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Side by Siding When it Comes to Exterior Maintenance, Time is Not on a building's Side

 As spring dawns anew on the frigid New England landscape, many condo dwellers  will get their first prolonged looks at Mother Nature’s wintery ravages. Likely nowhere is this better seen than on a property’s exterior siding, much of which may need cleaning or replacement in the season  ahead.

 For those properties that do need large-scale siding replacements, experts say  there are a few tips to remember for long-term siding success. “No matter which type of siding you choose, the primary thing you need to  consider is what you put in there for a barrier,” explains Jack Carr, senior vice president of the Portland, Maine-based  Criterium Engineers. A professional engineer and reserve specialist, Carr says  the correct installation of a property’s building wrap—what Carr calls “building flashing”—is the most important aspect of any new siding job. “Every joint needs to be sealed with tape. It needs to be overlapped. It needs to  be done properly around the corners.”  

 In addition to the all-important building wrap, thoughtful contractors will  often recommend a global window replacement as a part of any major siding job. “It’s the rare property where we convince every homeowner it’s the right thing to do,” says Ralph Noblin, P.E., of Bridgewater, Massachusetts-based Noblin & Associates. “If you don’t replace the windows after 25 years because the homeowner screams that he doesn’t have the money, it’s gonna haunt you.”  

 Experts say a proper interface between newly installed windows and the building  wrap will prove the most important aspect of any condo’s weather barrier. “If those things are done properly, no matter what siding they put on, the  building will be tight,“ says Carr. “If the property manager or board were to insist on any one thing, they should  insist that every important point of the barrier installation be checked off on  some sort of checklist—that some supervisory level person, not the guy installing it, checks off every  single joint.”  

 Options Abound

 When it comes time to choose the actual siding materials, today’s condo boards have more options than ever—from vinyl to fiber cement to eco-friendly recycled clapboards, most of which  are constructed from post-consumer wood products. Yet many top engineers are  skeptical of such “green” innovations. “I think some of [those products] haven’t lasted very long,” says Carr. “If that recycled product only lasts five years, it wasn’t all that green.”  

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Comments

  • Lucky to live in a Brick Condo on Saturday, December 7, 2013 11:01 AM
    says Noblin. “Well, feelings are for counseling sessions. That stuff, even though it feels heavy, really doesn’t last on the outside of a building. Vinyl is definitely superior in my mind.” That's one of the only times I've seen vinyl siding show up in the same sentence as the word "superior". Fiber-cement may have have had its problems in cold climates (it was conceived in Australia), but I've seen it used successfully all over NE in recent years (take a look at some of the newer wood-framed McDonald's outlets). My understanding it that it needs to painted on 6 sides, with flashing under the joints, rather than caulking in them. It also requires a narrow drainage space in northern climates. If it's installed correctly, there is no reason to doubt its longevity, though it hasn't been sold in this area long enough to have a track record. Vinyl siding, on the other hand, is just about guaranteed to look shabby after 20 or 25 years and to be in dire need of replacement after 35 years, giving it a shorter live than wood, stucco, brick or fiber-cement's precursor, asbestos-cement. It also makes a building look like a cheap toy. I'd take a chance or Hardi Plank, or go for brick, stucco, wood, anything but vinyl siding. And, the newer, "premium" varieties with the fake-shingle look are sometimes even worse looking.