Outer Limits

Men laying new hardwood flooring

Caring for and protecting your home’s exterior is a key factor maintaining the overall apppearance, life and value of your house.

With spring in full force and summer just around the corner, homeowners now can tackle the next task on their to-do list: maintenance. Caring for and protecting a homes exterior is a key factor in maintaining the overall appearance, life and value of the dwelling itself. While brick and stone exteriors require minimal upkeep, other types of siding, such as wood and vinyl, need more attention and care to preserve the material and appearance. To keep your home looking its best, simply determine what type of siding you have and follow these general maintenance guidelines.

Wood remains one of the most popular materials used in siding. Most homes feature wood siding products such as plank (long rectangular pieces of wood applied side by side in a vertical pattern), clapboard (overlapping long rectangular pieces of wood in a horizontal pattern), shingles (smaller uniform-sized pieces of wood applied in rows) and shakes (smaller non-uniform-sized pieces of wood applied in rows). Consisting of compressed wood fiber, composition board or hardboard siding also is popular.

Vinyl is another popular siding material. Made of polyvinyl chloride, these panels resemble wood siding and come in various styles and colors. The beauty of vinyl is that is so low maintenance. Because the color itself should be manufactured into the vinyl panel, you dont have to worry about painting. Once its properly installed, it generally requires only gentle washing. Many manufacturers even provide lifetime guarantees on their products.

Fiber cement siding, such as Hardiplank, also resembles wood siding but is straighter and heavier than wood. Fiber cement and certain composition materials will not deteriorate due to water or sun, and these products will typically hold their paint finish longer, says Carl Seville, vice president of SawHorse Inc. in Atlanta. They are often warranted against failure for up to 50 years.

Another common siding material, stucco is composed of sand, water and cement. It can be applied with a smooth or textured finish. Typically, there are two types of stucco: hardcoat and Exterior Insulation & Finish System (commonly referred to as EIFS or fake stucco). Hardcoat stucco consists of three layers or coats. It consists of water barrier building paper over gypsum or wood-based sheathing, woven wire stucco netting or metal lath, and a seventh-eighths-inch of Portland cement plaster applied in three coats, says Jim R. Gonzales, senior field specialist for the Stucco Manufacturers Association in Newport Beach, California. The basic scratch coat, the second coat is the brown coat and the finish is stucco.

Stucco looks great when paired with stone, and it’s relatively low maintenance

EIFS stucco also has layers, but they are composed of different materials than hardcoat stucco. An exterior insulation and finish system is comprised of a polystyrene adhesive or mechanically fastened to sheathing or other substrate (e.g. concrete or concrete block), Gonzales says. The polystyrene can be up to 4 inches thick (depending on requirements). Over polystyrene also referred to as foam, a highly acrylic-modified Portland cement adhesive is applied. A glass fiber mesh is embedded into this coat. Next comes the final colored finish generally in the form of a reliable 100-percent acrylic elastomeric coating.

Determining which type of siding your house has is easy. The solid sound of the hard and durable stucco wall when you knock on it tells you the difference between three-coat stucco system and the EIFS system, Gonzales says.

The typical maintenance for all types of siding is regular cleaning and painting (except vinyl). Wood should be painted every three to five years, Seville says. Fiber cement and composition products may last longer between painting, although preparation is typically much less than wood at the time of repainting. Occasional pressure washing will keep finishes looking better in between painting. Vinyl needs only to be washed off. Stucco should be pressure washedlightlywhen dirty. When cleaning, make sure to remove all mildew.

Gonzales warns homeowners to be mindful of scratching stucco, which could lead to damage. Protect it from scrapes and damage when working adjacent to it, he says. If it gets dirty, clean it with care. Do not use a wire brush or any products that will harm the finish that you are cleaning. If the finish is damaged by accident, be sure to follow the stucco manufacturers recommendations for repairs.

For stucco siding, Rich Sokolowski, president of RLS Construction Inc., also recommends re-applying a clear masonry sealer. Usually put on during construction by the builder, the sealer wont leave a sheen or residue but will keep water out, he says.

Keep in mind that your homes maintenance requirements and schedule will depend on its exposure to the elements: sun, rain, wind, hail, etc. Maybe the back of the house is in the shade, so it needs more cleaning to rid mildew, Sokolowski says. Maybe the front is exposed to the sun and doesnt need as much cleaning. You may have to paint the front, and the back only has to be cleaned.

When preparing your home for cleaning and painting, keep an eye out for potential problem areas. Any water intrusion should be addressed immediately, Seville says. It could damage the exterior finish and also the underlying structure. Water can also cause mold growth and deteriorate indoor air quality.

For stucco, Gonzales also recommends watching for water damage to the interior, efflorescence, delamination of the finish from the substrate, excessive cracking and soft walls. Familiarizing yourself with your houses type of stucco is key to zoning in on potential problems. The more experience a person has with each type of finish, the more he will be able to see if there are signs of existing or future problems, Gonzales says.

If you come across something that sparks concern, consider consulting with a professional to avoid any pitfalls down the road. Simply put, if it doesnt look right, its probably not, Sokolowski says. In fact, he recommends hiring a professional to clean and paint your home. Most homeowners dont know the right amount of pressure to use when pressure-washing, he says. Also, the size and height of the structure may mean more work than the homeowner is prepared to tackle. Any reasonably skilled individual can accomplish this, although the heights may keep some people from undertaking the work themselves, Seville says.

With regular maintenance, most siding should last indefinitely. Remember, though, that exposure to the elements will affect your sidings durability. Vinyl will tend to break down due to ultraviolet rays over a period of time, Seville said. He also says the installation method and the houses design will affect the life of the material.

Specifically, the size of the roof overhang and the proper installation of a moisture barrier behind the siding will determine the life of the material, Seville said. The larger the overhang, the less water washes onto the material, thus it has a longer life. Additionally, if the proper moisture barrier (drainage plane) is installed behind the material and is allowed to drain out and not remain captive behind the material, it will last longer.
While it demands a bit of time and effort, regular maintenance will keep your house beautiful for years to come.

Defective Siding: Am I At Risk?
While the innovations and technology in recent years have resulted in low-maintenance, high-quality siding products, there also have been a number of problem materials that have cost homeowners thousands. To help recoup consumers losses, many class-action lawsuits have been filed against these materials manufacturers.

One of the most high-profile suits is the Louisiana-Pacific Inner Seal Siding case. This siding was installed on primarily new structures, mostly in the Northwest and Southeast. Problems included cracking, fungus, deterioration and buckling. As a result of the suit, homeowners can receive compensation for the cost of repairing damage.

Two other lawsuits targeted the Masonite Corporation and its products, Masonite Hardboard Siding and Masonite Omniwood Siding. The settlement of these lawsuits provides a program for eligible claimants to recover the costs associated with damage caused by the installation and incorporation of these products.

Even stucco has been the target of class-action suits. A current lawsuit alleges that Dryvit Systems Inc.s Dryvit EIFS is defective because it entraps water introduced into the exterior wall resulting in potential damage to homes. A settlement was approved in January, and claims are now being filed.

If you have concerns about your siding or think you may have one of these types of siding, visit the following sites for more information:

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