Side by Siding Caring for Your Building's Exterior

Side by Siding

 After years of wear and tear from the elements—or just the impact of a single catastrophic event like Superstorm Sandy this  past fall—the siding on the exterior of a condo, co-op or townhome can start to look a bit  under the weather.  

 Wind, rain, fluctuating temperatures, direct sunlight, salt water, improper  maintenance or even poor installation all can contribute to the deterioration  of siding. While construction technology has come a long way since the days of  plain wooden planks covering homes, prudent board members and other residents  will think about the overall care of siding, as well as the proper installation  and life expectancies of the varying types available. Having a board with  little bit of knowledge in this area can lead to large cash savings in the long  run for a building or HOA community. And the savings in lack of hassles,  project errors or unnecessary delays on a siding or decking job gone awry can  be of inestimable value as well.  

 Choosing Siding

 When choosing a siding type, a material that may look nice at first glance could  actually be a poor match for your building, depending on the weather conditions  in your area and other factors. By doing some homework ahead of time, a savvy  board can have a good idea of what they're looking for and what their building  community needs; they also understand the performance expectations of different  products and can choose the best type of material for their building or  buildings.  

 The differences between wood, vinyl, and other composite siding materials are  pretty distinct.  

 Vinyl siding is the least labor-intensive option, requiring minimal maintenance—often just an annual power washing. It is billed as the longest lasting of all  types of siding, with some manufacturers giving a 50-year warranty on the  product. Practically speaking, vinyl siding should have a usable life of about  30 years or so, according to most contractors.  

 Composites such as fiber cement are quite durable as well, and with proper  maintenance can last 30 to 50 years, but they can be pricey. Hardie Plank, a  cement fiber siding material, needs to be caulked every two years, power-washed  annually, and eventually will need to be painted and then re-painted regularly  thereafter.  

 Wood has a high maintenance cost, but it does have the softer, natural look that  many people want, albeit a look that comes without much of a warranty. Even so,  say the pros, with proper repair, maintenance, and sealing every five years,  cedar shake siding could last as much as a century. Treated wood decking can  last 10 to 15 years or more, but cedar or maple decking will last up to 50  years if it is well cared for. To keep that natural appearance, the owners will  have to ensure that the siding gets the right care. Most wood siding must be  caulked every two years, power-washed annually, and regularly painted to  prevent rotting.  

 Aesthetics vs. Practicality

 Regardless of the type of material, age and weather will dictate when to replace  it. But to some people, weathering of the material could be little more than a  cosmetic consideration, since weathered siding sometimes continues to perform  pretty well even when it doesn’t look great. For others, ugly siding must go, pronto. How speedily that happens  depends mostly upon the durability of the siding, and how well it has been  cared for since its initial installation.  

 “If you’re in a region with a more severe climate, you want to invest in higher quality  types of siding,” says Ross Marzarella, vice president and chief operating officer of All Country  Exteriors, located in Lakewood. “The natural and wood products last the longest, but can require more  maintenance. The more severe the weather environment is, the more you want to  go towards the composite materials.”  

 Overall environmental conditions can be major consideration when choosing the  right type of siding for a building. Knowing the capabilities of the products  is an important part of the process. Trex, a composite material type of  decking, is probably the wrong type of decking for a place where there is a lot  of foliage around, because fallen leaves can stain this type of deck.  

 The main difference between wood and things made to look like wood such as  composites are that composite products have many of the characteristics of wood  but don’t look as good, Marzarella says. “Like vinyl, composite products last, but don’t look as good,” Marzarella says. “All types of siding can last a lifetime—it’s just a matter of what condition you want them to be in at the end of your  life.”  

 To make the best choice of material, it helps to follow the advice of the  seasoned pros, who can guide a buyer to the right product. “We try to recommend what’s best for the consumer,” says Arnold Roeland, owner of Roeland Home Improvers in Rockaway.  

 Careful Installation, Consistent Maintenance

 For those who want to do it right, picking the best contractor for a siding job  will require some work. But the effort spent will be small change compared to  the energy cost savings that having the correct building envelope will bring  residents. Siding is an integral part of a building’s exterior envelope, and having the right siding that is insulated, properly  installed and durable, could bring long-term savings in a building’s energy costs.  

 Knowing how to maintain siding is not so apparent, though, since the type of  required maintenance varies from siding material to material. But for those who  see the indicators, siding that needs repair or replacement can be pretty  obvious.  

 Usually, weather and aging are both factors in deciding when to replace vinyl  siding, says Roeland.  

 “Time really doesn’t matter unless the siding is aging poorly,” Roeland says, adding that other signs shouldn’t be ignored. “Chalking, where the color rubs off on your hand, or loose seams and water  infiltration are signs that replacement should be done soon.”  

