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Siding Profiles

Siding Profiles

At Stearns Design Build, we are big fans of siding; well some siding. One of the reasons that we like siding so much is because it is a big part of our vernacular architecture in Central Texas.  Another reason that we like it is because of the problems with its alternatives; brick or stone.  While those materials can be beautiful, they are a thermal mass acting as a big solar collector adding heat to our homes in the summer. It is unfortunate that so many neighborhoods require a majority of brick and stone.

Like most building techniques, the details are essential to a good siding application, and, more often than not in new construction, corners are cut.  When siding is replaced there are ample opportunities to do the job right and make a difference in the performance of the home.  In this series we will review our two primary siding details explaining the pros and cons of each.

In the Typical Siding Profile  we will detail the least expensive application.

In the Rainscreen Profile  we will detail how we provide a rainscreen behind the siding.

While the typical profile may be the least expensive to install, it is not necessarily that best value as the otherapplication works to increase energy efficiency and durability.

Image Courtesy of James Hardie  Alliance

Siding Profile with a Rainscreen

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Siding works best when there has air movement behind it.  We can accomplish this with something called a rainscreen.  This is simply placing siding on a lath strip, holding it out from the wall so that water can drain and air can move.  A rainscreen will help both the siding and the paint on a home last longer. We feel that it is a mistake to leave the rainscreen off when placing wood siding.  It is also highly recommended for fiber cement siding.

When replacing siding we usually remove everything down to the framing. This allows us to inspect and fix the insulation.  This includes caulking the base of the wall whereby reducing air leaks. Occasionally there will be rot or other defects that will need to also be repaired.

We always use structural sheathing on the outside of a wall. Structural sheathing is made from wood and when put under stress, the nails that hold it will fail before the sheathing does.  This has the effect of turning the wall into a beam.  Consequently, this is a good idea anywhere, but especially here; as we have expansive clay soils that often cause foundations to move.  By using solid structural sheathing we create a much stronger house that will hold up even when the earth moves.

A product called house wrap is then placed on top of the structural sheathing. This acts as a moisture and air resistive barrier that protects the house.  However, many house wraps allow too much air and moisture through as a result of our hot, humid climate.  As a result, top of the line, Tyvek brand house wrap, is specified on all of our projects. The house wrap must then be taped at all of the seams and at the top and bottom of the wall.  This is a crucial step in properly air sealing a home. It is important to use tape that has been specifically formulated to adhere to the house wrap used. Application of house wrap around windows and doors is somewhat intricate and each step is fundamental to a well functioning house.

The rainscreen is formed by using lathing strips that hold the siding out from the wall.  We place a screen along the bottom of the wall where the void has been created by the rain screen to allow air in and to prevent bugs from getting in.  There is also a screen placed along the top edge of the wall to allow air to escape.  In addition to keeping the siding dry, this air circulation helps reduce heat build up.

Proper application of siding requires a lot of attention to detail. Siding is supposed to be fastened to the lath.  However, most often we see trim placed directly over the siding. While this is a much faster way to finish a job, it is a significant compromise to the overall aesthetics of a project and especially to the way the home is protected from wind, water and humidity.

It is not uncommon to see window and door trim run in ways that will cause leaking. Failure to properly install metal flashings is another cause of water penetration.

Also see:

Typical Siding Profile

Typical Siding Profile

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profiles1

A typical wall profile in the Brazos Valley starts with drywall on the inside; then a 2X4 wall with R-13 fiberglass insulation between the framing members. On the outside of the 2X4 wall is nonstructural sheathing and then the siding.

When replacing siding we usually remove everything down to the framing. This allows us to inspect and fix the insulation.  This includes caulking the base of the wall thereby reducing air leaks. Occasionally there will be rot or other defects that need to be repaired.

We always use structural sheathing on the outside of a wall. Structural sheathing is made from wood and when put under stress the nails that hold it will fail before the sheathing does.  This has the effect of turning the wall into a beam.  This is a good idea anywhere, especially here, as we have expansive clay soils that often cause foundations to move.  By using solid structural sheathing we create a much stronger house that will hold up even when the earth moves. It is also much more resistant to high winds.

