What to Look for in a Premium Vinyl Siding

Vinyl Siding 101 – What to look for in a Great siding job and not get ripped off! Are you thinking about getting Vinyl Siding on your home? Big companies like Home Depot sub your job out to the lowest bidder. That is after they sell it to you for well over $20,000. The products they use are only builder grade and sometime look terrible after they are installed.!

As a siding professional, I really can’t thank them enough because I get a few jobs a year just fixing mistakes from other contractors. For example; I may be at a prospective customer’s house for an estimate and they just had their siding done. I will tell them “it looks nice” because I know they’re are not going to do it again. I am really just being polite because I know when I see a job that looks terrible and is installed incorrectly or they used a cheap product. The fact is “they got what they paid for and still got ripped off”. Don’t let this happen to you, vinyl siding should be and investment that will look great and save you energy.

Just learning one of the steps that I give you below inside out and you will know vastly more than anyone on the planet that has had vinyl siding installed on their home. Follow these steps where we talk about what makes a good job from a bad job. And you will have the piece of mind when hiring a contractor.


It’s rare these days that I have to sell anybody on Vinyl Siding. People know they need it or want it. If you do the math a good paint job will cost almost as much as Vinyl Siding. I use a product that as long as I can remember no one has ever called me back to say this job terrible or the quality of the product is garbage.

I make sure that my clients knows the product inside and out before they sign the contract to start the work. And then I detail everything I told them on the contract , reading aloud before they sign , just to make sure there is no misunderstanding!. There is never a question whether the product is good or not. Whether they are willing to pay for a “job done right”is often where the trouble starts!


First of all vinyl siding doesn’t conduct any heat or cold making it a great insulator. There is a wide variety of colors on the market that are tested, tried and true and won’t fade the way older products have in the past. It’s very similar to car paint. If you look at the way technology has improved over the years there are some beautiful car paint colors that were not available just 20 years ago.

The same thing is true with vinyl siding which is a product that would fade in the sun, crack, warp or split. I am not telling you that this won’t happen. If you go to the local supply yard or home depot and buy the product that they have on their shelves there is a good chance that you don’t know what your getting and you could have a nightmare on your hands. The main purpose of installing a Vinyl Siding system is to protect the structure from the elements. To keep it dry. Moisture is the #1 enemy. By following the simple steps below you will be guaranteed a great job, in which form follows function and you will end up with an attractive energy saving house.

Step 1.Tyvek Vapor Barrier™- Biggest Fallacy- “this is insulation” in fact it helps the insulation by keeping air in & moisture, mold and mildew out. The siding system that we use had been adopted into building codes. Your homes’ worse enemy is the elements. Moisture and wind driven rain will cause wood rot and excessive moisture from condensation causing mold and mildew. Moisture can be trapped in walls for years , without a vapor barrier. According to Dupont labs the average 2500 square foot home has more than ½ mile of cracks in the walls. Leaving many chances for air and water to get into your home. The vapor barrier “lets air in and keep moisture out” Vapor barrier • Stops drafts, • Helps insulation work better • Cuts energy bills • Keeps out water • Stops mold and mildew and rot • Let’ exterior moisture escape out

Step 2. Dow Styrofoam™ Board Insulation – Biggest Fallacy- White “foam insulation” also known as coffee cup or cooler insulation is all you need” Fact is : the white stuff is called expanded polystyrene beads and do not provide any resistance to moisture or insulation qualities. We offer an option of a ½” to ¾” Dow board insulation. Keep in mind there are other thickness’ only adding to the amount of insulation and the overall cost of the job. This not only seals the house from wind driven rains and moisture. Added on top of the vapor barrier Dow Board will keep the structure dry and well insulated. Dow board is much thicker and holds up longer than ordinary fan fold insulation. Dow has the trademark for Styrofoam. Styrofoam was originally patented in 1942 for the U.S. Coastguard as a flotation device. This means that it is not going to absorb any moisture making a nice addition to our 2cnd siding step for keeping your structure dry. The Fan fold (the white stuff with silver foil on one side) was originally designed to get to the jobsite easier because instead of coming in large 4’x8′ boards, you can fit all the insulation for a whole house in one small van. Making it easy to transport because it folds so nicely. The problem is when it folds it comes apart and worse of all it sucks up and retains moisture. “It’s like wrapping your house with white coffee cups, fold an coffee cup and what happens?” I once witnessed training for on of the largest siding and window companies in america that had an elaborate presentation to convince people that the fanfold insulation was the best on the market. Meanwhile, all they were doing was saving themselves a ton of money by offering “Junk” to their customers. Also having high quality siding system is that by having a heavy insulation underneath is that it is going to add to overall strength and tightness of the siding as its “hung” on the structure.

