FEMA advice for vinyl siding installation

FEMA advice for vinyl siding installation

Super storms, hurricanes, and Nor'easters -- it almost seems as if the East Coast is being hit with some sort of extreme weather event on a weekly basis. And if you live in another part of the country, your home may be contending with tornadoes, severe thunderstorms, or blizzards much more frequently than in the past.

While the experts are debating the reasons for the changing climate, you might have a more immediate concern: Is vinyl still a good choice as an exterior siding for your home?

Minimizing wind damage

As images of homes missing sections of siding flood the airwaves in the aftermath of major storms, you might question the durability of vinyl because of its somewhat flimsy appearance. If you live in an area prone to high winds, is there a vinyl better suited to surviving storms or should you consider a different cladding material?

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) knows about natural disasters and the effects they can have on houses. FEMA reports that vinyl panels can be used on homes located on the coast and in other high wind areas, but offer the following recommendations:

  • Wind load. All vinyl siding must pass wind load testing. Choose a product that meets or exceeds the minimum wind load requirements for your area. If you're unsure of what those requirements are, check with your local building inspection office.
  • Siding panels. Thicker gauge vinyl often offers better wind resistance than thinner varieties during severe weather. Look for a material in a .040- to .048-inch gauge.
  • Locking system. Vinyl panels are designed to lock together during installation. Choose a siding that has a beefed up locking area and a double nailing hem. This arrangement offers better protection against the wind catching one panel and removing an entire section from the exterior wall.
  • Nailing. Fasteners should have heads that are a minimum of 5/16-inch diameter and the shanks should be 1/8-inch diameter. Position fasteners in the centers of the nailing slots whenever possible and leave spacing of about 1/32 inch between the nail heads and the panels for movement during your vinyl siding installation.
  • Sheathing. Using plywood or OSB board as the sheathing on the gable ends of your home provides a better anchor for vinyl than foam insulation board. The plywood can also offer better protection for the interior of your home if any panels are lost in a storm.
  • Overlaps. All vinyl panel overlaps should be at least one inch and the joints should lie flat.

FEMA also recommends that when using vinyl siding in a region prone to high winds, your installer should be certified by the Vinyl Siding Institute. Very few siding materials can survive a direct hit from a severe storm, but vinyl can be a good choice for high wind areas if you follow these tips.

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