On top of the structural sheathing goes a product called house wrap. this is a moisture and air resistive barrier that protects the home.  Many house wraps allow too much air and moisture through for our hot, humid climate.  On our projects we specify top of the line Tyvek brand house wrap.  The house wrap must be taped at all of the seams and at the top and bottom of the wall.  This is a crucial step in properly air sealing a home. It is important to use tape that has been specifically formulated to adhere to the the specific house wrap. Application of house wrap around windows and doors is somewhat intricate and each step is crucial to a properly functioning house.

In this profile, on top of the house wrap goes the siding.  Proper application of siding requires a lot of attention to detail.  Most often we see trim placed directly over the siding. While this is a much faster way to complete a job, it is a significant compromise to the overall aesthetics of a project and especially to the way the home is protected from wind, water and humidity.

It is not uncommon to see window and door trim run in ways that will cause leaking. Failure to properly install metal flashings is another cause of water penetration.

We call this our typical siding profile because it most closely mimics what is common in our area. But by adding just a few extra steps and using higher quality materials we are able to achieve a much better looking and longer lasting siding installation.  It should be noted that this is not our most highly recommended siding profile and it is a profile that we strongly discourage for wood siding, which needs airflow behind it to be durable.

Also see:

Siding profile with a Rainscreen

Six Signs Your Siding or Exterior Trim May Need Replacing

There are few home repairs more thoroughly ignored than failing siding and exterior trim.  This may happen for several reasons.  Many people simply do not notice – out of sight out of mind.  There is often a perception that the exterior of a home is invincible, however, even brick homes have trim that can fail. Or it may feel too big and confusing to handle. In addition, the cost can be intimidating – never mind that waiting will just make it more expensive. This is not a repair that should be ignored.  Dealing with siding issues early on will save time and money.  When siding fails bad things happen, much of which cannot be seen. Left unattended, siding and trim failures will eventually bring a building to the ground.  Our homes, unlike the great structures of yore, are made primarily of biodegradable materials.  Though they are unlikely to last millennium, if well cared for, they can certainly last generations.

Here are six specific problems that you can look for.

Or you can just call us for a for a Free Siding Consultation at 979-696-0524 or arrange to have us call you.

1 – Rot

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Here in College Station and Bryan we live in a hot, humid climate that is unkind to wood and paint.  When the paint fails, wood is exposed to our harsh climate conditions.  A small paint failure will allow water to get to wood, which in turn will speed up paint failure. This will eventually lead to rot in the wood.

Rot is a self-exacerbating condition.  As wood rots, it softens and is able to hold more water, which encourages rot to spread faster.  This is why it is important to deal with rot issues as soon as they appear.  If caught early, repair is possible. However, if left unattended, replacement becomes the likely scenario.

Rot frequently hides under gutters, behind metal trims and at hard to see roof intersections.

2 – Frequent Painting Needed

If your paint is not holding up as long as you feel it should, this may be a sign your siding or trim is beginning to soften and may need replacing.  In the hot summer, moisture trapped in the wood will try to escape pushing at the film of paint on it.  Once the wood begins to soften it can hold more water building up more pressure behind the paint.

3 – Poorly Installed Siding

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In our region, the people who build the frame of a house are usually the ones who put the siding and exterior trim on it. Framing a house is a fast process that does not require close attention to detail. However, siding and trim do.  Because those doing the work tend to be less detail oriented, important details often overlooked. Siding is frequently run too close to the roofing, protective flashings are often left off and trim is run on top of the siding rather than bringing the siding to the trim. These are just a few of the many application problems that we most often encounter when residing a home.

4 – High Utility Bills

There are many factors that can lead to higher than necessary utility bills. Key among them is how well the envelope of the house is protected.  In the Brazos Valley, heating and cooling are our biggest utility costs.  The interface between the space that we are conditioning and the outdoors is a large part of what determines how much energy we will have to use to heat and cool.  The two big variables are air infiltration and insulation.

Air and moisture infiltration are significantly handled by the application of siding and trim.  When corners are cut, which in new home construction they usually are, bad things happen.  Consequently, when siding is replaced it is an opportunity to tighten the house and reduce air and moisture leaks.

The opportunity for improving insulation when replacing siding may seem less obvious, but it is a significant opportunity.  Usually, when replacing siding we open the wall and have an opportunity to inspect the existing insulation.  It is common that we find significant voids and even completely missing insulation. This is the time to fix the issue making the home more comfortable and energy efficient.