Step 3. Galvanized Steel Starter Strip – Biggest Fallacy – you don’t need a starter strip. Or a flimsy vinyl will do- if fact it makes siding bubble. Ask anyone that just had vinyl siding done “what kind of starter strip did you get?” Guaranteed they don’t know, better yet – bet them some money, say-” I bet you don’t know what kind of starter strip you have”. The sad part is ask them what kind of options their new car has and they will know everything on the list. Vinyl siding is hung on house and not nailed to it. It has to allow for expansion and contraction and needs a little bit of give for this to happen. Vinyl Siding is really nothing more than attractive looking rain coat for your house. In adding to our moisture resistant system for your house we use a Galvanized Steel Starter strip. Galvanized doesn’t rust “they make boat trailers out of it” . Steel is much stronger than vinyl or wood. Galvanized steel will carry the siding over any curves or dips that may be in a homes wall therefore not allowing the siding to dip and giving you a lousy looking job.

Step 4 – Siding Panel – Biggest Fallacy – Siding is siding it’s all the same! “It is all the same if you’re an ignorant penny pincher or you just refuse to get educated to see the difference”. Most people agree “cheapest is the best” – NO WAY! If you have been in your present home more than 2 years when picking out a siding you want to pick a product that is better then what the builder originally put on the house. You want to pick a more premium product. The key to remember is that siding offered by home depot or a builders supply are builders grade. So it is a cheap product that is designed to install inexpensively . Notice I didn’t say it was cheaper just that the quality isn’t the same. The savings is usually in the time and labor it saves the builder, not you the homeowner. By improving your siding you want to take it to the next level. You want to “kick it up a notch” a premium product should be: • Rigid and strong • Withstand the elements • Look like real wood • Look great form the street • Have a great warranty • At least a .40″ thickness • Have a double wide nailing hem • Be installed in a documented tried and true system The product I usually recommend to clients has all these features plus a zinc reinforced curvature rod. This rod is actually built into the panel itself, this helps to insure rigidity and makes for clean straight course lines and even walls. The nailing hem on siding is almost always over looked. Make sure the siding you use has a thick double layered nailing hem. The one I recommend will stay nailed in and has been tested to withstand 150mph winds. Looking at this panel from across the street or down the block it not only looks like real wood but has depth and character. Between each board you can see a shadow to it making it look like freshly painted wood. It is so strong it can actually hold a heavy cinder block up while being suspended on the back of 2 chairs. This is a premium product. You also have to watch the make up of the vinyl itself. Many companies use a recycled vinyl in their panels. This is something you really have to look for. This will adversely effect how quickly the siding wears out. The products I recommend are 100 % virgin grade and have Ti-pure™ titanium dioxide (an ingredient found in car paints) this prevents ultraviolet degradation , so even the hot summer sun wont damage the surface. Its virgin grade is a patented mix and not recycled the tried and true mixture, will not warp, bend, shrink or swell and stands up to humidity therefore complimenting the system underneath. Soffets- Soffets are for over hangs on your home from gables and for under roofs or porticos or porches. A premium job will use a vented channeled soffet or a bead board. These are much stronger than the flimsy builder’s grade soffets you should beware of.

Step 5 Trim, blocks, j-channels and corner posts- Biggest Fallacy – you don’t know what they are, because your installer doesn’t want to spend the extras money to buy them. Light blocks, vent covers, hose surrounds, gable vents, and j-channels – with these your job will look clean and professional and the warranty will be in full force. Without them your siding will look terrible and actually start to deteriorate and fall apart. Most siding will increase the value of a job, by not including these essentials ,your job decreases the value of your home. The reason I stress this the most is that I see it all the time. For example if your installer put an exterior light fixture on your wall without a mounted light block and you needed to replace the fixture, the only way to do so would be to remove the whole wall of siding instead of just the block. What a pity. All for an $8.00 light block!

Clean, crisp trim and lineals – In addition to the essentials described above. Trim and lineals, door surrounds and shutters will add to the value and curb appeal of your siding job. Many people stop at this level. Often described as “Crown Molding for your home exterior”. Perhaps a dental molding along the top of the home or grooved panels aside each door with a keystone crown above the entry way . These accents will really add to the value your home. Reputable contractors love an educated customer. Now you know more than most installers do. If you have any questions feel free to email me I will help you any way I can. Peter K. Cooke

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