Ask the builder: panel up the vinyl siding

Question: F. The house I grew up in had vinyl siding, and the siding around the windows was made of thin, uncomfortable vinyl with an end profile like the letter J. I found it hideous. How can you make the vinyl siding look more like a traditional house with wider trim? What else can be done to make vinyl siding more attractive? – Beverly T., Fort Wayne, Indiana

A. Holy tomato! It is impossible to list all of the vinyl siding accessories and options available. For starters, don’t think that all you need to do is use one color and siding style for your home. Quite a few houses I see have white trim with two complementary colors and siding profiles.

For real inspiration, go online and see photos of the paint jobs of some of the great Victorian ladies. Some houses have three or more colors. The last Queen Anne Victorian house I built for my family had horizontal siding, but at the top of the gable I used traditional cedar shakes like those found in many late 19th century homes.

You can get the same look with vinyl siding, and the vinyl shakes can be a different color! But it gets better. J-channel is still available, but a better choice would be flat paneling that surrounds windows and doors. These flat boards have a rabbit edge that creates a hidden recess for the siding. It works the same as the older J-channel but looks a lot better.

The flat cladding boards are available in different widths. The wider boards work better on the outside corners of the house as it is important to maintain the scale when cutting a house. The narrow paneling on the windows and doors would look like pinstripes at the corners.

Don’t forget to check out the distinctive door panels that really make your doors the focal point of the front and back of your home. Some are just breathtaking. You can now get gorgeous mounting blocks for outdoor lights and sockets that also have built-in channels on the edges. These really add to the look of a vinyl side house.

Here too, roof ventilation comes into play. Older houses always had square, rectangular or triangular ventilation slots at the end of the gable. The same vents are all available for vinyl siding – and again, don’t be afraid to make them a complementary color. Color experts may agree that these should match the color of the cladding around windows and doors. If you read the vinyl siding brochures you will see what I mean by using a different color.

I would spend a lot of time looking at photo galleries on all of the vinyl page manufacturers’ websites. If you see a photo with your head resting on a vortex, study it and make notes of what exactly you like about the photo. You don’t have to hope that your new siding looks great. You can guarantee this by just finding one look that you know will look great.

Question: F. Tim, I live in an apartment and was wondering what I could do to reduce the noise I hear from some of my neighbors. Are there any simple solutions I can possibly tackle? – Linda S., Chicago

A. Soundproof rooms are a science. Do a little research online to find out how radio transmission booths are soundproofed. Most are immune to the sounds trying to get into the room and then into the live microphones!

Sound moves through the air. The easiest thing to do is to try to seal air leaks between your home and those around you. Imagine if your apartment fills with water, where would it leak? These are places where the air escapes into your home. Remove the cover plates from the sockets and caulk the gap between the drywall and the side of the control box. I would then install a foam gasket behind the outlet cover to try to stop other air leaks.

The sound could leak under the baseboards of your device. Stripping toes allows you to remove them and seal any gaps between the floor and the baseboard panel. Recessed ceiling lights are the most difficult to seal as some require air space to ensure the light does not overheat.

The penetration of floor noise can be minimized or eliminated by installing weather strips on the door. Lock your door as if you were fighting against bitter cold air in the hallway.

There are many things that can be done during construction to soundproof condominiums. Trying to retrofit a condominium can be prohibitively expensive. As a last resort, consider adding a subtle white noise generator in your device to combat unwanted noise. I heard they work fine.

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