Ep 4: Home Siding Considerations and Tips

House At Work Home Repair Clinic

In Episode 4 Jim and Peter discuss the different types of siding that are available to homeowners as well as the pros and cons for each kind.

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Jim Salmon:                      Hi, everybody. Welcome to the houseatwork.com, home repair clinic podcast, where we discuss all things home repair, life in general. We’re marriage counselors.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, pretty much anything that pops in our head essentially.

Jim Salmon:                      We can handle it all. My name is Jim Salmon.

Peter Schick :                    Peter Schick.

Jim Salmon:                      How are you today?

Peter Schick :                    It’s another day, man.

Jim Salmon:                      Another day.

Peter Schick :                    It’s raining, it’s kind of crappy out, but it is what it is.

Jim Salmon:                      What are you going to do? Well every house needs to keep the weather out, so we thought we would dedicate this podcast to siding. Riveting stuff, right?

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, really riveting here.

Jim Salmon:                      I’m a home inspector. You hire me to go in and talk to you about houses, and you’re a real estate guy, and you try to keep me from doing that.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, exactly. You keep trying to make my life miserable.

Jim Salmon:                      Yes, exactly. There’s a lot of different kinds of siding here in the northeast. There’s wood siding, which is shingles and clapboard, horizontal stuff and then wood shingles.

Peter Schick :                    Now, I always think with wood siding, what is the point of that, because most of the time unless it’s treated with something, I always feel like you’re not getting what you need out of it. It’s actually, it’s even more maintenance as far as I’m concerned. You might as well just, you’re going to have to paint over it, you’re going to have to do something with it.

Jim Salmon:                      Without a doubt. You remember the movie The Graduate?

Peter Schick :                    Yes.

Jim Salmon:                      Or The Candidate? Which one was it?

Peter Schick :                    The Graduate, is that the one, Mrs. Robinson or whatever.

Jim Salmon:                      Yeah, I think so. The quote in there, it’s Robert Redford. He’s sitting there, and some old guy’s telling him, it’s plastics. Trying to get him to invest. Anyway, before plastic was wood, and so for hundreds of years, starting with logs, starting with stones, actually. It’s been wood cedar shingles or clapboard, and it’s a nightmare. Now, I get all kinds of hate mail from the landmark-type folks. Oh, that’s beautiful, you gotta restore it the way it was. Nobody wants to paint anything anymore.

Peter Schick :                    That’s definitely true, because now, you’re going to have to worry about that in around five years from now too.

Jim Salmon:                      Absolutely.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, great, you’re going to keep it to how it was historically and everything, and unless you live in some historic district that says …

Jim Salmon:                      You have to do that.

Peter Schick :                    You need to do this.

Jim Salmon:                      Oh, that’s a nightmare in itself.

Peter Schick :                    That’s a nightmare. I see that with windows where they’re like, no no no no, you can’t replace the windows, can’t replace the windows. You gotta keep it how it was in the 1890s. It’s like, well how it was in the 1890s, it creates drafts in my house.

Jim Salmon:                      Once a cedar shingle becomes unsightly, it peels, and then the prep work becomes so much, it’s crazy. You never get it back to nice and smooth. Then you paint it and you look at it like oh my gosh, it’s peeled, but it’s got a coat of paint on it, but it’s still ugly.

Peter Schick :                    You put a band-aid on it. That’s essentially what it is.

Jim Salmon:                      I’m a zero maintenance guy. Anything I’m doing today, on any kind of house, I don’t want to visit again as long as I’m alive.

Peter Schick :                    I feel the same way. That’s why I like vinyl siding. I like metal roofs, metal roofs sound awesome.

Jim Salmon:                      That’s wonderful.

Peter Schick :                    That is, you never have to worry about it for the rest of your life. Big fan of both of those.

Jim Salmon:                      One of the things with wood siding too is it doesn’t perform well on some buildings that don’t process moisture well. The moisture comes right through the wall, goes through the shingle, between the paint and the shingle, blisters.

Peter Schick :                    What do you mean by processing the moisture?

