If you were to throw the names of the top 10 vinyl siding companies in a hat and pick one, you would probably end up with quality siding. Do the same with 10 local contractors, and the installation quality would be far less certain. A contractor's expertise and experience are crucial to a good siding job. The reason is the material itself. Because vinyl expands and contracts so much, even the most expensive siding will buckle and warp if not put on correctly. Experienced contractors take a number of steps to keep this from happening. For example, panels are installed with a 1/4-in. clearance at all openings and stops, such as where a panel butts up against a window or comes to a corner of the house. That clearance is increased to 3/8 in. when siding is installed in temperatures below 32°F. You'll also see a row of slots at the top of each panel. Your siding contractor should drive his nails through the center of the slots, leaving a small space, about 1/32 in., between the nail head and siding. That allows each panel to move slightly with temperature changes. Because installation is so important, check references of any contractor you're considering. Request written estimates, then visit past jobs and a current project to give them a thorough once-over. Look for these details:
  • Rigid insulation. It provides a smooth surface for the siding, adds some insulating value and cuts air infiltration. Joints between rigid insulation panels should be taped for maximum energy savings. It's a small task, but signals quality.
  • Corrosion-resistant nails. Look for aluminum or hot-dipped galvanized nails.
  • Straight courses. Examine both sides of windows and doors. Panels should continue from one side to the next in perfect alignment. If they're uneven, the job will look sloppy. The same holds true at corners.
  • Detailing around openings. The J-channel that receives the panel ends should be neat and precise. Look for mitered corners and smooth caulking application.
  • A clean job site. Contractors should clean up at the end of each day. Materials and tools should be covered and protected. Debris should be picked up for disposal.
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