Inspecting siding: winter maintenance and repair

Inspecting siding: winter maintenance and repair

Your siding doesn't just need to look pretty. It's true purpose is to prevent the elements from damaging your home. If you want it to do its job, it's important that you perform siding inspections, maintenance, and any necessary repairs every spring and fall.

What do you look for when you check your siding, and what kinds of maintenance and repairs might be needed? Each type of residential exterior cladding requires different care, but what you should look for when you inspect any siding are areas where moisture might be getting beneath your siding and ultimately causing damage to the walls of your home, both outside and in.

Wood, stucco, masonry, or vinyl siding: maintenance tips for winter

In addition to washing your siding at least once a year and trimming back any large branches or overgrown shrubs close to your home, inspect for these issues and make the following repairs if you find them:

  • Wood siding. The best line of defense for wood siding against moisture, mold, rot and insect damage is paint or stain. Both must be reapplied -- at least two to five years for paint and every five to seven years for stain. If your inspection reveals evidence of flaking or wrinkled paint, or if the stain has faded, it's time. More serious issues may be present if your painted wood siding shows signs of peeling or blistering, which can indicate warm, moist air from inside your house is seeping through the walls. Installing vents in the siding may help. Also check for dry rot, caused by a fungus, as well as termite damage. The latter requires treatment by a professional. Repair and replace damaged wood. Then, prep and repaint or re-stain your siding.
  • Stucco. While stucco is mostly maintenance free, inspect for cracks, especially small hairline and large vertical cracks from the roof line or from doors and windows. Repair any cracks, bulges, and holes and apply an elasteromeric paint, which can help prevent these types of defects from reoccurring.
  • Masonry. Even bricks and stones can be damaged. Test the firmness of the mortar joints by scratching them with a screwdriver. If the joints crumble or mortar is missing, the mortar needs to be repaired or replaced. Likewise, cracked, chipped, loose or missing bricks or stones must be addressed. A white powdery substance may indicate water intrusion, either through cracks, around flashing and joints, or from deteriorated caulking.
  • Vinyl. Vinyl siding maintenance usually just involves washing with a soft bristle brush and Fantastik® or a solution of vinegar and water. The newer, high-quality, heavier gauge products being installed today are extremely durable and easy to care for. Inspect older vinyl siding for cracked or loose panels. These need to be replaced. While vinyl siding is water-resistive, if you suspect water intrusion, removing panels to check beneath is relatively simple.

When installed properly, vinyl siding does not require caulking. For other types of siding, check for worn or damaged caulking and replace where necessary. There are many types of caulking -- all with their particular attributes. Keep in mind, however, that one of the most popular -- 100 percent silicone -- cannot be painted.

If you take care of your siding, not only can it last a lifetime, but it can continue to do its job protecting your home.

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