HOW TO: Proper maintenance can help keep your siding from being damaged or becoming an eyesore

With all the recent windstorms, it’s not uncommon to see siding flapping in the wind, or perhaps a piece flying through the neighborhood.

Damaged siding can cause lots of problems for the house owner, but who knows what you can you do about it?

Andrew Landry does.

Landry owns Willow Tree Developments, a full-service construction company based in Mount Uniacke, NS that services most of the Halifax region and Hants Counties. Not only do they offer new home construction, renovations, repairs and offer mobile pressure washing, but they also take care of siding installations for wood, vinyl and concrete.

Willow Tree Developments also does stone veneer installation and handles all warranty repairs for Atlantic Canada for Cape Cod finished wood siding, which is a wood siding manufacturer based out of Hammonds Plains, NS.

In other words, they know their siding.

Wooden siding, as well as concrete siding, requires regular maintenance and can be more difficult to repair. Erik Mclean photo/Unsplash – Contributed

What Causes Damage to Siding in the First Place?

Vinyl siding is very much affected by the weather and more specifically, temperature, says Landry. In the cold months vinyl siding will shrink and becomes very brittle. In the warmer months, it will expand and become much more pliable.

Wood siding is also affected by weather, Landry explains. Wood expands and contracts with changes in the surrounding humidity as well as the temperature. More humid air will cause wood to expand; Third air will cause wood to contract. Wood siding is also affected by the UV rays from the sun. As UV rays beat down on the paint on the siding it deteriorates the coating and causes fading, cracking, and chipping of paint. The darker the siding is, the more heat it will absorb from the sun and in turn, the faster it will deteriorate.

Cement siding is less affected by temperature or humidity but is affected by our specific climate and the amount of salt in our air from the sea, to the point that some major cement siding producers have pulled out of Atlantic Canada because they say their product is not intended for our climate, he says.

Refixing siding

Vinyl siding is the most likely to blow off in a storm from coming loose due to temperature fluctuation and the natural expansion and contraction of the product, Landry explains.

Vinyl siding is blind-nailed, meaning that the nails are in the top of each piece and covered by the piece above. Therefore, vinyl siding that blows off during a storm, so long as it makes it undamaged to the ground, can be re-installed, he says.

Wood siding will only blow off if the nailing base is inadequate or compromised, or if the siding itself is damaged or compromised. Reattachment depends on the condition of the pieces themselves, as well as the condition of the opening that it came from, says Landry.

Cement siding that blows off will most likely be badly damaged and not be able to be re-used. Cement siding is also blind-nailed but, unlike vinyl siding, cement siding is not pliable, meaning it cannot be bent. This makes replacing an individual piece in the middle of a wall exceptionally difficult because of accessing the nails that are under the next piece up on the wall.

Painting is a part of regular home exterior maintenance for some kinds of siding.  Ricky Singh photo/Unsplash - Contributed
Painting is a part of regular home exterior maintenance for some kinds of siding. Ricky Singh photo/Unsplash – Contributed

Keeping your siding in tip-top shape

Landry offers the following tips to keep siding in good condition.

• With any siding, there really isn’t anything that an average homeowner can do to prevent siding blowing off in a storm other than looking over their homes regularly and addressing any issues that are noted, he says. Loose pieces can sometimes be secured if they are identified prior to blowing off, but only if there are no other underlying issues causing them to be loose.

• Vinyl siding is, for the most part, maintenance-free. However, it does expand and contract with the temperature, can fade and can become damaged easily in winter months if it is hit by anything with any force because of being brittle in the cold. Vinyl siding that is installed in the colder months will need to be installed a little tighter than the same installed in the warmer months. This is due to the siding being contracted (shrinking) in the cold. As it warms up with the weather, it will expand and can become unlocked (two pieces coming apart) if it is installed too loosely in the cold months, Landry explains.

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• Wood siding requires maintenance. It should be professionally washed and painted every four to seven years, depending on the colour, exposure and installation. Wood siding that is loose or damaged should be secured as soon as it is identified to prevent damage to the siding, he says.

• Cement siding also requires maintenance. It should also be professionally washed and painted every four to seven years, depending on the colour, exposure and installation. Cement siding that is loose is much harder to secure due to the blind-nailing installation. This should be done only by a professional.

“Hiring a reputable company to install and maintain your siding is the best way to ensure optimal performance and to prevent damage due to weather or elements,” says Landry.

Repair Siding

“Handy homeowners can definitely attempt a repair on their own,” says Landry.

Vinyl siding can be very easy to replace, especially in the warmer months.

To replace a single piece of vinyl siding, Landry says to lock it back into the piece below with the interlocking flange. Then, carefully, bend the piece above out from the wall and nail the piece back in.

Use caution, though. Vinyl siding is not actually nailed tightly to the wall; it is hung on the nails, meaning that the head of the nail should not touch the siding itself. Vinyl expands and contracts so much that, if it is nailed tight, it will buckle. When nailing the piece back in, make special note to line up the old nail holes with the holes in the nailing strip of the siding to ensure that you are installing it at the correct height and tension otherwise the piece above will not lock back into the interlocking flange. However, do not reuse the old nail holes.

Once the piece is nailed back in, lock the piece above back into the interlocking flange of the reinstalled piece by carefully and gently bending the flange of the piece above out and over the one below. There are special tools available to do this with to minimize the risk of damage. If the interlocking flange of the piece above does not lock in place on the reinstalled piece, it’s time to call a pro.

Wood siding is a little different story, says Landry. If a piece of wood siding has blown off in a storm, there is most likely a larger underlying issue. Carefully inspect the wall where the siding came off and make sure that there are no issues such as cracking or rot present. If the wall seems uncompromised, carefully inspect the siding itself to make sure that it is not cracked, split or rotting. If everything looks good, you should be OK to nail the piece back on.

Cement siding is not something that a homeowner should attempt to repair on their own, cautions Landry.

There is always a concern about replacing a single or even multiple pieces of siding on a wall with new pieces. The existing siding will be faded (more so the longer that it has been installed) and may even have shrunk and a new piece will simply not match in color or size. With vinyl siding, this can cause a major problem if the old pieces are damaged and can result in needing to replace all of the siding on the wall where pieces came out. With wood and cement siding, the wall can be painted once the new pieces are installed, he explains.

“If things don’t go together easily with vinyl siding, or if there is rot or cracking present with wood, call a pro. Reinstalling siding and not addressing the reason that it came off in the first place will simply result in the siding coming off again,” says Landry.

Keeping Siding Clean

Keeping your siding clean is a big task, especially for homeowners with two or more floors in their home, says Landry. How you need to do it will also depend on the type of siding you have.

Vinyl siding can be washed at low pressure with a good quality siding cleaner designed for use on vinyl and a scrub brush, and then rinsed clean with a garden hose or pressure washer.

Wood siding should not be pressure washed unless it is going to be painted afterwards, and ONLY pressure washed by a professional. When wood siding is pressure washed it can compromise the paint finish and leave you with less protection than you had to begin with. Wood siding can also be cleaned with low pressure, a scrub brush and a good quality siding cleaner designed for use on wood, says Landry.

Cement siding should also not be pressure washed unless it is going to be painted afterwards, and ONLY pressure washed by a professional. Cement siding can also be cleaned with low pressure, a scrub brush and a good quality siding cleaner designed for use on cement siding, he says.

To help keep your siding clean between washes, cut back trees and plants a minimum of three feet from all siding — and more where possible. Most of the dirt that we see on our siding comes from the surrounding trees. The further away the trees are, the less dirt they get on our siding.

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