Victorian Home Exterior Help

victoriandreamOctober 2, 2007

For the past four years, we have lived in an 1892 Queen Anne Victorian home in Central Wisconsion. In June, we suffered a hail storm and are now faced with lots of decisions about what to do with the exterior of our home. We currently have boring brown aluminum siding and white aluminum trim that was put on by previous owner in the mid 80s. So, with some assistance with insurance, we have an opportunity to recreate a more authentic look for our home. We are considering cement fiber board for the siding but locally are having a difficult time finding contractors who want to tackle this. Our roof needs to be replaced and our porch is in need of repair/paint. I'm looking for resources that would guide us on this journey and would love to connect with anyone else out there who has done a similar project from roof down. There are so many things to decide and it can be overwhelming to make it all come together. Help!

I would love to post a couple photos of past and present but not sure how to do that.


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Maybe contact your local, county, or state historical society. They may be able to be a good first stop for information.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2007 at 1:20PM
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Well, if you want 'really authentic' instead of 'more authentic' you could try to locate some photos of your place through your local historical preservation group or historical society. There is no guarantee they'll have any, but it's worth a try. If you have contact with previous owners they may have some helpful photos. If those avenues fail, you could look around your immediate vicinity for homes similar to your own and take some notes/photos of trim and detailing you think may have been similar to your house's original characteristics. When you remove the aluminum you will likely be able to glean some clues as to the appearance of the original treatments and traces of earlier paint colors. As far as roofing materials and siding, perhaps some other people posting here can provide you with advice as we have not done anything that would be suitable for your area of the country, although I did grow up south of you, over the border in northern IL, so I am quite familiar with the Midwestern Victorians typical of your region.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2007 at 1:34PM
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Last year we tackled the same thing. I have a Victorian that just turned 100. The house had siding on the sides and back but not the front. We used a new style of siding called Beaded Siding. It is wider than regulard siding and gives a more old timey look to it. Also, there are more color choices. We replaced the roof using Architechural Shingles and repainted the front porch. Our old house was yucky light blue with white trim. We use pale green for the new siding, SW Thyme 6186 for the Ginger Bread and SW Shade Grown 6188 for the porch floor and the lattice work on the base of the house. We added new wooden porch steps instead of the old brick ones. I am not sure if you can tell in these pictures with trees in the way. We also, screened in the back porch, a blessing from away from the mosquitos. We stainded the upper deck this spring it is shown in theses pix before we did. Hope this helps a little.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2007 at 3:54PM
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Sorry, first photo is the before.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2007 at 4:00PM
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Beautiful pictures victorian227! You're house looks great!

    Bookmark   October 2, 2007 at 11:56PM
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If you want to stay authentic and keep the original character, go with all real wood. Nothing looks better than beautiful older houses with real wood.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2007 at 12:29AM
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As you take the siding off, you may very well find your original wood underneath and it may be in pretty good condition. Many folks installed siding simply because they didn't want to hassle with painting. Nothing was wrong with the wood. So once it's gone, you may find that you have good wood that only needs to be patched in places.

Re Hardie or like siding, I'd check with the manufacturer for recommendations of approved installers in your area. I would guess that there have to be installers in/around Madison. Make sure you interview a few.

Also, check the forum at oldhouseweb dot com. There's been lots of discussion about removing siding, new siding, and composites.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2007 at 6:25AM
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I posted a message a few days ago and I guess for some reason it didn't show up. So, here goes another try.

Thanks for the posts! victorian227, your home is beautiful! Great job. You mentioned that you used bead board siding and I like the look. What is the material - wood, vinyl, aluminum, etc?

We have learned a lot about the history of our home and even have original sepia photos that give us a pretty good idea of what it looked like. We sort of feel like we've been adopted because original furniture pieces have been given to us from the family that built it. So, we've picked their brain about the history and it's made our home come alive again.

As for wood would be a tough sell for us because of the maintenance it could entail over the years. Our home is 3 stories and over 6,000 sf. We're leaning toward the fiber cement because it's paintable and doesn't peel but still has the look of wood.

We also know that all the wood siding under our aluminum has been removed.

Anyone want to let me know how to post a couple photos so we can keep this discussion going?

