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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.

Why a Garage Needs Gutters

Installing gutters on a house make sense, but do you really need gutters on a detached garage? Whether the garage is built on a concrete slab or is supported by a full foundation, adding gutters to a garage’s roof does the same thing they do on your home – direct water safely away from the foundation.

Type of Garage

Backyard buildings, including garages, often serve a variety of purposes. When a garage is multi-purpose, it’s an even more compelling reason to install a gutter system. Today, many one-car and two-car garages include a combination of features such as garden tool storage, attached workshop, and loft storage. Properly channeling rainwater from the roof to the ground will protect not just your vehicle but your other possessions and projects kept inside the garage.

Location of Garage

Where the garage is located is a deciding factor when thinking about installing gutters on a detached garage. Without aluminum gutters or vinyl gutters, water pours off the roof from all sides. If the garage is close to your home, water from the garage roof could seep into the basement. The same applies to a garage without gutters that is near a patio, deck, fire pit or sidewalk.

Water Coming Down

Without gutters, when it rains, you might have to walk through a curtain of water when entering or leaving the garage. Depending on the fit and/or condition of the garage door, water not channeled through a gutter system might leak underneath the door and into the garage. This could especially be problematic if the roof slopes toward rather than away from the garage door.

Landscaping

If there are no gutters on a garage, the water exits directly onto the ground. Over time, this can seriously erode the soil around the building’s perimeter. You will be able to see it as a “trench” or deep depression. Soil erosion can make the concrete slab or garage foundation unstable and vulnerable to cracking, sinking or shifting.

Damage to Siding

Installing gutters on a garage prevents damage to siding. No matter what type of siding it is – wood siding, vinyl siding, cedar shingles – when water is allowed to go wherever it wants it can cause irreparable damage. Should moisture get in behind siding panels or cedar shingles, it can invite mold growth or insect infestation. Where siding is close to the ground, splash back can ruin its finish (discoloration, peeling, bubbling, etc.).

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.

When is a Really Good Deal Just a Scam?

Home improvements not only make a house more functional, they also add beauty and resale value. While there are many dependable, highly skilled contractors, unfortunately, some are not. When planning renovations this summer, use these tips to tell a really good deal from just a scam.

Types of Home Improvement Fraud

Does the roof need replacing? Is the siding of your home a little worse for wear? Have you wanted to build a ground floor addition where the old garage used to be? Home improvement fraud comes in all kinds of guises such as driveway repair, replacing the roof, siding repairs or replacement and “fixing” structural issues.

Warning Signs

Fortunately, there are identifiable warning signs that can help a potential victim avoid home improvement fraud. The most common signs are fraudulent “contractors” will:

  • appear on your doorstep claiming they were in the neighbourhood or they had done renovations for someone on your street
  • quote a very low price
  • offer special deals – only good for one day; free paint; discount because materials were leftover from another job
  • tell you the work they do will be covered by your home insurance policy – most policies don’t cover the costs of home improvements
  • want payment before the work begins – possible indication that they don’t have the money to buy materials or they have no intention of doing the renovation
  • have no permanent indicators of a company affiliation like a truck with a logo, legitimate licenses/certifications, and proper contact information (YP listing, real website, etc.)

Ways to Prevent from being Scammed

Nice weather seems to bring out the itinerant roofers, pavers, landscapers, and gutters and siding installers intent on not providing the services they promise. To prevent from being scammed:

  • check all credentials, licenses and any other documentation they provide – if something doesn’t look or feel right, confirm with the appropriate board, agency or municipal office; legit businesses have a paper trail that can be followed
  • insist on an itemized estimate that clearly outlines what work is to be done, material costs, labour costs, and a stated percentage of how much more than the original estimate can be charged
  • avoid unsolicited offers; get a recommendation from a family member or co-worker
  • don’t cave into someone else’s sense of urgency – if they talk too fast, offer a low price if you sign right now, or pressure you into making a decision, ask yourself why or what are they hiding?

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.

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.

Siding Choices that Suit Your Lifestyle

The siding you choose defines your home’s personality, increases its value, and creates curb appeal. While siding should be functional and aesthetical, it should also express your personal tastes. To get the most out of your new siding, here are some tips on how to match a particular siding material to your lifestyle.

Natural Siding Materials

For those homeowners who feel strongly about protecting the environment, natural siding materials are especially attractive. Hardwood siding and cedar siding are naturally durable and organically resistant to pests, mold, and mildew.

Wood siding adds a beauty and warmth to any home’s exterior. Cedar siding is especially suited to the climatic conditions of the West Coast.

To create a more dramatic and unique appearance, often two or more types of siding, like stone and wood, are used together.

How Much Upkeep?

If you feel your weekends are better spent doing anything else but home maintenance, you’re not alone. One of the top five 2017 home exterior design trends is for low maintenance products that provide homeowners with maximum durability but the need for little upkeep. Types of siding that require minimum attention include vinyl siding, fiber cement siding, and aluminum siding.

Most types of siding materials, including metals such as steel and aluminum,  can be manufactured to mimic wood, stone, and brick.

Engineered wood products are popular alternatives to cedar siding, wood shakes and board and batten siding.

Making a Statement

Select siding that conveys your personal style through types, textures, and colours. Your siding material choice doesn’t have to be dramatic or bold to make a statement. Is whitewater rafting or a challenging hiking trail your idea of fun? Reflect your sense of adventure with a bold shade of seamless aluminum siding. Do you prefer quiet contemplation in a formal garden? Choose earth-toned natural materials such as cedar siding or stone veneer siding to create a harmonious home exterior.