Jim Salmon:                      The house has excess moisture and it can’t get out quick enough. It’s not ventilated right.

Peter Schick :                    Oh, I see what you’re saying.

Jim Salmon:                      Every once in a while, I’ll see little [loovers 00:03:51] cut into the siding or whatever, trying to do this, and what we’ve learned on vinyl siding is, and if you look at vinyl siding from the bottom up, it’s full of holes. That’s what’s supposed to happen, the water comes through the wall, condenses on the siding, drops down, goes out the holes, and it’s a system. It’s a good thing to do. Now, there’s also an awful lot of cement siding out there that was fibrated with asbestos. Now, people call it asbestos siding, and it’s not asbestos siding, it’s fibrated with asbestos. There is a component of it.

Peter Schick :                    Is that like how tiles used to be put on the ground with that?

Jim Salmon:                      Exactly.

Peter Schick :                    Okay, so that’s essentially the same thing, where it’s not necessarily airborne unless you start peeling that back, and it’s not really going to create a threat.

Jim Salmon:                      If a golf ball hits it, snowblower wings some stones up against it, it’ll crack. Now you’ve got some friable asbestos, because you can look at the edge of it sometimes and see the little fibers coming out of there.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, you can see the fibers coming.

Jim Salmon:                      It was a wonderful siding, let me put it to you that way. I had it on my house when we bought the house, and then eventually I …

Peter Schick :                    When did you buy your house?

Jim Salmon:                      1985.

Peter Schick :                    It had the old asbestos, how old is your house then?

Jim Salmon:                      150 years old. It was built in the 1860s.

Peter Schick :                    150 years. I thought mine was bad, it was built in like 1890. If you look at the title, the street that it’s on, the street that it’s named on, the streets that it’s named, the street name is in the title.

Jim Salmon:                      That was that guy.

Peter Schick :                    That was that guy.

Jim Salmon:                      I painted it maybe twice, and then it’s old wood trim and whatever, so then when I could afford to side it, you can’t go over asbestos fibrated cement siding. It’s like cement. If you try to nail a screw into it, it would break apart and fall down behind your work and whatever. There are contractors that try to put that over this kind of siding, which is nuts. It’s craziness.

Peter Schick :                    That almost sounds like, would that be considered an abatement if you had to remove that though?

Jim Salmon:                      Yes. It’s funny how that worked. In the 80s, when you tore it off, it had to go to an approved landfill. Then there was a time frame between 1988 and ’95 or so, where no, it’s fine. It can go right into a landfill by itself, there’s no special rules. Then somehow or other, it got changed to oh my god, it’s asbestos.

Peter Schick :                    Everybody’s losing their minds.

Jim Salmon:                      Now it has to be dealt with properly, you have to plastic coat the ground. You put it in an approved dumpster, it goes to an approved landfill where it’s disposed of as asbestos.

Peter Schick :                    That seems bizarre to me, approved landfill. Who’s wandering around a landfill, I’m going to get cancer because I’m wandering around this landfill all day.

Jim Salmon:                      Well, once it’s buried in the ground, I think that’s the thinking is that there’s nothing else.

Peter Schick :                    It’s sealed.

Jim Salmon:                      Yeah, and then you’re gone. There are only certain places that that goes. It’s like anything else, in government, in whatever, it’s a money grab. It costs an average, say you have 200,000 square foot house.

Peter Schick :                    We’re going to need to hear your top three money grabs by the government.

Jim Salmon:                      Yeah, we were touching about that with the AC.

Peter Schick :                    I’m going to need to hear that from you, Jim, because I think it’s going to be pretty interesting to hear.

Jim Salmon:                      We can do that. You take this stuff and you put it in the landfill, and the average 2,000 square foot house is 15, 1800 bucks to throw away the siding.

Peter Schick :                    Oh jeez, just that.

Jim Salmon:                      Yeah, and then you go from there.

Peter Schick :                    You could almost find somebody, I wouldn’t say it would be 15 to 18 to paint a house, probably be more like 2,000 plus.

Jim Salmon:                      Well, to paint, I was just on a …

Peter Schick :                    Well, I would say if you hire someone. If you do it yourself, then whatever. It’s your own labor and time.

