How To Look At A House

McGarry and Madsen's home inspection blog for buyers of  

site-built, mobile/manufactured and modular homes

What are the pros and cons of vinyl siding?

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Although vinyl siding has been around since the 1960s, it did not gain much marketshare until the late 1980s. Today it is the most popular siding material, and about one-third of new homes are vinyl sided.


•• Least expensive installed cost of all siding options.

•• Low maintenance.

•• Color emebedded in material. Does not need to be painted.

•• Available with a foam insulation backing that both adds energy efficiency to an older home and increases the impact resistance of the vinyl.


•• Fading - Color fades from UV-sunlight over time, which is one reason it is not offered in dark colors. Like any building material, it is offered in budget to premium price ranges, with the premium vinyl being more fade-resistant. Vinyl siding can be painted, but you must use a paint specifically manufactured for vinyl siding to get good paint adhesion. Go to our blog post Can vinyl siding be painted? for more on this.

•• Impact Damage - Vinyl siding is more easily damaged than most other sidings. Missing chunks along the lowest plank are typical when a string weed trimmer is used for edging next to the house. 

•• Heat Deformation - Regular outdoor heat does not affect it, but a barbecue grille placed too close to the siding can cause an area of sagging, half-melted planks. Sometimes reflected heat from a nearby window can cause deformation too.

•• Improper Installation - Vinyl siding must be carefully installed to the manufacturer’s specs to be a good weather-resistant cladding. When the J-channels and other trim pieces are installed the wrong way, or just omitted completely, water can get behind the siding at door and window openings, and moisture enters the wall.

    It’s important to note that vinyl siding is not designed to be waterproof. According to the Vinyl Siding Institute, a national trade organization, “vinyl siding, insulated siding, and polypropylene siding are exterior claddings, not water-resistive barriers, and are designed to allow the material underneath to breathe. This factor provides a supplemental rainscreen that reduces the amount of water that reaches an underlying water-resistive barrier.” But sloppy installation means that more than a little water will get behind the “supplemental rainscreen"—and eventually cause a problem. 

    Also, see our blog post What is the average life expectancy of vinyl siding? and Should I be suspicious about a concrete block house covered with siding? and Can vinyl lap siding be installed diagonally?

     Go to our blog post What is the average lifespan of the parts of a house? for rating of other house components. To understand the basis, potential use, and limitations of lifespan ratings, see our blog post How accurate are the average life expectancy ratings of home components? Are they actually useful? 

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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?

What is engineered wood siding?

Should I buy a house that has had foundation repair? 

What is a "continuous load path”?

Should I buy a house with asbestos siding?   

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

What do you look for when inspecting vinyl siding?

Why is housewrap installed on exterior walls under the siding? 

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?

        Visit our EXTERIOR WALLS AND STRUCTURE page for other related blog posts on this subject, or go to the INDEX for a complete listing of all our articles. 

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