To paint or to re-side?

bananastandSeptember 15, 2009

Hello everyone! I'm so delighted to find this forum on Garden Web. I've posted on other boards, but not yet here. So, hello! I'm sure I'll be spending lots of time reading archived messages to catch up on a wealth of information. So, here's my question. My husband and I bought an 1890's farm house two years ago that had been completely gutted and remodeled inside. Simply gorgeous. However, the outside of the house has been costing us some pretty big chunks of change, and I haven't even gotten to the problem of the peeling paint on the wood siding yet. Knowing that I need to maximize on cost and time efficiency, and ultimate resale value, I'm not sure whether to re-paint, or re-side it.

Our costs to date:

Re-roof front section of house due to massive leak (re-frame and new rubber roof): Insurance covered lots, we paid about $7,000 (what a fun introduction to owning a home)

Install new retaining wall along driveway: $6,000 (contractor scheduled for later this fall)

We are both in non-profit environmental education type jobs, so this is a very significant amount of money for us, especially in just two years.

Big DIY projects I've finished so far:

Strip and re-paint front porch (in progress actually, ugh)

Install gutters on front porch

Power wash and re-seal the back deck

Landscape 1,000 square foot area to native plants and bushes

I have learned some things in my two years of homeownership.

1. To figure out how much time it takes to finish a project, take the number in your head and multiply it by twelve.

2. The people who say owning a home is the best investment ever are part of some clandestine cult to get other people to suffer the money pit syndrome with them.

OK, all of that introduction aside, I am trying to figure out what will be the most cost and time efficient way to deal with my siding, which is a horrific color and is also peeling its paint. Here's my problem. With all the money we've already dumped into the house, I am really not able to sink a ton into the siding. My gut tells me to re-side the thing in fiber cement. It's the most eco-friendly siding out there, it has very minimal maintenance, and I could pick a better color and buy the stuff that has pigment mixed into the boards.

But, I suspect that will be extremely expensive. Now, on the flip side, I could re-paint the siding. Knowing how long it has taken me to do other, smaller projects, I seriously cannot plan to re-paint the house myself. There's just no way. It would take me years. So, do I pay someone to re-paint it for me? And how much is that going to cost me? And, will I just have to keep re-investing that cost every five years or so?

Any help or advice is much appreciated. Here are some photos of the house. It has a mansert style roof, and the size indoors is just over 2,000 square feet. Not sure how many square feet of siding I have.

Front, from street (West side)

South side:

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Hi Lucille,
Congratulations on getting your very own Money Pit! To be honest, I'm not seeing anything that even remotely suggests 1890's, and I tend to cringe when I hear an old house has been gutted and completely remodeled inside, but I'll take your word for it that it's gorgeous. :^)

You mention resale; how long are you planning on staying?
If less than five years, I'd say scrape or, if you don't have time, rent a power washer to knock off the loose paint and repaint. You might first want to pull some of those 4X8 ft sections of the existing siding up from the bottom and have a look at the actual (original) siding underneath just to make sure it's still sound. Usually "flippers" slap siding on a house to cover wretched peeling paint, or worse, structural damage they don't want to be out the expense to repair, so checking out what's "under" there would be a good idea. Besides, you never know, you might *like* the look of the old clapboards, or whatever the house was originally sided with. But a good paint job should last at least 10 years, and SW makes a paint that's supposed to be guaranteed for something like 30 years. I have no idea how much it would cost to have someone come and do either painting or applying siding, but I've heard the cement board/shingle siding stuff increases the value of your home because it's fire retardant. I'd talk to a Realtor about that, and I bet they could recommend someone who could give you estimates on painting or siding as well.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2009 at 9:39PM
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The front portion of the house is the only part that is original. The back part (the part you see in the deck view) was added on in the '70's. Here's a view of the interior, standing at the front door and looking east:

I'm not sure how long we will stay. I'd like to have the freedom to look for a better job now that I have a graduate degree, but I feel somewhat tethered to my job and home because of the bad housing market. But, my theory is, I don't want to let the place deteriorate... I'd like to keep doing what I can, both in maintenance and improvement to keep building the home's value, regardless of whether I sell in 5 or 15 years. And the paint job is definitely in need of attention.

So you don't think that siding is original? I hadn't even thought about there being other siding underneath. Interesting. Good to know that paint can last 10 years... I may get some quotes in the spring. Thanks for the input.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2009 at 9:24PM
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"So you don't think that siding is original? "

Well, no. Not in the slightest. ;^)
On the bright side, as old as it is, I'm betting your house probably has beautiful original siding just waiting to be rediscovered. Cedar shakes, or clapboard, whatever it is it's something the vertical 4X8 sheets of paneling currently on there will never be able to compete with aesthetically. I'd at least take a peek, you really might prefer the old to the new,even if it initially requires more work to be presentable.

Here is a link that might be useful: Why paint peels

    Bookmark   September 16, 2009 at 11:49PM
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Agreed, that's the typical siding one uses from a box store. I have greenhouse ranges, and used the same stuff for end walls. I can imagine this being an old farmhouse, because I used to own an 1890s one where there hadn't been additions, other than somebody enclosed the back porch and made a kitchen out of it. I suspect the building along the deck is an addition.

My Aunt lived in a very old house in an Historic section of the nearby town, and she did have vertical tongue and groove boards on the exterior. It was common in wooden homes of great age here. But that predated the age on your house, and you can tell pretty easily if your siding isn't siding, but tongue and groove, and it doesn't look it.