    Bookmark   October 11, 2007 at 9:05PM
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Hi there. I usually hang out at the Rose Forums and Cottage Garden forum, but check in here every now and again. Although I don't own an older home, I am fascinated with and admire them-- especially the Victorians! They are beautiful and so full of charm!

Sorry, no help on the siding issue. However, I came across this post with your unanswered question re how to post pix of your home and thought I would try to help out.

Here is a link to a post on the CG forum re posting pix. I am definitely no expert in the matter, but some of the gals over there can help you if you should have further questions.

Hope this helps!

Regards, Becky

Here is a link that might be useful: cottage garden forum limk to posting pix

    Bookmark   October 15, 2007 at 4:25PM
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Here is one more link from the Cottage Garden Forum gallery, re posting pix.


Here is a link that might be useful: instructions for posting pix with Picasa web

    Bookmark   October 15, 2007 at 4:35PM
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As an exterior contractor in Central Wisconsin I see many of these old homes that get striped of all the craftsmanship that was put into them and it's very sad.
If you do replace your siding try to incorporate new products that keep your old details alive. You can get many nice details made out of vinyl, foam or plaster, the possibilities are endless, but at a cost of course. Fiber cement is a great product but so is Vinyl(High End), Steel, and wood. Each product has numerous pros and cons to each. Just make sure you find a good contractor. Good materials still look bad when done wrong.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2007 at 9:43PM
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webtime1, you're in central wisconsin. Would love to connect with you and learn about what you do. Someone has suggested that we consider cedar siding - narrow board, of course. What would the maintenance be? Pros and cons?


    Bookmark   October 22, 2007 at 9:32AM
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Sorry I hadn't checked back recently. Yes, the beaded siding is vinyl. I believe it is made by CertainTeed. Our house had already been sided, the sun is so hot here the paint blisters with a couple of years and the repainting just got to be too much. Good luck with your project!

    Bookmark   October 23, 2007 at 4:52PM
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If you would like some ideas for your house I'd be happy to help. What you see in victorian227's pictures is the same type of work we do.
As for the cedar siding I'm sure you know it will require lots of maintenance. I like wood products because you can do so much with it, but as a homeowner you half to be able to do the work involved with it to keep it in good shape. (Painting,staining,ect.)
The thing I hate most with wood products is the destruction the woodpeckers make........they destroy everything....grrrr.
But if you would like to contact me for some information or some pictures I'd be glad to steer you in the right direction. e-mail

By the way victorian227, your house is spectacular. Your choice of materials and colors was perfect.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2007 at 9:11PM
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I'm back...still working on this exterior project. Wow! It's been well over a year since the last post. Finally, think we have things ironed out on the insurance end of things. Now back to business with figuring all this out. Contractors seem to be steering us to this product for the siding, LP SmartSide instead of cement fiber siding. They tell me there are too many cement fiber jobs that end up with moisture problems. Any feedback?

    Bookmark   March 23, 2009 at 6:21PM
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Here are some photos of the exterior of our home - both old and new,

Here is a link that might be useful: Exterior Photos

    Bookmark   March 23, 2009 at 7:01PM
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I would be thinking of shingles first but I haven't seen the house.

I recommend staying away from LP SmartSide and any contractor who suggests it. It's an aspen waferboard with a zinc-borate preservative treatment and a resin coated paper face with a wood grain embossed into it so you can't confuse it with real clapboard siding. The cut ends are particularly susceptible to deterioration. It has a 7 year warranty but LP recommends that you paint it every 5 years.

Ask the contractors if they ever installed LP's Inner-Seal siding before the class-action lawsuit forced LP to scrap it and come up with a new and improved version called SmartSide.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2009 at 10:44PM
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I've been lurking as I love older homes and the character they offer, and reading through this I'd like to add a comment, and maybe someone can elaborate on this...

Painting the exterior of your home in modern times is not the same as painting your home years ago, i.e. repainting every five years or so is no longer necessary. Paint is higher quality, and Benjamin Moore, just one example of better quality paint, has exterior paint, 'Moorglo softgloss' with a lifetime warranty.