 Obvious signs that vinyl siding replacement should happen in the near future  include indications that the siding is starting to buckle, become loose, or  warp. Damaged pieces of siding can be another reason to replace it, says Brian  Bolger, co-owner of Magnolia Development in Kenvil.  

 Some defects that could end in replacement are not as apparent to the untrained  eye. Water infiltration into the building or behind the siding, unexplainable  leaks in the siding (specifically around windows), and any seams coming open,  or visible cracks in the siding, are indications that replacement might be  needed. Failing to take care of leaks, especially those water leaks where the  extent of the destruction isn’t clear, might ultimately result in damage to the building’s structure.  

 Aging of certain types of materials should be expected. Expansion and  contraction due to the weather changes tends to damage vinyl siding over time.  Telltale signs that replacement may be imminent for composite siding materials  are clear when the product’s color is fading, and when the product is chipped or broken. Obviously, caring  for siding properly will extend its lifetime and conversely, failing to do so  will shorten its life.  

 A qualified contractor can guide a board through all of this, but board members  will have to do some work to find the right company if they haven’t worked with such a contractor before. A board should get referrals of  contractors capable of performing the work from the building’s property management company, as well as from the engineer and other  professional sources. And companies should be interviewed and vetted before  they are chosen for a project.  

 Contractor Licensing

 There is no siding-specific licensing required by the state of New Jersey for a  contractor to be able to install these materials. The state does require  general contractors to be licensed as contractors, and any company that might  be hired by a community should be both licensed and properly insured. Even so,  this lack of specific state certification leaves a lot of wiggle room for  contractors to claim to have expertise that they don’t really have, since there is no government-regulated designation for  contractors installing siding in New Jersey. Check with other buildings and  communities who have used this particular contractor, and verify that the firm  does good work, before you hire them.  

 Fencing, Decking & Checking

 Given the fact that a siding job can cost tens of thousands of dollars or much  more, boards should keep an eye on the bottom line of such a project. This  oversight begins with having the building’s engineer create specifications for the job, and then having the engineer help  the board to vet and hire the best contractor. Engineers vary in their  real-world technical knowledge of different construction methods, though, and  hiring one is not in itself a fail-safe route to a successful siding or decking  installation project.  

 When a community is undertaking a siding job or any other major construction  project, an extra pair of trained eyes could be necessary. Oversight is the  best preventative measure to failure. One way to ensure that the quality of  workmanship on such a job is what it should be is to hire another siding expert  to spot-check the work as it progresses, Roeland says. Ideally, a Vinyl Siding  Institute (VSI)-certified contractor should keep an eye on such a job. Too many  communities don’t do this, he says.  

 “I see a lot of jobs that are actually being installed against the manufacturer’s specifications, because nobody involved understands how to do it,” Roeland says.  

 Board members and other residents alike should make sure there is an appropriate  maintenance schedule for the co-op, condominium or townhouse community. Who is  responsible for making certain that the maintenance checks and proper  maintenance work is being done on the building’s exterior? And who is making sure that that person—be they the super, property manager or another—is doing the job?  

 Wood decking, if properly cared for, could last 25 years, Roeland says. “It’s all relative to the care the decking is given during the time that it is  installed… A pressure treated wood deck should be re-sealed every five years,” he says. “If you don’t paint wood or repair it every five years, it’ll be the most expensive product you could use.”  

 Perhaps the most important part of any fencing, decking or siding project is the  installation itself. If improperly installed, siding or decking might not see  half of its expected life. For decking and fences, the job starts with the  right foundation.  

 Both fences and decks require that posts be set in concrete footers, for  durability and permanency. As with siding jobs, such projects have varying  warranties on them (depending upon product and contractor), and often,  financing plans are available. Generally speaking, these building materials all  are guaranteed for manufacturer’s defects. Warranties for projects usually are spelled out in the contract for  the work.  

 Depending upon the product, contractors can be certified in the specific  installation of the brand, through its manufacturer. Using such a contractor  will give the buyer added protection, if anything goes wrong, since the  manufacturer will stand behind the installation work.   

 Jonathan Barnes is a freelance writer and regular contributor to The New Jersey  Cooperator.  

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  • I am a representative of Trex and would like to conmemt: Trex does not recommend the use of a power washer and will not warranty claims on products that are damaged while using a power-washer. Every effort should be made to follow the Trex Care and Cleaning guide to remove any staining prior to using a pressure -washer. Should you choose to use a pressure-washer, here are guidelines to follow. o A pressure-washer with 1500 psi or less must be used o A fan spray pattern to protect the Trex surface. o The Tip should remain 12 or farther from the decking surface.Pat MTrex Company