Vinyl Siding

Vinyl Siding: Love It or Hate It

Bird's-Eye View

An affordable siding choice

More new single-family homes are sided with vinylCommon term for polyvinyl chloride (PVC). In chemistry, vinyl refers to a carbon-and-hydrogen group (H2C=CH–) that attaches to another functional group, such as chlorine (vinyl chloride) or acetate (vinyl acetate). than any other type of claddingMaterials used on the roof and walls to enclose a house, providing protection against weather. , according to industry and government statistics. One reason is a steady improvement in the quality of vinyl siding products since their commercial debut in the 1960s. Manufacturers now promise high durability and long warranties, a broader range of colors and patterns, and good fade and impact resistance. Vinyl won’t rot and never needs painting, and even the top brands are a bargain compared with wood, brick, or stucco cladding.


Key Materials

Adhered foam restricts drainage

Siding ranges in thickness from about .035 inch to .050 inch. Thicker grades are stiffer and may look better than thin ones, but there is no evidence that they are any more durable.

From a material perspective, the Achilles' heel of vinylCommon term for polyvinyl chloride (PVC). In chemistry, vinyl refers to a carbon-and-hydrogen group (H2C=CH–) that attaches to another functional group, such as chlorine (vinyl chloride) or acetate (vinyl acetate). is its high coefficient of thermal expansion. A 12-foot length of vinyl can expand 5/8 inches from winter to summer. Because of this, vinyl siding requires trim pieces that have deep pockets to hide shrinkage. Nail slots are designed to allow the siding pieces to expand and contract with temperature changes.

Some manufacturers offer siding that has a thin layer of foam insulation bonded to the back. Although this improves thermal performance slightly, it blocks drainage, thereby reducing the ability of the wall system to handle wind-driven rain. If improved thermal performance is important, it makes more sense to install conventional vinyl siding over at least 2 inches of foam sheathingMaterial, usually plywood or oriented strand board (OSB), but sometimes wooden boards, installed on the exterior of wall studs, rafters, or roof trusses; siding or roofing installed on the sheathing—sometimes over strapping to create a rainscreen. than a siding that has a thin adhered foam backing.


Design Notes

Different shapes, different looks

VinylCommon term for polyvinyl chloride (PVC). In chemistry, vinyl refers to a carbon-and-hydrogen group (H2C=CH–) that attaches to another functional group, such as chlorine (vinyl chloride) or acetate (vinyl acetate). siding can be manufactured to look from a distance like many types of wood siding, including clapboards and shingles, giving it a wide architectural range. Corner boards, window and door casings, and other types of vinyl trim are similarly diverse; however, these components rarely look like the wood originals.

Like all types of claddingMaterials used on the roof and walls to enclose a house, providing protection against weather. , vinyl siding is not impervious to wind-driven rain, but it drains better than any other conventional types of siding and so it is forgiving of minor flashing errors.


Builder Tips

Fasten it loosely

Careful installation is key; vinylCommon term for polyvinyl chloride (PVC). In chemistry, vinyl refers to a carbon-and-hydrogen group (H2C=CH–) that attaches to another functional group, such as chlorine (vinyl chloride) or acetate (vinyl acetate). siding will buckle if it’s nailed tightly to the wall.

Anything attached to the exterior of a vinyl-clad wall — electric meters, hose spools, light fixtures, or doorbells — should be installed on mounting blocks. Vinyl mounting blocks are available from most vinyl siding manufacturers.


The Code

The code

The IRCInternational Residential Code. The one- and two-family dwelling model building code copyrighted by the International Code Council. The IRC is meant to be a stand-alone code compatible with the three national building codes—the Building Officials and Code Administrators (BOCA) National code, the Southern Building Code Congress International (SBCCI) code and the International Conference of Building Officials (ICBO) code. (in Table R703.4) requires that any vinylCommon term for polyvinyl chloride (PVC). In chemistry, vinyl refers to a carbon-and-hydrogen group (H2C=CH–) that attaches to another functional group, such as chlorine (vinyl chloride) or acetate (vinyl acetate). siding installation include a water-resistive barrierSometimes also called the weather-resistive barrier, this layer of any wall assembly is the material interior to the wall cladding that forms a secondary drainage plane for liquid water that makes it past the cladding. This layer can be building paper, housewrap, or even a fluid-applied material.. Section R703.11.1 requires that vinyl siding be installed in accordance with the manufacturer's installation instructions.

OTHER CONSIDERATIONS

Performance counts

According to building scientist Joseph Lstiburek, "Foam-sheathingMaterial, usually plywood or oriented strand board (OSB), but sometimes wooden boards, installed on the exterior of wall studs, rafters, or roof trusses; siding or roofing installed on the sheathing—sometimes over strapping to create a rainscreen. drainage planes work well with vinylCommon term for polyvinyl chloride (PVC). In chemistry, vinyl refers to a carbon-and-hydrogen group (H2C=CH–) that attaches to another functional group, such as chlorine (vinyl chloride) or acetate (vinyl acetate). because you create the air space just by putting the vinyl up. Vinyl is also self-ventilating and it performs beautifully."

DRAWING LIBRARY CONSTRUCTION DETAILS

Wall-section Details
Roof/Wall Details

GREEN POINTS

LEED-H LEED for HomesLeadership in Energy and Environmental Design. LEED for Homes is the residential green building program from the United States Green Building Council (USGBC). While this program is primarily designed for and applicable to new home projects, major gut rehabs can qualify. includes no points or exclusions for vinylCommon term for polyvinyl chloride (PVC). In chemistry, vinyl refers to a carbon-and-hydrogen group (H2C=CH–) that attaches to another functional group, such as chlorine (vinyl chloride) or acetate (vinyl acetate). siding.

NGBSNational Green Building Standard Based on the NAHB Model Green Home Building Guidelines and passed through ANSI. This standard can be applied to both new homes, remodeling projects, and additions. Under Chapter 6, "Resource Efficiency": up to 5 points because no site-applied finish is required (601.7).

ABOUT VINYL SIDING

Is it green?

Vinyl siding often evokes strong emotions in green builders. For some, the flimsy feel of a vinyl-clad wall, or the environmental problems associated with the manufacture of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), is enough to dissuade them from using the product. Others, however, are won over by vinyl's many strengths. It's an inexpensive, low-maintenance, well-ventilated siding option. From a building science perspective, it performs extremely well, and moisture problems are rare.

There is no simple answer to questions about the environmental impact of products made from PVC. Its manufacture and disposal raise a variety of potential health issues, and the post-consumer recycling rate is low. However a task force of the U.S. Green Building Council issued a 200-page report in 2007 on the relative green merits of PVC, which concluded that it’s no worse than the alternatives.

A number of environmental groups disagree, however, noting that more benign options are available, including wood, brick, stucco, and fiber-cement.

For more information on this issue, see the following two articles:


Image Credits:

  1. Tom O'Brien and David Ericson/Fine Homebuilding #149
  2. Daniel S. Morrison/Fine Homebuilding
Tags: , , ,
Register for a free account and join the conversation


Get a free account and join the conversation!
Become a GBA PRO!