Jim Salmon:                      What I’m talking about is throwing away the siding, taking it off and throwing it away. It’s usually a couple of grand.

Peter Schick :                    I’m just making a comparison between okay, these are the options. You could keep it as is, or I could throw it all away, then do the vinyl siding or whatever.

Jim Salmon:                      Now, I have met with a few people that were able to take their asbestos fibrated cement siding, figure out how to take it off without breaking it, pile it up on palettes, put it on Craigslist or Ebay, and there is a market for this stuff.

Peter Schick :                    Interesting.

Jim Salmon:                      Yeah, some of it’s kind of unique. It has striations or fluted parts to it.

Peter Schick :                    That’s interesting.

Jim Salmon:                      If your a historic district and you’re looking for this stuff, there’s a market for it.

Peter Schick :                    I could see that, because in some historic districts, like you know the lead stained glass and things like that, I could see people actually paying big bucks for that. If you try to get that custom made, it’s a lot more expensive than just finding something, hey, I’m getting rid of this. I totally see where you’re going with that.

Jim Salmon:                      In our part of the world, which is the northeast, more particularly, what are we, western New York, I guess.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, western New York.

Jim Salmon:                      We have a centrally located base of cobblestone homes. They’re made out of stone, obviously. They were built between 1820 and 1830, in that area. There is an entity called a cobblestone society. I remember, now these folks are pure, put it back to the way it was in 1820, so they invited me to go give a little talk, give a speech at their convention or whatever, and it was a dinner and whatever. I got up there and I started talking about vinyl siding. They start throwing tomatoes at me.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, they’re getting their pitchforks out and their torches.

Jim Salmon:                      It was great. I said look, we have to understand, I don’t mind old, and that’s good. I’m not saying vinyl side stone, but I’m saying modern electrical, modern heating and air conditioning, modern spray foam on the inside.

Peter Schick :                    Were they even against that?

Jim Salmon:                      Yeah, some of them are obstructionists when it comes to that stuff. The one guy gets up and he goes, I’m not doing that. I’m going to do whatever I can, every one of these houses I can, I fix it up fast so the vinyl siding guy doesn’t come along and bastardize it. You had to be there. I’m a firm believer in keeping old, keeping some of the architecture, if you will, but you blend that with modern technology and energy efficiency. Improves your safety, energy efficiency, and everything’s good.

Peter Schick :                    Now, even with those cobblestones, that seems like you would never really have to worry about it again. That almost …

Jim Salmon:                      Well, it’s all about, any stone, I mean, you think about the cobbles are about the size of a fist. There’s a mortar joint around there, so there’s four billion mortar joints on every one of those.

Peter Schick :                    I see, it has to match the mortar color and everything.

Jim Salmon:                      Right, and the water wants to get in there and to freeze and thaw, and the corners in particular.

Peter Schick :                    I could see that being a nightmare, now that you mention it.

Jim Salmon:                      If you get it back and you do normal maintenance, normal maintenance on a house like that, on a normal house would be, say in a track would be about 2500 bucks a year. You’re doing gutter cleaning and furnace cleaning and all the stuff that keeps you clean. With a cobblestone house, it might be six grand a year, just to say ahead of everything.

Peter Schick :                    I could see that, now that you mention that.

Jim Salmon:                      Otherwise you wind up then, all of a sudden I have a bigger problem and it costs a lot more to rebuild something.

Peter Schick :                    I didn’t realize the stones were that small. I was thinking bigger stones, and that was the image in my mind, but something that small, I could see that being a headache.

Jim Salmon:                      The cobbles, I wrote an article on this, this is the only reason I know anything about it, because I did some research. They made this box out of wood, and they had a couple of kinds, back in 1830, a couple of size requirements for some of these cobbles. They had holes in this board, and if the stone fit through there, it was this cobble. If it fit through this hole, and they’d hire the local kids. They would just stay there all day long and get 20 cents at the end of the day or whatever it was, and they’d make these piles of cobbles. Then the mason contractor would come and put those together.

