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How Long Will Vinyl Siding Last?

In the past few decades, vinyl has become the most popular siding option for homes. It's cheaper to buy and install, requires no painting, is resistant to water and insects, doesn't twist or bend and is made to look like traditional wood siding. Though it fades over time, the rate at which it does is slower than any other house siding. However, you need to consider some of the downsides to using vinyl when asking how long the siding will last.

In the past few decades, vinyl has become the most popular siding option for homes. It's cheaper to buy and install, requires no painting, is resistant to water and insects, doesn't twist or bend, and is made to look like traditional wood siding. Though it fades over time, the rate at which it does is slower than any other house siding. However, you need to consider some of the downsides to using vinyl when asking how long the siding will last.

Origins

A plant in Columbus, Ohio first created vinyl siding in the late 1950s. At the time, since the process was done by hand, it proved no better than aluminum siding. However, in the 1970s, machines took over production, and the speed, range of color, and impact resistance of vinyl siding improved. Approximately a third of new houses built today have vinyl siding installed.

Vinyl Grades

When shopping for vinyl siding, first look at the panel thickness (called the grade). This thickness is the key uncovering how long your vinyl siding will last. Vinyl siding thickness ranges from 0.35 millimeters to 0.55 millimeters. The thinnest grade of vinyl siding commonly used, builder's grade, is 0.40 millimeters. The full grade spectrum you'll usually see is: builder, thin residential (0.42), standard residential (0.44), thick residential (0.46), and super thick grade (0.50).

High vs. Low End

How long your vinyl siding lasts depends on the grade you're using. Inexpensive, low end thin siding cracks more easily after a few years and can sag over time, so the thicker the grade you use, the more fade-resistance you'll get. Many manufacturers choose the low end siding to save money, so beware.

Thicker, high end, and more expensive vinyl is more rigid, more aesthetically appealing, and has a greater life expectancy, and the companies who provide the thicker grades of vinyl siding offer long warranties.

Weather Effects

Vinyl does last longer than wood, but in extreme weather it's less durable. Strong winds can lift panels from the wall, and any windblown debris or heavy hailstones can dent or otherwise puncture vinyl siding. Look for vinyl siding manufacturers who warranty their siding in winds stronger than 150 miles per hour.

Likewise, unless you're using a thicker grade, hitting vinyl panels with something heavy, like a lawnmower, in very cold weather can cause damage as well. At that point, you must replace the panel.

Thicker grades of vinyl siding fade slower; therefore, you should look for siding that has UV protection and inquire about how it will endure in sunlight.

Finally, vinyl siding hangs loosely and won't trap much moisture, but water can still leak inside some areas so you should install flashings, house felt, or builder's wrap to prevent leakage.

Maintenance

Vinyl siding requires no painting but it's not maintenance-free. You must maintain its fresh look by washing it once or twice a year with a garden hose, a soft bristled brush, and a gallon of water with some type of powdered household cleaner and laundry detergent. Be careful with leaning ladders; they can crack or scratch the siding.

In addition, when moisture ends up beneath the siding, having vinyl siding can create a unique maintenance problem. Any moisture that gets trapped under the siding will promote mold and mildew, increase the likelihood of insect infestation, and speed up rotting. To treat this in case it happens, you need to frequently re-caulk the joints between the siding and adjacent trim, because if it's left untreated the dampness will eventually cause the paint and wallpaper inside your home to blister and peel off. Other moisture sources, like leaky roofs or faulty gutters, should also be repaired.

Other Considerations

Attaching vinyl too tightly to your house causes poor ventilation. If it's too loose, it can flap noisily in the wind. But if you want more secure vinyl siding attachment, have someone install properly it using a double hem mounting.

Also, light-colored vinyl tends to fade more quickly than dark-colored panels.

Warning

Acid smoke and carcinogen dioxin get released when vinyl siding comes into contact with fire. People trapped in burning buildings with vinyl siding can die of the toxic fumes before the flames even reach them.

In addition, since vinyl is made from a compound thought to cause cancer, most discarded vinyl that ends up in landfills, incinerators, or burned in pits could be hazardous to human health and the environment. So when you purchase siding, think about how you're going to dispose of your vinyl when it becomes useless.