Obviously, your first concern would be to hire a contractor who will apply it correctly so as not to deem the warranty invalid, but you shouldn't have to repaint it for another XXX years???

    Bookmark   March 25, 2009 at 12:05AM
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I talked directly to LP this morning about their Smartside products (5/50 year limited warranty). They give the impression that this is the closest look to wood siding with an easy installation and that it will last a long time without any needed painting with the Diamond Kote factory finish. I plan to call directly to ABC Supply in Wausau, WI to learn more about what they have to say. With an old, historic home it's been a challenge to find the contractors that want to tackle this project and that are willing and able to do a restoration. Also, I've heard great things about Sherwin Williams exterior high grade paint. I appreciate this conversation continuing. Thanks to all who have jumped in with posts :-)

    Bookmark   March 25, 2009 at 4:00PM
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You received alot of good and interesting feedback for your proposed project. I am also glad that your leaning
towards an authentic restoration.

Old photos or similar homes in the area might help you visualize just how royal a total resotoration can be.

Look forward to some pictures.

You can also learn how to download pictures by clicking on
"Clippings". There are a few tutorials about how easy it
is to post a photo.

Good luck

The PorchGuy

Here is a link that might be useful: My Album

    Bookmark   March 26, 2009 at 9:40PM
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Hi PorchGuy,

It's great that you chimed in because I've come across your posts and love the porches that you've done. Our porches are part of the restoration plan, too. In fact, that really needs to happen before everything else.
Couple questions for you or anyone else about porch restoration...
We've been told our footings (individual post footings) are probably okay - if they're not do you recommend that we put footings around the whole perimeter or with each post as it currently is? How deep (Central Wisconsin)?
Also, we would like to have the wood not be painted but instead like your photos that show the real wood finish. What are your recommendations for achieving this? What wood, dimensions, where to find it and then how to finish it properly?
Whewww...isn't this restoration fun stuff? Thanks again for everyone's insight to this big project!

    Bookmark   March 30, 2009 at 7:05PM
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This is a great thread- I love the jump from 2007 to 2009! We are going to be painting the exterior of our house (happily it was never sided, although the slate roof was replaced) and are going to use Sherwin Williams. We used that paint in our last home, inside and out and it was fantastic to use and lasted quite well for us. There is also their Preservation line which features colors from their long history of making paint. I've also heard great things about Ben Moore and Farrow and Ball on this forum. I believe BM also has a preservation line.

Your house is stunning victoriandream, and I'd suggest going wood. Have you looked under the siding? The original wood is probably sitting right there waiting for you.

Porch Guy, what an inspiration to see your photos, I skimmed them, but will be back to look at the slideshows- what craftsmanship!

Good luck and thanks for updating!

    Bookmark   April 5, 2009 at 8:19AM
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Hi Autumngal and others,

Do you know what your color scheme will be? We love Sherwin Williams, too and are using their exterior victorian color palette as our main guide. Lucky that you have the original siding. Unfortunately our house has been stripped - nothing remains except the outlines of where things used to be.

Okay, so pursuade me on the wood. What would it cost to paint in the next decade or so? We're entertaining it and have had a few conversations about what kind of wood for siding, trim and porch. It appears cost prohibitive. I'm hearing red cedar, white pine, douglas fir, etc.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2009 at 10:49PM
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It's a tough choice for you because when looking back, it looks like the wood under your siding was taken off- I've never heard of that before, I wonder why on earth anyone would do that? Some homeowners make really strange choices.

With that in mind, I honestly don't know what I'd do in your position. Doing wood is the right thing to do, but you are right, that would be very expensive. Part of the choice is finding out what is under there- is your home really drafty? You can put in more insulation when doing this project, which you might want to budget for.

With colors, I'd suggest looking into Roger Moss's books. Many have been out of print for some time, but you could find them at the library. My friend who is a historic preservationist recommended his books to me when thinking of color- she specifically mentioned "Century of Color". Fantastic books that really help you think of color and placement.

I'm not sure what colors we are going to choose, most of the homes on our block are white, as is our house currently, but it just so happens that the house on one side is a yellow-cream color with dark brown trim, and the house on the other side is a deep green-brown color with cream trim and a red door. Fitting a color scheme into those in a way that doesn't look too much like one or another is tough. I have several preservation colors that I'm looking at, but after exhausting many of them, we might fall off the preservation wagon and do slightly different colors in order to have them fit into our block. If we make a definite decision, I'll post it!

