Painting vs vinyl siding

abbey1930September 18, 2006

My house isn't particularly old (1950) but I am hoping this is the place to come for some good advice on my cherished little home. I have been in it for almost 6 years, and have been trying to make up for the neglect it suffered at the hands of one or more previous owners. One of those neglected areas is the exterior. Paint is peeling all over the place. My brother in law (and my window salesman) are pushing vinyl siding, which I really don't care for, at least not on my house. If I had the house painted it would be done professionally, you won't catch me up on a ladder, but I am trying to weigh the pros and cons of siding vs painting, and i hope some of you could offer some words of support and some suggestions on how I can ensure the painting is done right, if I decide to go that route.



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I'd say that most people here on the forum would agree that vinyl siding is an evil invention and should never be inflicted on a poor, unsuspecting house. Generally speaking, it sucks the character out of a charming home and looks cheap.

I'd go with paint. If you are concerned about the costs of regular painting, and you find that you need new siding first, due to the prior neglect, you might want to consider re-siding with a cement fiberboard, such as Hardiplank. A proper paint job on the Hardiplank should easily last 20 years.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2006 at 1:46PM
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The problem with vinyl siding is that it usually is installed over the existing siding, and sometimes even over trim details and in doing so wipes the character right off the face of the house.

If your house's exterior has been seriously neglected, the first really good paint job will be extra expensive to do because of the deferred problems. After that, periodic re-coatings will be much less onerous.

However if you have peeling paint, you might want to investigate why that's happening, where it is. Sometimes it's the result of interior moisture issues which must be corrected before any paint, new or old, will stay stuck on. And if you do have moisture problems, simply covering them up with vinyl siding will only makes things much worse.

If you're really desperate for a quick fix, just having some paint slapped on will give you anywhere from a year or so, to maybe a few years grace. But it will fail prematurely without good prep. Sometimes, though it's OK to blow off the cost of a fast-fix, in order to save up enough $$ for a total overhaul.


PS: I also recommend you tell your BIL, no thanks, on the vinyl windows, too.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2006 at 3:12PM
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If you want to make sure you get a good paint job check out the work of the painters in your with their clients both those who they have recently served and a few from several years back. A good painter is not shy about telling you which houses he/she painted. Infact many are very proud of their work and will have no problems giving you address of homes they have done so you can see for yourself.

Like anything else you have to do some homework.
Learn from your painter what his work includes or doesn't include.
Will he scrape and prime?
How will he scrape? chemically, heatgun, a combo? Willhe pressure wash at anytime to clean? If he does and he damages the wood ect how willthat be handled?Is any of his work subcontracted out?
What type of primer? Will you buy the primer/paint or will he?
How do you know you are getting what you are paying for? Don't think just cause it says so on the bill it is what he claims...some painters will try and switch out one brand for another, a lesser quality for a better...this is why it's important to check their work history.
Ask about insurance...are they covered?
Be clear on what you want. Get everything in writting. When asking for a quote make sure you ask each contractor the same questions to get a accurate picture of what it will cost.
Know that most estimates are just that...estimates. Often the actual price is over what is quoted.

Paint like anything else has different prices and you often get what you paid for.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2006 at 5:02PM
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Lots of good advice thanks so much. I would like to follow up on one of Molly's points, that the peeling paint could be caused by interior moisture. How would I determine that?
I have a walk out basement which like many basements, has that damp feel, but a dehumidifier take care of that, and is only needed in the rainy weather. Are there any ways I can check for interior moisture in the 1st and 2nd stories of the house, or is there some particular profession that would do this kind of work?.
I am wondering if there might be interior moisture for this reason. On various clapboards there are these small, round little pieces of metal, almost look like screen. I think they cover up small holes and the contractor who insulated my attic said he thought people did that to improve the air flow through the paint (or something like that, I do not remember his exact explanation) but the purpose of it was to prevent the paint from peeling.
I don't want to do a quick fix, I would rather do a proper job the first time. THe argument from the folks who are pushing vinyl siding is that this is a 1950's house, no ginger bread, cornice's or anything else elaborate is going to be covered up. But I still like that look of wood, so I hope I can find a way to do that.
Thanks again for the assistance.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2006 at 7:01PM
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Yes painting,no vinyl for my house.It is a pain to keep up on paint,but if done correctly will last quite awhile.Get good painters.Prep is a must.Thats what sets our house from the others, siding.we even had shutters made and painted.Like what was here.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2006 at 7:48PM
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I think those little screened thingies are vents, not for the paint, but for the walls. What kind of, if any, insulation do you have in the walls? It's possible they are the covers from a blown-in insulation job.