I also suspect you should have a look under that siding where your roof leak was. The original boards may be very compromised and that could be the reason the siding was installed. If that is the case, it would automatically tell you whether the original exterior is salvageable.

I also suspect this house did not originally have a Mansard roof, though it may have in your geographical area. All that being said, it's a little doll house.

    Bookmark   September 17, 2009 at 11:26AM
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OK, after thinking about this... there's really no point in me ripping off the old siding to see what is underneath. Because on the addition portion, I'm sure there would not be original siding. So anyway... now that we all agree that my siding is lame, does anyone have thoughts on whether to re-paint or re-side? What do you think the cost difference between the two options would be?

    Bookmark   September 19, 2009 at 7:08PM
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It is a sheet product called T 111 that became popular in the 70s but is still produced and used today. It has advantages of economy and ease/speed of installation.

Was the paint peeling in response to the leakage issue and is now fixed? I haven't seen siding like that peel. We have a 25 year old cabin with that and it has held up well, it was faded but not peeling (first stain job went 12 years and 2nd time went 13 years using acrylic latex stain).

If no more moisture issue or rot, you could repaint for less than new siding and a new color would change the look of the house. If you can't DIY, you should be able to get an estimate from some local painters.

However if you want to change, then a horizontal siding would be attractive. Fiber cement is a good product, but more expensive though lower maintenance. Vinyl siding has gotten better and no maintenance but if you go over old siding can have some problems. Maybe you can consult and get an estimate from the contractor that is doing your other work?

It sounds like you know a little of the house's history. I would be curious to know if the mansard roof was an original feature or if it was a part of the 70's redo. The proportions of it remind me of back then when there was a revival of that roof style. The wood beams inside point toward a more rustic interior than would have been found in a Victorian era mansard home. Without any other original woodwork or detail intact, it would be difficult to say for sure, though. Interesting at any rate.

You have accomplished a lot in the last two years and you have a good attitude toward it, so good for you!


    Bookmark   September 20, 2009 at 11:07PM
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I think the point is that there is no cost difference between the two options if you are not solving the underlying problem, because the job may eventually need to be removed and redone. It is not eco-friendly nor cost effective to do any job twice.

With old houses, there is both a romantic and a practical reason for checking what's underneath - the practical is for seeking out the real cause of a problem.

You don't sound like an adherent to the romantic aspect of old houses, which is fine, although you're in a bit a nest here of people who are. Living the romantic dream, however, has brought with it much practical wisdom.

While the urge to uncover the old siding is partly romantic, it may also have a practical element - how the new siding is installed and what is underneath it may tell you why your paint is peeling. If it is peeling all over including on the addition, it may have been poorly installed or the surface poorly prepared before painting.

I personally wouldn't like moisture festering inside the walls under either new paint or under fiber cement. And there is something about siding over siding that just gives me the creeps anyway. Maybe it's about bugs and spiders - just too many little spaces for bugs, wasp nests, etc. Although I've heard it keeps a house warmer and less drafty.

If relative cost is all you need to know, there's nothing like estimates from contractors, as there are so many costs specific to a job.

The only thing an internet forum can maybe tell you is that people do attach value to original condition, in the event that you are looking toward resale. An 1890s house that looks like the '70s inside and out will not appeal to those willing to pay a premium for history, and will raise doubts in the mind of buyers about what is underneath and how the structural integrity has been maintained. But it's not like there is a shortage of buyers looking for modern-looking homes.


    Bookmark   September 21, 2009 at 12:13PM
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". So anyway... now that we all agree that my siding is lame, does anyone have thoughts on whether to re-paint or re-side? What do you think the cost difference between the two options would be?"

Nobody said your siding was lame, just not original. T-111 is a commonly used siding and lots of homes are covered in it. Most homes I've seen it on are stained. The only real complaint I've heard about it is that woodpeckers especially love it, and have been known to peck holes in it. It's been the siding on one g'house's ends for over twelve years. That's an abusive environment, with wide temperature swings and lots of ambient moisture.

The issue with T-111 is that is develops lots of cracks and fissures over time. Good priming is essential. If the surface isn't primed before paints go on, water penetrates beneath the surface, and causes peeling. It could be what has happened to your siding in the past.

    Bookmark   September 22, 2009 at 4:39PM
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Thanks everyone! It was mostly me saying my siding is lame... I just hate that color! This has all been very helpful information. I will likely hire a contractor to repaint it in the spring... and hopefully do a better job than the last time! It think the former homeowner took on a lot of DIY projects that weren't quite done right. Anyway, thanks again for all the insights!

    Bookmark   September 24, 2009 at 1:37PM
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It looks like you could repaint fairly easily. I agree that the siding is T-111. It was used a lot in the '70's along with the mansard roof style shown in your picture. I would guess that either that part is an addition, or the original house was a cottage and the PO tried to expand it by lifting the roof and giving it an updated look.

If you have the time, you could simply scrape off the peeling paint, then give it a coat of prime followed by a color you like. I did that to the whole north side of my house last year and it wasn't terribly hard. Actually, I enjoyed doing it.

If that section is not an addition, it may well have siding under it. I had asbestos shingles over cedar shingles when I bought my house years ago. We had the asbestos removed, replaced a few shingles and twenty five years later the original cedar shingles are still holding up.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2009 at 11:30AM
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