protection from the wind while ensuring they won’t interfere with the gutter system, the siding or your roof.