Houses that are lived in throw off a surprising amount of moisture through water vapor generated by cooking, plants, breathing, showers, laundry etc. Good exhaust vans, used faithfully, can help this.

Before the modern area (and your house falls in the before group, the same as my 160 y.o. house does) there wasn't much effort to really seal up, or even insulate houses. Then along came the oil shocks in the 70's and people started sealing up and insulating for all they were worth. The problem was however, they were insulating (and conscientiously sealing up drafts) so much that they were interfering with the structures' innate vapor handling capacity. Post 1970's houses that are built from scratch have something called a vapor barrier just under whatever wall surface there is (wallboard, plaster, etc.) It's purpose is to contain internally generated moisture and keep it from migrating through the wall surface and either creating problems within the wall insulation or carrying on out and causing the paint to fail from the outside in.

And paradoxically (you're not going to want to hear this) insulating an attic where the insulation covers over the tops of the walls can aggravate the moisture retention problems by blocking subtle airflow up through the walls, and on out of the building. I wouldn't suggest un-insulating, just step up efforts to get the moisture out in other ways.

To sort out what's going on, I would study the exterior walls, and maybe make a diagram of where the peeling is the worst. Is it by any chance just outside of on the wall above the kitchen, laundry or bathroom? If so and if you don't have exhaust fans that would suggest o me that you have a moisture migration problem. The cure for that is obviously fans that are used conscientiously to immediately remove moisture. This makes a big difference. Another possible solution is vapor retardant wall paint either under a finish coat, or as a finish coat. (Or you could tear out your interior walls and attempt to retrofit a VB ..... don't worry I wouldn't do that either, but it's something to think about if you ever are going that far in for another reason.)

OTOH, perhaps it's peeling simply from exposure and being overpainted and not atended to. Southern aand western exposures often fail first in the NE because of the strong sunlight. Eastern exposures seem to last longer. This may not be the same where you are, but you can get the idea by studying other houses nearby and seeing how they compare with yours.

One final note: Do you really have wod siding? I owned a 60's ranch once and its siding was some sort of pressboard/composite. It wouldn't be worth going to a lot of trouble to retain. Though I wouldn't go with vinyl, I;d reside with new wood, properly installed and backprimed.

And don't let people tell you that your wood siding doesn't matter because it doesn't have a lot of trim flourishes. The fine detail of it, and it's long lifespan - I wouldn't expect vinyl to last as long as your wood already has - make it worth conserving, if you can. Even if it's in need of paint and a thorough overhaul, since it's wood, that possibility is there; with vinyl I;m not sure what you do, other than ri[p it off and reinstall.

There's another fine touch that you house may have, that you may not even have noticed. Many wood-sided houses actually have a varying width on the clapboards, with lower ones being slightly closer together (i.e. with more overlap) than the upper ones. This is not an accident, but an old fashioned way to put more wood down low where eaves would drip. The visual effect is very subtle, but pleasing to the eye; I think it adds to the visual solidity of the overall look of the house. And it's the level of detail you would be giving up if you just slap on pre-formed vinyl.

I'm attaching a link to the Index of the Presevation Bulletin Series. Please don't be daunted that your house isn't old, yet. With good, loving care, it will be someday. I have found the info in these bulletins excellent jumping off points. Hope they are equally helpful to you.

While I suppose there is a conversion factor for house years v human years, similar to human years v dog years, it warmed my heart to hear a house "born" in 1950 as not particularly old. I was born that year too, so I guess I shouldn't worry about feeling old!



