Back in the day, homeowners weren’t blessed with unlimited options when it came to house siding. You could pretty much choose from stone, brick, or wood—all solid, durable selections that are still in use, although they’re not nearly as popular as some of the latest alternatives.
Aluminum ushered in the modern age of siding, becoming a go-to choice in the 1940s and ‘50s. Home inspectors still find it on homes constructed in the 1970s. As the 1960s came into view, vinyl siding—with its easy maintenance, a palette of colors, myriad styles, and a longer lifespan—flourished, relegating aluminum to bottom-tier status in suburban America. On the heels of ubiquitous vinyl, siding installations came lap siding, plywood T1-11 siding, and others.
For home inspectors, the range of siding varieties demands a superior knowledge of what to look out for during the exterior portion of a home inspection. Each type of siding comes with its own list of advantages, disadvantages, common defects, and installation difficulties.
This is one of many reasons why hiring a certified home inspector, like those at A-Pro Home Inspection, is an imperative step in the home-buying process. Your inspector will be able to pinpoint problems regardless of the type of siding, from aluminum to state-of-the-art insulated vinyl. Concerns will be detailed in a home inspection report.
Siding defects generally fall into three categories: poor installation, problems inherent with the material itself, and impact or insect damage. Here are four types of siding and common problems that have been noted by the A-Pro Home Inspection team over the last 26 years:
Vinyl: Your inspector will check for obvious cold-weather-related cracking and heat-induced distortions. From an installation standpoint, the inspector will report on improper clearance at all openings and stops necessary to allow for expansion/contraction that occurs due to temperature swings; nails that are crooked, causing panel buckling; nailheads hammered flush against the hem, forcing snap-in-place connections to break off; fasteners driven through the siding’s face; and lack of necessary free horizontal panel movement. Further, the inspector will determine if house wrap or building paper has been installed behind the non-watertight siding as a means to prevent moisture damage from rain that finds its way behind panels.
Aluminum: Aluminum siding, while still available today, doesn’t rank high on homeowner’s most-wanted lists. Most aluminum siding inspections will involve older homes. The inspector will make note of significant, and often difficult-to-repair, dents in the siding (as opposed to cracking, which is common with vinyl material); the presence of corroded panels; siding that is in contact with the ground; electrical grounding issues (where applicable); and bulging, particularly near the bottom.
Wood: Wood siding encompasses a variety of types, including plywood, weatherboard, shingles and shakes, planks, and hardboard. While highly pleasing to the eye, exterior wood cladding comes with a number of potential issues, including rot due to leaks and condensation; damage from wood-destroying insects; buckling and cracking—often the result of poor installation practices; deterioration caused by wood being too close to the ground; lack of house wrap or building paper; vines, ivy, or other vegetation coverings, which can promote moisture damage; and rusted or corroded nails.
Fiber Cement: Fiber cement siding, made by combining wood pulp, Portland cement, silica, and other materials, has the look of wood without issues like rot, insect damage, woodpecker holes, and problems caused by expanding and contracting. Proper installation is essential. Some problems your home inspector may uncover include nails that have not been driven into studs, poorly installed kick-out and cap flashing, insufficient roof-to-siding clearance, overdriven nails or nails not driven in straight, panels too close to finished grade, and cracked or split siding caused by cold temperatures affecting water-absorbed panels.