vinyl siding
Photo: Kolin Smith
The Benefits of Vinyl Siding

There are few subjects in the whole arena of residential construction products that draw battle lines as sharply as vinyl siding.

Proponents harp on the fact that it never needs painting, while its detractors insist that houses should never be covered with anything but real wood.

As a building material, vinyl siding is relatively new — it was introduced in the late 1950s as a substitute for aluminum siding. But its reputation was tarnished in the early days when it cracked, faded, buckled, and sagged.

Ongoing changes in the product's chemistry and installation techniques have improved its performance and furthered its acceptance by builders and homeowners.

In fact, vinyl has captured 32 percent of the U.S. siding market for new homes, with no end in sight to its growing popularity. The reason, in part, is because it's often (but not always) cheaper than red cedar or redwood and takes less time to install.

A mid-grade vinyl costs about $1.60 per square foot to install, not including the necessary trim pieces, while the installed price of mid-grade cedar clapboard, exclusive of trim and paint, is about 2.5 times higher. (Some premium vinyls cost about the same as the best grade of cedar, but the installed cost is still lower because it goes up faster and doesn't need painting.)

For many people, price isn't the issue at all; the real seduction of plastic siding is reduced maintenance. That's exactly why a wood guy like This Old House general contractor Tom Silva put vinyl on his house 20 years ago.

“I don't have time for painting,” he explains. “I'd rather spend weekends on my boat.” Of course, with the right maintenance, wood will last indefinitely. Vinyl can't match that claim because no one knows for sure how long it will last.
Photo: Kolin Smith
Installer Joe Fagone slides a cut-to-fit, 4-foot-long panel of embossed-shingle siding around a window.
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