Installing New Siding? 10 Common Questions People Ask

If you plan on installing new siding, you might not know where to begin. See if these top 10 siding questions give you the answers you’re looking for.

What things should I consider when buying siding?

Main factors to consider when buying siding are:

  • water resistance
  • energy efficiency – R-value rating of siding material
  • versatility – suits the size and architectural details of your home
  • durability – matches demands of regional climatic conditions
  • aesthetics

What is the best siding material?

The best siding for your home is one that enhances its architectural style, fits your budget and is easy to maintain. Check local bylaws or neighbourhood association rules for any restrictions.

How much will it cost?

In addition to the cost of the siding material, other factors that determine the total cost are:

  • size and height of home
  • condition of existing siding and/or building structure
  • number of windows and doors, including the corresponding sizes

Will I have to move out while the siding is being installed?

Usually, no. A siding contractor typically removes and installs the amount of siding that can be done during standard work hours. This ensures that your home is protected from the elements and you don’t have to move out during the installation process. However, be prepared for some shaking and noise while the crew is working.

How long does installing new siding take?

Depending on the size of your home, weather conditions and the type of siding, the installation process typically takes one to two weeks. For example, vinyl siding can take as few as two days, while aluminum siding might take around seven days to install.

Does the old siding have to be removed?

Whether or not the old siding is removed first or new siding is installed over top depends on what the contractor finds during the inspection upon which the estimate is based. If wood rot, other types of damage or insulation issues have been discovered, the old siding will have to be removed.

Does the siding color matter?

While siding colour is a personal preference, it can adversely affect your curb appeal if it makes your home stand out in a “bad” way. Even a carefully chosen neutral color can have visual impact. Siding color choice should be unique to you but blend in with the neighborhood.

Is there a type of siding that is maintenance free?

Unfortunately no. But some siding materials such as fiber cement siding, vinyl siding, some types of pre-treated wood and engineered wood siding are lower maintenance than others.

Are there any good green siding options?

If you would like your new siding to be eco-friendly, consider its sustainability. Choose quality siding materials that are durable and long-lasting. The more biodegradable the siding material, the more earth-friendly it is.

Is there a particular season I should plan to have siding installed?

Summer and autumn are good seasons to have new siding installed. However, winter, when siding companies tend to be less busy, is also a good time. Regardless of the season, most siding installation contracts will include a “dependent on weather conditions” clause.

Choose the Right Cedar Siding for Your Home

Image credit: PNWRA/Flickr Creative Commons

Image credit: PNWRA/Flickr Creative Commons

If you are in the market for new siding and live in the Lower Mainland, cedar siding makes sense. It’s aesthetically pleasing to the eye, decay resistant, long lasting and well-suited to the Pacific Northwest climate. Is red cedar better than white cedar? Should you go with shingles or planks? Here are helpful aspects to consider when choosing the right cedar siding for your home.

Is It Really Cedar?

“Pretend” cedar: Most homeowners looking for cedar siding equate Western Red Cedar with the siding material they have in mind. Actually, cedar siding can refer to several different woods species that, while they might look like the real thing, aren’t related to the cedar family at all. For example, products manufactured from Aromatic Cedar are from the juniper tree, while siding material labeled Port Orford Cedar is a variety of cypress.

Red cedar: What makes Western Red Cedar so appealing as a siding material is its grain; it’s straight, not prone to splitting, and resists swelling. Red cedar grows taller and is somewhat stronger than white cedar. When stained, its rich grain pattern becomes even more apparent. Age gives red cedar its rot-resistant chemical characteristic: the older the tree at the time of harvest, the more decay resistant the wood will be. Western Red Cedar typically grows in the western half of North America.

White cedar: Eastern White Cedar, found in the eastern part of North America, is a “softer” wood than Western Red Cedar. It also contains rot and insect resist oils. It is shorter, growing to an average height of 50 feet rather up to 200 feet like the red cedar. When left to weather naturally, white cedar turns a range of silver-green to gray-blue tones. It is the popular siding material choice for cedar shingles.

Cedar Siding Styles

Cedar siding is available in a wide range of styles and can complement most house designs, from ultra modern to Craftsman to formal traditional. When deciding on a cedar siding style for your home take into account house type, texture and the look you want to achieve – rustic, sophisticated, tailored or urban. Popular cedar siding styles include:

  • lap siding – panels or boards overlap and are positioned horizontally
  • board and batten siding – battens or strips of wood are attached to cedar planks; hung vertically for maximum effect
  • wood strip siding – cedar planks arranged either vertically or horizontally; varying widths from narrow to wide
  • bevel siding – cut thicker at one end and hung horizontally
  • tongue-and-groove siding – panels are fitted edge to edge; can be hung diagonally, vertically or horizontally
  • shakes/shingles – while they can appear to be the same, cedar shakes are typically thicker than cedar shingles

Making the Grade

A certified lumber grading agency such as the West Coast Lumber Inspection Bureau (WCLIB) inspects and grades boards individually. Clear grades are visually clear, with no obvious inclusions – natural occurrences in wood such as knots, raised grains or cracks. Knotty grades haves more inclusions. Propriety grades are typically high end, produced by mills under their own brand names. Each grade of cedar has its own price range, reflecting the cost of its quality and how it was produced. White cedar is generally less expensive than red cedar.