What are the pros and cons of aluminum siding?

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

We rarely see aluminum siding anymore. It first came on the market after World War II as an alternative to wood siding, and continued to be in demand for less-expensive new homes and as an improvement for older homes through the 1970s. During the height of its popularity in the 1950’s and 60’s, door-to-door salesmen canvassed older neighborhoods to sell re-siding of houses, with the pitch that their miracle siding would never rot and “you’ll never have to paint your house again!” 

    The 1987 movie Tin Men is a period comedy that tells a story of the antic rivalry between two high-pressure aluminum siding salesmen in 1960s Baltimore, starring Richard Dreyfuss and Danny DeVito. Fast-talking car salesmen were nowhere near as slick as “tin men,” as they called themselves.

    The energy crisis of the 1970s, which dramatically increased the price of raw aluminum, along with arrival of other alternatives to wood siding, began its slow decline in the marketplace. But aluminum siding has its virtues and is still available. Here’s a list of its pros and cons: 

PROS

  •  Lightweight and does not rust.
  •  Does not burn or melt in a house fire.
  •  Good waterproofing ability when properly installed.
  •  Aluminum is “green.” It’s recyclable. 

CONS

  •  Dents easily, and is difficult to repair or replace when damaged. This is the #1 problem with the product.
  •  The paint finish is similar to the baked-on enamel of a car and it oxidizes in the same way over time. Will need repainting after about 15 years, and removing the oxidation before repainting is labor-intensive.
  •  Also like a car, scratches in the paint finish are very obvious.
  •  It has gone out-of-style, is considered less desirable by homebuyers, and may decrease the value of a home today.

   The life expectancy of aluminum siding is 25 to 40 years, and possibly longer with good maintenance. It can be difficult at a glance to tell aluminum siding from vinyl, but tapping on it will make a characteristic metallic sound. Distinguishing between aluminum and steel siding, in the absence of any visible rust, is best done with a magnet to identify steel.

    Because the aluminum siding of a re-sided older home covers the original wood siding, home inspectors like us cannot tell if any damage in the original siding and wall framing was repaired before the new siding was applied—but usually it wasn’t. The primary purpose of this stuff was to quickly cover over a deteriorated wall and make it look fresh again.

    Also, see our blog posts What is engineered wood siding? and Should I buy a house with asbestos siding? and What do you look for when inspecting vinyl siding?

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To learn more about exterior walls and structures, see these other blog posts:

What is the average lifespan of a house foundation?

What causes vertical cracks in fiber cement siding planks?

What causes raised white lines of residue on a block wall that are crusty and crumbling? 

What is the difference between soil subsidence, heave, creep, and settlement? 

How much ventilation is required for the under-floor crawl space of a home? 

 What causes stair-step cracks in a block or brick wall?

What causes a horizontal crack in a block or brick wall? 

How can I tell if a diagonal crack in drywall at the corner of a window or door indicates a structural problem?

What causes the surface of old bricks to erode away into sandy powder? 

What are the pros and cons of concrete block versus wood frame construction?

Should I buy a house with a crawl space? 

Why is my stucco cracking?

There's cracks running along the home's concrete tie beam. What's wrong? 

What would cause long horizontal lines of brick mortar to fall out?

How do I recognize serious structural problems in a house?

Should I buy a house that has had foundation repair? 

What is a "continuous load path”?   

How can I tell if cracks in the garage floor are a problem or not? 

Why is housewrap installed on exterior walls under the siding? 

How do I recognize serious structural problems in a house?

Why did so many concrete block homes collapse in Mexico Beach during Hurricane Michael? 

How can I tell if the concrete block walls of my house have vertical steel and concrete reinforcement?

Should I buy a house with structural problems? 

What are those powdery white areas on my brick walls?

What causes cracks in the walls and floors of a house?

How can I tell if the exterior walls of a house are concrete block (CBS) or wood or brick?

What are the common problems of different types of house foundations? 

• What are the warning signs of a dangerous deck?

How can I tell whether my house foundation problems are caused by a sinkhole or expansive clay soil?

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