Peter Schick :                    Interesting.

Jim Salmon:                      It’s funny, the tools that were made for this were all handmade out of wood. They could only build about a foot a day, because if they got any higher than that, they were using a natural lime mortar which didn’t have any [inaudible 00:12:30].

Peter Schick :                    Oh I see, it’s going to kind of collapse on itself.

Jim Salmon:                      They’d only go a foot a day. Think of how long it took to build those cobblestone houses, and there’s about 1,000 of them in the northeast.

Peter Schick :                    Wow, that takes some patience right there.

Jim Salmon:                      It does. Back to regular siding here a little bit, there of course is aluminum siding, which was very popular coming into the 50s and all through the 60s and into the 70s before vinyl took over. You can still buy aluminum siding, it’s ungodly expensive.

Peter Schick :                    I see that fairly often, yeah. I see that, I’ve seen that with a few houses. Actually, I’ve also seen with some of the aluminum siding how, after a long period of time, if it’s been on there for a while, the sun will almost bleach the color of it. I’ve seen that with a few houses where this back in the day, I don’t know how long ago, it used to be green, but now it’s puke green.

Jim Salmon:                      It’s puke yellow.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, it’s this puke yellow-greenish, it’s like ah, that looks ugly, yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      Now, the drawbacks on aluminum are that it corrodes, and we’ll find heavy corrosion sometimes up under the eave where there’d been ice damming or water got in behind it. Now, remember, vinyl siding processes that and aluminum siding really don’t. Aluminum and water don’t mix very well, it’s not rusting, but it is corroding, and sometimes you’ll see these little specks of corrosion that worked their way to the surface of the siding, and there’s nothing you can do about that. You can’t scrape them off. You can paint it, but it’s still …

Peter Schick :                    No, you’re just going over it essentially.

Jim Salmon:                      It dents. Like vinyl siding, if a rock goes up against it and it doesn’t break, maybe there’s a little dimple, but then it’ll smooth itself out a little bit. Not so much with aluminum. Once it dents …

Peter Schick :                    It’s there, it’s done.

Jim Salmon:                      I also, there’s this big class action lawsuit that was the insurance companies hate hail. Hail drives them nuts.

Peter Schick :                    We were just having some hail the other day.

Jim Salmon:                      Were you really?

Peter Schick :                    Did you see that?

Jim Salmon:                      Oh yeah, yeah yeah.

Peter Schick :                    That was just like two days ago. I walk outside, and it’s like marbles hitting me in the head, trying to get inside.

Jim Salmon:                      You feeling okay?

Peter Schick :                    Oh, I’m good, yeah yeah, I haven’t lost my mind yet, yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      Well, there’s this class action lawsuit that there was about a hundred people that got together, because the insurance company was just taking the old aluminum siding and replacing the damaged sections. You know, 20 year old siding, it’s not going to match. That isn’t right, so these people all got together, they sued the insurance company that was involved in this, and they won.

Peter Schick :                    Oh really?

Jim Salmon:                      A lot of people don’t know that if you have an insurance claim that you can push back, it isn’t always just what they tell you. My goal is to make every one of those claims uncomfortable for the people coming out to my house. That’s another whole story. By in large, hail will damage aluminum siding where it wouldn’t really damage vinyl siding.

Peter Schick :                    Interesting.

Jim Salmon:                      Yeah, it’s pretty interesting. Anyway, those of you with aluminum siding, it’s easily painted. Most of it is not fluted, there’s very little scraping to do. It sprays easily.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, now is there a certain kind of paint you need for that aluminum siding?

Jim Salmon:                      They sell, wink wink nod nod, they sell aluminum siding paint. You’re nuts if you get sucked into that.

Peter Schick :                    Is it just like they charge a premium for it?

Jim Salmon:                      It’s all about the prep work, and if you go up to an average house with aluminum siding on it and run your finger across it, you come up with this chalky stuff on your hand. You have to really do a good cleaning of it first. You have to power wash it usually, and power washes are great for any kind of siding, but there’s a learning curve on that. You don’t want to blast into it or inject it in yourself.

