Siding: Clean, Paint or Replace?

Due to age, environmental conditions or bad weather, the siding we put on our homes will eventually need attention. It’s true that proper maintenance will go a long way in keeping things nice, but the day will come when you pull into your driveway (or company does), and you see that something must be done.  Depending on the type of siding you have or the extent of the need for attention, there are a lot of options and decisions to make:

Clean?

You’d be surprised what a good cleaning will do! It is recommended to clean aluminum, vinyl or wood siding at least once per year. The most common way is to use a pressure washer, which can easily be purchased or rented.  Depending on which type of siding you have, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Wood siding should be carefully checked for holes or gaps before using a pressure washer. You need to avoid excess moisture from getting underneath the wood, causing moisture issues. Also, since wood is a relatively soft material, great care should be used to avoid gouging and splintering of the wood from the high-pressure stream of water.
  • Aluminum siding can easily be cleaned with a mild soap solution, and it is even recommended to wash more often than vinyl or wood to help prevent oxidation and corrosion over time. 
  • Vinyl siding also easy to pressure wash, though some of the textured finishes like pebble or wood grain will hold more dirt, requiring more frequent washings.

Paint?

Painting your siding is certainly more expensive and time consuming that a simple wash, but it may be something that can’t be avoided.  With proper preparation, a good paint job may be all you need to keep you home looking great for years.

  • If the existing paint on your wood siding is cracked or peeling, then it is most likely in need of a fresh coat. Depending on how many layers of paint there are, you may need to strip or grind the existing paint off. Though there are a lot of variables, a good paint job can last 4 to 10 years.
  • Aluminum siding is built to last 30-40 years. The baked enamel finish will begin to fade over time and may eventually begin to take on a chalky, dull look. That is the oxidation taking its toll, and it may be that cleaning cannot fully resolve this problem.  Fortunately, aluminum siding can be painted with excellent results. It won’t expand and contract like wood and the paint adheres very well. You can expect a good paint job to last at least 8-12 years.
  • For years it was not recommended to paint vinyl siding, but now many paint manufacturers have developed technologies that make this a viable and cost effective option. Before these breakthroughs, there were issues with the paint adhering to the vinyl surface properly, and buckling problems if a darker color was used over a light colored siding.

Replace?

A fresh coat of paint can make a big difference, but it can’t fix everything! Wood rots and splits. Aluminum can dent and puncture. Vinyl cracks, especially in cold weather.

  • Wood siding can deteriorate rapidly if left to exposure and moisture. It is also prone to insects, where aluminum and vinyl are safe.  One of the advantages of wood siding is that it is easy to replace individual sections prior to painting, enabling you cut costs by only replacing exactly the parts that you need and painting the rest.
  • If aluminum siding is damaged, paint will not likely cover the problem.  Heavy hail or winds can twist and dent aluminum siding. In these cases, replacing it is really the only option.
  • Vinyl siding can be replaced in sections and is relatively easy to do. However the most difficult part may be matching color, especially if you want to avoid painting.