How to Gauge the Quality of Vinyl Siding
Easy to care for and virtually maintenance free, vinyl siding is a resin- and polymer-based "cladding" material made from polyvinyl chloride. Because the dyes are added to the polymer before the baking process, the color is an integral part of the material and therefore resists fading and scratching. But vinyl siding is by no means impervious to the effects of wind, hail and heat. Lower quality grades may sag and buckle over time. If you're considering new siding and prefer vinyl over aluminum, wood or cedar, choose the best grade your budget permits.
Look for a denser grade of vinyl siding with a thickness ranging from .044 to .055 inch. Thickness adds durability and strength. (Reference 2) It also allows for more detailed or realistic surface patterning, such as an imitation wood grain. While building codes dictate that vinyl siding must be a minimum thickness of 35 mils (.035 inch), siding with minimal thickness may warp and sag more easily than thicker grades. (Reference 3)
Consider the insulation factor of the vinyl siding you are considering. Some types have no insulation, while others are insulated with a backing material, which is usually a type of rigid foam. The siding and backing may be separate pieces or a single bonded unit, depending on the brand. In addition to adding an R-value, the insulation layer can also add rigidity and strength, and may also insulate the house from outside noise. Insulated vinyl siding can have triple the R-value of uninsulated versions, and can help prevent energy loss. Some manufacturers offer vinyl siding with overlapping foam backing that helps stop air leaks as well. (Reference 5)
Consider vinyl siding that contains heat-resistant and UV-reflective additives, especially if you live in a hot climate. Though vinyl siding is resistant to fading, "economy" and "standard" grade sidings don't usually incorporate UV reflective additives and can be affected by heat and sun. Additionally, The Vinyl Siding Institute reports that under certain conditions, thermal windows can reflect and magnify heat which may melt and warp vinyl siding. If your home or adjacent houses have reflective thermal or low-E windows, consider installing a vinyl siding that has a heat-resistant additive. This type of siding can withstand much higher temperatures than lower grade types. (Reference 4)
Select wind-resistant brands of vinyl siding, especially if you live in a region prone to high winds. Some brands have special designs, such as a rolled-over nail hem, that help the siding resist wind force. Additionally, thicker insulated types have greater structural integrity which helps the siding resist buckling in high winds. Look for vinyl siding brands for which the manufacturer offers a warranty against wind damage; for some as much as 180 miles per hour. (Resource 5)
- Be sure to hire a reputable vinyl siding contractor. Poor or shoddy installation can compromise the integrity of the highest-grade vinyl siding.
Merle Huerta, an adjunct instructor of English skills, began writing during her husband's combat deployment to Iraq in 2003. Her articles have appeared in "The Jerusalem Post," LiteraryMama.com and USA Travel Tips, among other publications. Huerta has an M.A. in instructional media and technology from Columbia University and is a graduate of CUNY's The Writers Institute.
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