Peter Schick :                    You have to have the right pressure when you’re actually using them.

Jim Salmon:                      Regular house paint is fine for that. They invent things just to make money. Money grab number five, money grab number five. Then there’s hardboard siding. Oh, what a nightmare. One of my first jobs was working for a Wix lumber and building supply, little home center, down in Panorama Plaza in Penfield, New York, right out of high school.

Peter Schick :                    When was that, back in the ’20s or something?

Jim Salmon:                      Well, no, I’ll tell you. I think I started work there in 1970.

Peter Schick :                    1970. Oh wow.

Jim Salmon:                      I was making $1.60 an hour. I thought I was a millionaire. Back then, my first car payment was 50 bucks. Anyway, we sold 12 and 16-foot lengths of this one by 12 hardboard siding. Now, hardboard is masonite, basically. It’s a masonite product, and there’s a tempered version and an untempered version. This siding was a complete failure from minute one, and there’s millions of houses still with this stuff on there. It has about a 25-year life expectancy, and that’s maintaining it perfectly. The edges, the bottom of the overlap, it’s like a clapboard overlap, and the bottom part would wick up water and then it would expand, and then these little …

Peter Schick :                    Oh wait, I’ve seen that before, I’ve seen that before.

Jim Salmon:                      Horrible stuff. The good part is, it’s cheap, you can still buy it. You’d be insane if you used that stuff, because it doesn’t have longevity like vinyl would. Anyway, there were class actions suits on that too, lots of them. There was a big-time settlement on that. If I show up at a house to do a home inspection, and it’s covered with that stuff and it’s all water damaged, you’re looking at re-siding the house. Of course, the real estate people don’t want to hear that. Money grab number 10.

Peter Schick :                    You’re going to kill this deal, Jim.

Jim Salmon:                      Yes, exactly. Well, there’s a compliment. Anyway, hardboard siding isn’t, we don’t use that anymore. We don’t want to use it anymore. We wish it never was here to begin with. Anyway, modern cement siding is I believe fibrated with fiber glass, which will be the next asbestos, but anyway, for right now’s sake, modern cement siding like Hearty Plank, there’s a couple other, Allure, there’s a bunch of others.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, I’ve seen those, the Hearty Plank.

Jim Salmon:                      It really, really depends on who installs it, whether that’s pulled off right, because you’re putting a fastener into a piece of cement, so it’s easy to have it look ugly, and the fewer nails, the better, so I’ve not really seen that pulled off well too many times, although it’s a popular siding, people like it.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, I feel vinyl’s siding’s probably most bang for your buck, and ease of installation as well, it seems to me. Yeah, if you have the right tools and you have a little training, I mean, a lot of people could do that. It’s not necessarily a difficult, in terms of all the other options you’ve been speaking of.

Jim Salmon:                      In a track home situation, where he’s building number 18, number 20, number 24. There are some institutional builders that build very frugally, and I’m taking it easy on them, the vinyl siding is installed just based on what the vinyl siding is. J-channel’s used around the windows and doors, whatever, but when it’s your home and it’s time to re-side, the extra money that you should spend on having the windows picture-book framed with coil stock as opposed to the standard J-channel makes a huge difference in how the vinyl siding project looks. It’s absolutely beautiful when it’s done like that.

Peter Schick :                    What is the cost difference between those, then?

Jim Salmon:                      It’s probably about, it’s less than $100 a window.

Peter Schick :                    Oh, okay.

Jim Salmon:                      Some houses have 30 windows or more, and that winds up being another two or three thousand dollars.

Peter Schick :                    I could see what you mean with those track homes too, where they try to sell it for these outlandish prices, but then they use the cheapest flooring. They’re the tiles I could find at Mr. Second’s or something where they’re super cheap tiles, and now they’re trying to sell it for 300,000.