Here is a link that might be useful: Link to National Parks Series of Preservation Bulletins; Topics include vinyl siding, painting exteriors and moisture control

    Bookmark   September 18, 2006 at 8:52PM
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Bulldinkie, thanks for the encouragement, and Molly, wow, that is a lot of great information, thanks. I must confess I do not have an exhaust fan in the bathroom, that is on my list of projects for the electrician to do next time I decide to spend $ in that area. I don't think there is a pattern to the peeling, but I will check that out next time I am home in the daylight. You are right, I didnt like hearing that about the attic insulation, but too late now. If I may pick your brain just one more time, I suppose that means I shouldn't have the rest of the house insulated as that would be one thing more to keep moisture inside the house. What do you folks do do for insulation who have older houses? And finally, thanks for telling me my little 50's abode falls before the modern area. Then again, it is only a year older than me, so I hope that doesn't apply to me, lol.
Thanks again for all of the encouragement and advice, I can see I have a lot of research ahead of me, but it should prove interesting.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2006 at 11:46PM
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So you don't have insulation in the walls and you do have vents? That's interesting. I still think they are wall vents, though. Have they been painted shut in previous paint jobs? Cleaning them out or replacing the screens might make a difference in allowing moisture to vent safely and not through your paint.

(I apologize for the really poor proofreading on my previous post, I was hustling to get it done before a storm required me to get my 'puter unplugged and safe. I hope it wasn't too unintelligble and hope everyone realized I meant to write from the inside *out*, in describing the path of moisture causing paint to peel.)

Well, in answer to your question about wall insulation (and I wasn't suggesting you remove or alter your attic insulation) some of us put our time and effort and scarce rehab money into other ways to tighten up a house and make it more engergy-efficient. In my case my old timber frame walls, with intact original plaster make it difficult to imagine how I could safely insulate, and retain the old features.

One way I've heard the priorities described is this: first insulate your attic, because, obviously, heat rises and you are blocking your heated air from radiating out to the great beyond. (And as a side benefit it keeps overheated attic air from heating up your second floor during the summer, so it's an important two-fer.)

Next, turn your attention to careful, and meticulous, closing up of air infiltration on the lower floors by caulking, weatherstripping, Great-Stuffing gaps, installing good infiltration barriers under the first-floor floors. The good news is that most of these are ideal homeowner chores, being cheap, tedious and low tech, and except for caulking around second story windows, can usually be done from stepladders, at worst.

Next, put your money into rehabbing your windows (not replacing them) and adding good storms (not necessarily triple track aluminum) and getting good storm doors.

Then look at the efficiency of your heating plant.

And finally, consider wall insulation if you still need more. Of course, this does depend on the type of construction and your particular circumstances, but that's the progression I've been following more or less. Of course, I never open an exterior wall, without adding insulation (and VB) where ever I can before I close it up. And from time to time a project or catastrophe (in my case a tornado) kind of forces your hand, so we've insulated where we had the wall open anyway.

A colorful way the second step (infiltration stopping) was illustrated to me was this: say your paper is delivered to your porch on a frosty morning when you're only wearing a bathrobe. If you step out on the porch and retrieve it without tying the sash you'll freeze, but if the sash is tight you won't get too cold because the warm air can't travel upward and out while it's blocked by the sash. And if the warm air can't rise, then the cold air can't, um, infiltrate and freeze your fanny. Caulking sort of ties a sash around your home. It's not quite that simple, of course, but that's why it's the second step, after insulating your attic, and before the walls, since doing the walls without caulking is kind of a waste of time.

I'd move the bathroom fan project up and get it done before you invest in paint. Ditto an externally vented kitchen fan. And if you're aren't venting your dryer to the outside, do that too (unless it's one of those fancy condenser ones).



    Bookmark   September 19, 2006 at 12:38AM
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My goodness Molly, you were up even later than I was, lol.
Once again thanks for all of the wonderful advice. I can say I have an externally vented dryer, and the kitchen fan is now vented (it was previously vented to the attic, and that was discovered when I had the attic insulated and the contractors fixed it) So I will definitely give my electrician a call about the bathroom fan.
I do have plaster walls (and no tornados to rip them open, thank goodness) so I will have to look into what I can do to caulk etc., before I consider insulation. After learning all of this I am amazed at the older houses I am aware of which were covered with vinyl without a second thought. THere is so much more to this than I was ever aware of. Now that I know I will do further research before I make any decisions regarding, paint, repairing clapboards, whatever. Thanks so much again. Gotta love these forums.


    Bookmark   September 19, 2006 at 6:20AM
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