A Vinyl Siding Buying Guide
Vinyl Siding Installation Prices, Maintenace and Hiring a Contractor
Compared to other building products, vinyl siding is a relatively new invention. The product entered the market in the late 1950s/early 1960s, largely as a replacement for aluminum siding. It has continued to grow in popularity since.
Early vinyl siding was problematic, prone to cracking, sagging and fading. Technological advances have all but eliminated those problems. Today, vinyl siding comprises about 30 percent of the United States market.
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Cost of Vinyl Siding
Vinyl siding is affordable. It generally ranges in price from $2 to $7 per square foot installed, depending on the quality and local labor rates. Not surprisingly, the thicker and more durable the siding, the more expensive it will be. Low-grade products fall on the low end of that price range, and mid-grade products start at about $4 per square foot installed. High-end vinyl designed to mimic the look of wood or cedar shingles can cost $7 or more per square foot installed.
The price of vinyl siding is also discussed in squares, which equal 100 square feet. Prices range from $200-$700 per square installed. Typically, vinyl and other types of siding are sold by the square.
Calculating the number of square feet you need to cover the house is a complicated process, but you can use this guide to get a rough idea. Let’s say you have 1,500 square feet to cover, that works out to a total project cost of $3,000 to $10,500. With 2,500 square feet to cover, the cost ranges from $5,000 to $17,500. Keep in mind that the square footage of your home is not equivalent to the square footage needed for siding - the figures are very different.
Vinyl Siding Grades
Vinyl is sold in varying qualities. The thinnest siding builders can use is .035 inches thick, but avoid this if you can, as it far more likely to sag. Premium vinyl siding is at least .044 inches thick and occasionally as thick as .055 inches. A thicker siding will also help hide imperfections.
When it comes to vinyl, the amount of money you invest is directly related to how long the siding will last. You may save a bundle by choosing the lowest grade, but you might find yourself having to repair or replace the siding in 5 or 10 years. Purchasing the lowest grade is rarely a wise choice in the long run.
Aside from the cost, vinyl siding is popular because it is very low maintenance. Unlike wood, it never requires repainting. However, vinyl is not considered as attractive or high quality as wood siding. In historical districts, vinyl may be prohibited.
Maintenance of vinyl siding is simple. Just wash it every so often to remove dirt, mold and mildew. This Old House recommends using a soft-bristle brush and a solution of vinegar and water. Experts do not recommend pressure washing, as it can damage the vinyl and leave water trapped behind the siding panels.
Pros and Cons of Vinyl Siding
As we’ve said, vinyl siding is popular because it is affordable and very low maintenance. But there are other perks, too. Vinyl siding is available in hundreds of colors and many different styles - allowing lots of possibilities for customizing the look of your home. Modern vinyl siding can withstand winds of more than 100 miles per hour, and it holds color for decades without fading.
On the downside, vinyl can grow brittle and crack as it ages, particularly in harsh climates. It can melt if exposed to direct heat (hint: keep the grill at a safe distance from the house). And it is not watertight, so a layer of waterproof material underneath the siding is crucial to prevent water damage and mold and mildew problems.
Choosing a Siding Contractor
Choosing the right contractor is just as important as choosing the right type of siding. A shoddy job can make your house look run-down, even when the siding is new. Here are some tips for finding a reputable contractor in your area.
- Request quotes from several local contractors. Eliminate any bids that come in suspiciously high, as well as those that come in suspiciously low. The cheapest is rarely the best.
- Do some background research on any company you’re considering. Ask for references - and check them. Make sure the company is licensed and insured. Check its rating with the Better Business Bureau.
- Hire a company with experience. The quality of a siding job has a lot to do with the contractor’s level of expertise. Find out how long any company you’re considering has been in business. What is the average rate of turnover for employees?
- Meet the contractor in person before agreeing to hire him or her. Does the contractor answer your questions thoroughly? Explain the process? Provide a start and end date for the project? A face-to-face meeting will tell you a lot about whether the contractor is knowledgeable and reputable.
- Ask for a guarantee. The siding manufacturer should offer some kind of warranty, but the contractor should also guarantee his or her work for a number of years. If the company doesn’t want to stand behind its work, move on.