Jim Salmon:                      I can’t tell you how much better the job will look, the vinyl siding job, if you just spend a little extra money around the windows and doors and have them picture framed. Not to, one of the unintended consequences is you get a nice wide flashing at the trim that goes back behind the siding, instead of that little J-channel that’s about an inch. I spend my whole life trying to track down leaks, and sometimes it’s leaks, vinyl siding has lots of holes in it, but so does the trim around windows. Once in a while, somebody didn’t get it right on the outside when they installed the J-channel, and it’s a pathway of water right into the basement. It’s important, not to, you’re only as good as your worst sub-contractor, so when you hire a siding guy to do your house, you want to make sure that the guy that’s selling you the job is the guy that’s doing it, is the company with his thumb on the button.

Peter Schick :                    Exactly.

Jim Salmon:                      There are fiberglass sidings out there, which are also horrible-looking. They’re asbestos-fibrated, some of them, in addition to fiberglass. I think we have, the one I just didn’t want to even talk about was T1-11 siding, which is nothing but plywood.

Peter Schick :                    Oh, I’ve seen that too.

Jim Salmon:                      It’s exterior rated. There’s 3-8 cents, there’s 5-8 cents, there’s eight foot sheets, there’s nine foot sheets, there’s Z strapping, Z flashing, if you need to put one on top of the other, but it only lasts X amount of years, and then it becomes a perfect base to hang vinyl siding on.

Peter Schick :                    At least there’s that, you know.

Jim Salmon:                      I find a lot of rot-damaged T1-11 siding during my home inspections. I was in a house this morning that had wood cedar shingles on it, lots of holes from critters trying to bore their way in. It’s you versus the squirrels, the chipmunks, the carpenter ants, the …

Peter Schick :                    Mice.

Jim Salmon:                      The termites, the mice.

Peter Schick :                    Raccoons.

Jim Salmon:                      Everything. There were, you could see the claw marks where they’re trying to get in at the [inaudible 00:23:28]. They take a bath in the gutter and then, you’re not cleaning your gutter, and then they’re gnawing away at your fascia board until they get into the overhang, and they’re happy as hell. There was a lot of rot on this house. My estimation I think for rot damage was I think $3,000 worth of repair. It was an 1800 square foot Cape Cod, so do you spend the $1800 bucks to fix that, or do you fold that over into a vinyl siding project? That’s a no brainer for me.

Peter Schick :                    That makes a lot of sense.

Jim Salmon:                      A good siding guy can cover up a multitude of problems. You don’t have to replace every ugly cracked or chipped board. You do have to have a good starter strip and a good base, so if you have some rot damage, you’re replacing some of that, but by in large, they can cover up and make your house look great, and you don’t have to paint it. As I was talking with my client this morning, it’s going to be about seven grand to paint this house. It’s busy, there’s a lot of trim work, there’s dormers, there’s the perfect storm of painting contractor. A lot of prep work because there’s a lot of peeling.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, just the scraping alone is going to be the big part right there, just the prep work.

Jim Salmon:                      If it was seven to paint it, it might be 10 to side it. There’s no …

Peter Schick :                    You’re going to have to paint it in the future again. Say fast-forward five years, going to have to paint it again.

Jim Salmon:                      It makes sense. It’s easy for us to sit here and talk about other people’s money, without a doubt, but that’s what we do, and we do it pretty well actually. Some of the vinyl sidings that are out there now are absolutely gorgeous. There are sidings that look like cedar shakes and wood shingles. Now, you’ve introduced quite a bit more cost in that discussion, but they’re absolutely beautiful if they’re applied correctly.

Peter Schick :                    Nice, nice.

Jim Salmon:                      I’m definitely into the whole zero maintenance thing. Anything I visit today I don’t want to do again.

Peter Schick :                    I’m the same way.

Jim Salmon:                      Unfortunately, not everybody sees it that way, or it’s like hey, I only got X amount of dollars in the bank. I’ll just do a temporary fix, there you go. Well, we’ve come to the end of this wonderful houseatwork.com home repair clinic podcast today. If you’d like to send us an email with a suggestion or a question you have, Peter’s going to tell you how to do that.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, just send it to [email protected]

Jim Salmon:                      We’ll see you on down the road for the next houseatwork.com home repair clinic website, podcast, whatever it is. We’ll see you down the line.

Peter Schick :                    Have a good one.

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