Saturday, October 11, 2003

Homeowners siding with siding

New styles of vinyl are practical, attractive

By Michael Wentzel
Gannett News Service

Beth Robinson had no doubts the 30-year-old siding on her house needed to be replaced.

Sections of the composite board siding sagged, swelled with moisture or had turned "mushy."

"It had been well maintained by the previous owners," she says. "But it's just old. Water was leaking in. We had ants."

Robinson and her husband, Don, decided on vinyl siding for practical and aesthetic reasons. They liked the reduced maintenance of vinyl. They did not want the dark look that cedar siding could bring.

"Siding is so much improved today," she says. "It doesn't look flat and uninteresting. There's a hint of texture without being too busy. Even though we chose white, there is a variety of wonderful colors."

In the $8 billion residential siding industry in the United States, vinyl leads in percentage volume sales, owning the top share of the market for houses in low and moderate price ranges. For most houses, cost of a complete vinyl siding project ranges upward from $10,000.

Stucco, stone, brick and wood shingles have strong sales for higher-end homes. But with technological advancements, vinyl siding brings advantages to many homeowners.

"The house-buying public wants a maintenance-free exterior," says Dorene Champion of the ReMax Realty Group in Pittsford, N.Y.

Terry LaRue, president of a custom exteriors firm in Rochester, N.Y., says a homeowner considering siding should plan to stay in the house long enough to get the investment out of it."

LaRue recommends hands-on homework before deciding on a brand or style of siding.

"If you see siding that you like, walk up and physically examine the finish and the detail," he says.

The Robinsons drove through neighborhoods checking out siding styles. Then they interviewed five contractors before choosing.

Two of the contractors proposed putting vinyl siding over the old siding.

"That was tempting, to save money, but we knew it should be removed, so those two were out," Robinson says.

Siding is not insulation. The foam boards installed on the house provide some, but not very much, protection from the cold or heat, contractors say.

Siding contractors do offer a variety of products that can imitate or reproduce the look of a Victorian home or cedar shingles.

Some makers guarantee the siding for as long as 50 years. The warranty covers fading, but usually only something called "excessive fading." And the warranties do not cover weather damage.

And always remember: Despite the maintenance-free claims, vinyl siding does require regular cleaning with soap, water and a soft cloth or brush.

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