Vinyl Siding Basics

Vinyl siding is a popular choice for homeowners who need or want to revamp the exterior of their home.


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Thinking about vinyl siding to update your home's exterior? Consider the options, as well as the pros and cons, of this popular building product.

What is vinyl siding?

Vinyl siding is made when two layers of PVC are pressed together. It is designed to simulate the profile and look of wood siding, and it can include details such as woodlike graining.

The types of vinyl siding

Vinyl siding is available in the same styles as nonvinyl siding options, including shakes, shingles, horizontal, vertical, soffit, and trim. It also comes in various grades that delineate its thickness. That thickness ranges from about 0.035 inch to 0.052 inch. Thicker panels are typically more expensive; they are more rigid, says Phil Davis, a spokesperson for the National Association of the Remodeling Industry, so they hang easier and look better. Some vinyl siding has foam insulation built in to increase the R-value and help reduce the noise inside a home. Vinyl siding typically has a durable ultraviolet coating to resist fading. It also has plenty of color options in a wide-ranging palette. You can purchase vinyl siding pieces for corners and window flashing; these can be the same color as the home's main color or an accent hue.

The advantages of vinyl siding

In the work that Davis does, vinyl siding is used in a majority of projects. "It is easy and quick to install and the least expensive," says Davis, who works with Harris Exteriors and More in Streamwood, Illinois. "The majority of homes we do are probably with vinyl siding. It's one of the least expensive of all siding materials and virtually maintenance-free."

Installation of vinyl siding

Installing vinyl siding is a quick, simple process. Vinyl siding is attached to a home's exterior walls by nailing in a portion of the siding strip that is eventually hidden by adjacent panels that lock in place. They are easy to pop on and off (which means they can be replaced). That's one of the advantages for homeowners, Davis says: "You can come back and do projects like change windows and do additions, and you do not have to re-side the whole home."

Maintenance requirements of vinyl siding

Vinyl siding needs little in the way of maintenance beyond periodic cleaning with soap and a garden hose, says Davis. Because it is prefinished and UV-protected, it need not be painted.

What to keep in mind about vinyl siding

Once you pick a color, you're stuck. "You can't go out and paint it," says Davis. In addition, vinyl siding's telltale seams can be unattractive. "Some manufacturers have vinyl siding products with longer panels to help eliminate seams," Davis says. The lower grades of vinyl, which are thinner, have a tendency to fade, get brittle, and break. Because vinyl hangs on the exterior wall, if the wall bows or curves at all, the vinyl may show that, says Davis. In addition, the accent pieces on corners and windows may look less like wood than desired.

The cost of vinyl siding

Davis wouldn't recommend vinyl siding for very expensive homes, but for people looking for a budget-friendly upgrade that offers lots of options, siding is a good match. "In our world it's the least expensive product, and the great part is that you can make over a whole house cheaper than any other product," he says.


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