Answers to Your Siding Questions #3 Answers to Your Siding Questions #3

Q. My house is made of cypress on the exterior. Any ideas on how and what to use to protect the wood?

A. Cypress is a durable weather resistant wood. Some say it needs nothing done to it. I would put a coat of semi transparent stain on it. If it will last a long time with nothing on it, surely it would last even longer protected. You could also use Thompson's Water Seal. It is easy to apply but it is hard to get it to last two years. Be sure to wash the exterior down first if it has been up for a while. You can use bleach and water to wash it down with. That will remove any mildew and bring back some color to the wood if it is weathered.

Q. I am having my house resided and am considering having my wood windows covered in either aluminum or vinyl to make the maintenance free at the same time. I am concerned about moisture getting under the covering and rotting my windows over time.

A. The biggest problem when working on windows are people who do such a poor job on the aluminum cladding that they trap water inside the cladding and rot out the wood sills underneath. The problem with wrapping wood windows is that it's hard to keep the water out. There are several points where water might get in, if they do a poor job of it.

If you were considering this seriously, perhaps it would be a good idea to inspect some of the company's work and see how it looks. Some comapnies really do a poor job of cladding, so it would be worth your time to go look at their work. If you see lots of ugly caulking, they probably aren't very good craftsmen. Specifically, look for clean tight angles where the vertical trim meets the sill. Also, "think like a drip" and see if you can detect any places where water might be able to get in. The biggest problem areas are at the bottom corners of the storm windows. Keep in mind that when covering the exterior trim with trim coil, they won't be covering the window sashes, so you'll still be painting them regardless. It will just be less to paint, not totally maintenance free. If you are ever thinking of replacing your windows down the road, they can wrap your windows then, and likely do a 100 percent better job of it.

Q. I am in the process of getting bids for replacing old aluminum siding with vinyl siding. I have been told that I may have asbestos shingles under the aluminum siding. Two contractors have come in to give me bids and one contractor has said they would take down the aluminum and Tyvek the house, then put the vinyl up. The other contractor has said they would take down the old aluminum then put up the new vinyl.
My questions are:
1) Is wise to have the house wrapped in Tyvek?
2) How would the Tyvek be fastened to the house if I have the shingles still there?

A. 1) Yes, the Tyvek will provide protection from the water that gets behind your vinyl siding.
2) They would likely either use a staple gun with metal disks or cap nails. It's a bad idea to leave the asbestos/slate siding on. It should come off too.

Q. I just reviewed the current emailed DIY newsletter re installing vinyl siding. I understand the use of the j-channel above the window to serve to catch and divert rainwater, snow, etc. from above. I have vinyl siding with j-channel above wood frame windows, and the previous owner used caulk between the j-channel and window frame. The window frame extends about 1/4 inch beyond the j-channel. As vinyl and wood expand/contract at different rates, this does not seem a proper way to seal this, if in fact it does need to be sealed. Ideally, wouldn't you want a drip cap installed up under the siding and over the wood window frame? I don't see any type of vinyl siding product like this in the big box stores.

A. If your question is regarding "sealing" the window from water, that's something that is impossible to do with vinyl siding. All water has to do to get behind your vinyl siding is follow gravity down to the bottom of the j-channel, where it then gets behind your siding. Drip cap or no drip cap, this is going to happen.

Regarding caulking the j-channel to the wood trim, that's most often done in an attempt to make the job look better more "seamless." It really serves no purpose as far as keeping out water, since water gets behind the siding elsewhere.

Drip caps should be installed over the exterior trim boards before the siding goes on. The drip cap needs to be flashed behind the building paper in order to be effective. When a person caulks around the j-channel, he cannot caulk along the top of the drip cap, or else he will trap water behind the siding on top.

If your house is new, it's likely that your windows have nailing fins, the top of which should be properly flashed behind the building paper. Often, builders will install wood trim over the top of these nailing fins, and not worry about flashing it, assuming that since the window itself is flashed correctly, the trim is expendable and prone to leakage around the vinyl siding anyway.

Q. I really have no knowledge about siding, so I was hoping someone here could help me out. We just bought a house that was built in 1941 and love almost everything about it - what we don't love is the siding. The inspector said it's fascia board and that while it's very durable, that particular kind of fascia board is not easy to repair or replace. In addition, the edges near the foundation have been chipped away from years and years of being hit with the lawnmower. My wife and I would like to get new siding put on, to increase the value of the house and more importantly to make it look better. Which is better in terms of cost - vinyl or aluminum? We've been unable to find even a rough estimate online. How many thousands of dollars are we looking at here? Even your roughest estimate would help us out. Also, feel free to let us in on the other pros/cons of vinyl vs. aluminum.

A. First, you do not want aluminum siding. You are thinking of steel siding, and calling it aluminum. Most home improvement stores do not even carry aluminum siding any more. Not good stuff. Now, with that out of the way, we are talking vinyl vs. steel. There are pros and cons for each. Steel siding comes in lots of colors. The colors stay without fade for about 50 years if you buy the good stuff. However, steel costs at least twice as much, is very labor intensive to put on, is hard to replace a damaged piece, and will dent under a hard hail storm or rocks or baseballs. But it is a very good product. Vinyl comes in many colors, is easy to put on, easy to repair if damaged, and a lot cheaper then steel. It comes in three thicknesses, and for your area, I would use the middle thickness. As far as the cost goes, vinyl for 1500 sq. ft. would run you about $1,000, and steel about $2,000. This is material only. Most contractors can have your house prepped and sided in short order. Your labor will depend on how many windows you have, how many doors, how many corners, etc.