    Bookmark   April 6, 2009 at 12:40PM
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Commenting on the paint...

I worked for many years for a painting company (in the office). Learned a lot about paint. Our crews used Sherwin Williams paint. However, when I looked at Consumer Reports, I read that Sherwin Williams didn't score so well. I asked the boss about this and was told that SW performs better when applied with a sprayer...the results are not that great when applied by a DIY homeowner with a paint brush, and I can vouch for that as I used the paint on my front door and probably wouldn't use it again (I ask the SW rep for the best quality in what I'm looking for).

I've used Sherwin Williams, Benjamin Moore, Pratt & Lambert myself. By far, the best as far as application and quality, in my opinion, is Benjamin Moore. I now go to a reputable paint store that is run by retired contractors, not your big-box stores, and they all tell me Benjamin Moore is the best quality paint.

You might want to talk to a realtor or architect to see if replacing the original siding may de-value your home - that would be my main concern. If I were to buy a Victorian, I would appreciate everything being original, no matter how maintenance free the non-original siding may be. That's just my take on it.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2009 at 1:22AM
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Our homeowner applied with brush single coat of SW best quality "duration" exterior paint looks new after 3 years including severe winters on porch pillars. Going to do more coats when I get around to it lol. But so much more first coating to do still since we renovated front and back porches. A nice thing about this paint is it doesn't need a primer, actually goes on best without primer. I asked my SW paint store about the CR ratings and they said that some years they have rated hightest and the formula is the same. He also said it was apples to oranges in one catagory (not exterior), I don't remember which. Trim on house down the street looks faded after one winter. I'm going to aske them what they used when I next see them.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2009 at 7:12PM
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This is so exciting to see the feedback I'm getting on this overwhelming project. Thanks everyone. I appreciate the paint insights as well.

Here's an update...I think we've found the contractor for our siding and porches. We feel very good about working with him as he's restored many homes just like ours inside and out.

Our jury is still out with what direction to go with the siding - which dictates the materials and approach to everything else. We did some drive bys of some homes with LP smartside. It didn't convince us either way. We spent some time with a homeowner who had just restored the exterior of their victorian home in all wood products. It looked amazing! It seems that the no brainer would be to restore everything to wood again...anyone want to help us start a fundraising campaign for this?

A comment that was recently said to us when we asked about making the choice between restoring this historic victorian versus building new...he told us that we're stewards of this home and by restoring this house you're preserving history for future generations. I totally get that but it seems so impractical when you put the numbers to paper.

If you don't mind can we shift gears a moment to the roofing aspect...we would like to achieve the wood shake look that would have been original. I know that Certainteed has what they call the Presidential line of shingles that mimic this. What other options are out there? What's the feeling on Decra roofing?

    Bookmark   April 13, 2009 at 12:11PM
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I am a purist and would only consider wooden siding. My 1882 stick style has cedar siding and decorative shingles. Yes, there is some upkeep. But I use high quality Benjamin Moore. I use oil-based primer and two coats of latex top coat. The west side requires the most upkeep, but parts of the house have held their paint well for 20 years. To me, nothing looks worse than siding which has gotten dirty and it is very difficult to make aluminum or plastic siding blend with an old house around windows or interesting architectural angles. In my case, I love painting and usually work on one side of the house each summer. I use a gloss finish which looks beautiful for a couple of years and looks fine for up to 10 years. Artificial siding is notorious for causing moisture problems over the original proper siding. You can see my house at the link below.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   April 16, 2009 at 11:18AM
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Thanks for sharing your photos and experiences. What a beautiful home and it looks like you're doing great work to it.

So, I'm pricing out different wood siding options. Sitka Spruce is being highly recommended over cedar - more cost effective, supposedly better paint adhesion. It seems we're being drawn to a purist version of restoration - ie wood and reproducing the original elements as much as feasible. The question is...can we afford it? And at what point should the torch of stewardship be passed on or continued.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2009 at 3:22PM
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