Often clients will choose to go even further in improving the insulation in their home by adding a continuous layer of high-density foam insulation sheathing.  The value in this step is less about the amount of insulation that is added and more about where it is added.  A typical 2X4 wall has R-13 insulation in it, but the R value passing through the frame of the house is only about 5. This is known as thermal bridging and accounts for a significant amount of a homes energy loss.  By adding just ½” of foam sheathing a considerable energy savings can be realized.

5 – Dampness in the house

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As we have seen, improperly sealing the envelope of a home can lead to energy consuming air leaks.  In our hot, humid climate outside air most often carries with it a good deal of moisture.  Consequently, this moisture makes achieving comfort in the home more difficult and energy consuming.  It can cause mold, which presents significant health issues.  By tightening up your home when new siding is installed, we are able to reduce the amount of moisture that gets into the house.  If your house frequently feels damp, it could be a sign that you may need to replace your siding.

6 – Bad siding

There are a few good siding choices for our hot, humid climate.  There are far more bad ones. 

For a Free Siding Consultation you can call us at 979-696-0524 or arrange to have us call you.

The Good the Bad and the Ugly in Siding Choices

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In the south, we love brick and rock façade homes. In fact, many neighborhoods require a large percentage of it on their homes.  This is a shame because not only can siding be beautiful, it is also a much more energy efficient choice for our climate.  Rock and stone provide a thermal mass that act as a significant solar collector gathering heat and dissipating it to the home throughout our long summers. One of the likely reasons that neighborhoods tend to require lots of masonry is because we so often get siding wrong.  Here is a look at a range of common choices.

The Ugly

Vinyl – Though this is a very common siding material, it is, in our opinion, one of the worst.  Generally speaking, vinyl is an especially bad building material in most applications.  There are a few exceptions to this such as Andersen 100 windows; which include fiber in the vinyl to help stabilize it. One of vinyl’s many problems is that it expands and contracts rather drastically with changes in temperature.  In fact, we have seen the reflection off of nearby windows melt vinyl siding. We have always been told that the UV inhibitors in vinyl keep it from cracking. Nonetheless we have seen large sections of wall rot behind vinyl siding that had cracked. The cracks were not easily seen and the wall rotted without the homeowners even knowing that it was happening; at least until the siding started to fall off the house. But the most frequent failure we see with vinyl siding has nothing to do with the vinyl but with the aluminum trim that is applied on Fascia and othr trim.  In very many, perhaps most cases, water is able to get behind this metal and it cannot escape.  As a result, the rot cannot be seen and is not realized until it is too late.  This also happens with aluminum siding but because we do not see all that much of this siding in our area we have left it off of our list.

Hardboard – This material is often referred to generically as Masonite, who was an early manufacture of the product.  In 1996 the maker of Masonite Siding lost a large class action suite because the material was unfit for exterior use.  Today, Masonite no longer makes siding.  However, much of the siding remains in place and there are other similar products on the market. A few years back, when there was more of this product still around, we may have put this above vinyl as our least liked siding.

The Bad

Engineered Siding – This is a large group that includes plywood’s and composite woods; such as Smart Siding.  Our hot, humid climate is hard on these products.  More often than not, failures are more a product of poor installation than anything else. Commonly this siding is run closer to the ground than it should be because our slab foundations are built too low to the ground.  In addition, they are often improperly flashed to protect them from water infiltration.

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Pictures 003

Wood – This is difficult – we love wood siding. It is the real thing.  Nevertheless, for several reasons, it is not a great choice for our hot, humid climate.  Over the years, as we have grown wood faster and faster, it has lost a lot of the durability that it once had. But even well-cured, old growth wood has a tough time in our climate.  Nonetheless, we feel that for the well-informed and motivated client, it can be a great choice.  There is a lot that can be done that goes above and beyond a typical application to give wood siding a fighting chance.  This includes making sure that protective coating goes on every surface; especially end grain which is most vulnerable to rot and most often left unprotected. Though we almost never see it in our area, a rain channel behind the siding is also crucial to making wood siding durable.  Furthermore, proper window and trim details are also rare but important to maintaining wood siding.

The Good

A great siding choice for our climate is fiber cement siding. It is stable and rot proof. It also holds paint very well and is fire proof.

At Stearns Design Build, we specialize in wood and fiber cement sidings because we feel that they are the best choices for our climate.

To schedule a free siding or trim inspection, give us a call 979-696-0524 or your can arrange to have us call you.