Q. I am looking at buying a new house. I had a termite inspection done. The house was OK but the detached garage had a problem with the sill plate is on the northwest corner of the garage. It has dry rot and/or termite damage in approximately 6 feet of the sill plate, which they said needs to be replaced. The bank wants it done before they give me the loan for the house. I have no clue on where to start - if I can be do it myself or if I need to get it done professionally?

A. If you have a home loan depending on this sill, have it professionally done. It will be done quick and correctly, and will pass inspection. You could do it with some instruction, but you have too much riding on this sill plate to take the time and do it yourself. Call a pro.

Q. I am trying to install a screen door on an existing exterior door. I was replacing an older wooden screen door so I had to replace the brick molding. I have two issues:
1. I attached new brick molding using 8d 2-1/2 inch brads 12 inches apart (about 7 total on each jam). Is this sufficient to hold the molding with the weight of the screen door or should I also use some trim screws?
2. The exterior door does not sit evenly so that it over hangs the wall evenly. Is there an easy way to seal under the sill?

A. 8d should do. 10d would have been better. The load is 90 degrees from the angle of the nails. You might check some of the soft sweeps available for the bottom of doors to see if one will seal yours. Otherwise, rehang the door.

Q. If the paint on siding is not flaking or chipping but just dirty (light mildew), do I need to sand or otherwise remove the mildew before painting, or can I paint right over it?

A. It must be cleaned and prepped right. Use one of the many paint prep washes such as TSP. If the area that has mildew tends to stay damp and moist, you can add a mildew additive to the paint to help prevent future mildew growth.

Q. I'm planning on staining my home this summer. The house currently has unfinished cedar clapboards (about 10 years old) with exposed square head nails which show no signs of rust. I'm planning to carefully power wash the exterior, let it dry well, and use one coat of oil base primer and two coats of oil base B. Moore solid stain. What's the best way to handle the nails? Leave them exposed or stain over them. Should I use anything when I power wash such as TSP or one of those bleach-based cleaners?

A. Use a cleaner. My favorite mix is household bleach 25 percent in water with a dash of laundry detergent. The bleach will kill any incipient mildew and the soap will carry off any residue on the surface. The purpose of cleaning is to clean, so use soap. You want the primer to bond. If the nails aren't showing rust after you wash, no other preparation is needed. If they show rust, then touch them up with a sealer-primer such as Kilz alkyd. Oil or alkyd paint and stain are quite popular, but not as well suited for wood as latex products because they make a rigid film that won't allow moisture to transpire as latex will.

Q. What type of nails should I use with t-11 siding?

A. Number 8 ring shank or spiral ring electro-galvanized nails should do fine.

Q. My vinyl shutters have faded badly by what seems to be oxidation. Can I remove the oxidation, and if so, how? After cleaning, can they be painted a different color?

A. Wash them with spic and span and a scrub brush, prime and paint. Use a top quality exterior latex primer and paint for best results.

Q. I have a vinyl ceiling on my porch that I cannot seem to open up. It appears to be soffit type material. I want to hang a porch swing on the trusses for the porch roof and need at least 6 ft. of access to put in the eyebolts, etc. I was able to remove the end piece and it looks like every 12" section width has at least three staples or nails attaching it to a piece of wood running near the truss joists. I cannot see these nails from below. How do you remove this type of material, and more importantly, how do you put it back together?

A. Get yourself a vinyl siding "unlock tool." You insert it under the lip of the vinyl soffit can be a little hard to get in, so you usually try it on the end. Once you have it hooked, you pull it toward you and downward while sliding it along the length of the piece of soffit, unzipping it from its interlock. Select the piece you want to remove, unzip the soffit on both sides of it, and you should be able to remove the nails and get it out.

Q. On a scale from 1-10, how difficult would it be to install vinyl siding myself? What do you do about the corners of the house - how is it attached?

A. The work is more exacting than difficult. Here is a how-to on installing vinyl siding: .

Q. I want to restain my home. I pressure washed the log siding with professional strength bleach and still cannot remove it all. What can I do?

A. Try using some laundry detergent on the stubborn areas. Make sure everything is rinsed well. I would only paint as a last resort, but it should adhere fine. It is quite possible that the areas in question may look fine after being stained; after all stained wood is never completely uniform.

Q. Can someone tell me how people usually go about cleaning up the outside of a clapboard house?

A. Use a low PSI pressure washer with a sprayer capable of a wide fan. With the wand 4' away from the house, the fan spray should be about 3' wide. You can still spray a mild detergent on it to help clean is faster. I use simple green to clean vinyl and aluminum.

Q. Can and will mildew continue to grow on the wood even after it is covered with vinyl siding? That is, even if I clean the wood, can the mildew return after the siding is put up?

A. Definitely remove the mildew before proceeding. Yes, it will continue to grow. If your siding contractor is going to cover up mildew, what else is he going to cover up? Just a question! Have all the cedar wood removed, and then installed the new vinyl siding.

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