Top 8 Causes of Siding Problems and How to Avoid Them

Algae on vinyl siding

One of the most important elements protecting everything within your home is the siding. Sure, it’s not the most exciting home renovation project to think about, but it’s vitally important, especially considering siding has a life span that will vary depending on what it has been through.

The following are things you should consider that can limit the lifespan of your siding:

1) Pests

pests damaged wood

Wood siding is particularly vulnerable to pests. They range from woodpeckers searching for a meal to bugs and carpenter bees looking for refuge and sustenance. Termites will tunnel their way through wood, as will powder post beetles, severely limiting the protection your siding will offer. But it’s not just the wood siding that can fall victim – other siding products supported by underlying wood structures are also vulnerable.

To prevent pests from destroying your siding, try using insecticides, or hot water running through a spray nozzle at 160 to 180 degrees. You can also use eco-friendly products on surrounding trees that might be the source of many pests to eradicate them without damaging the trees.

2) Moisture

Siding is designed to keep moisture out. When damaged, sometimes in ways you can’t even see, moisture becomes a serious issue, regardless of what type you have on your home. The telltale signs of moisture affecting your siding and your home is when you see warping and buckling.

3) Bad maintenance habits

Old lead paint peeling off of wood siding

Most siding is marketed as low maintenance, but that doesn’t mean it can go neglected – it needs to be inspected, especially after severe weather. Over time, the problems compound and you’ll eventually fall into an “emergency” situation. With a regular maintenance schedule with your siding contractor, you will catch the small stuff before it becomes a major issue.

It’s recommended to have an inspection on a yearly basis and after severe weather, especially those involving high winds. You can also check it out yourself periodically, looking for sealant cracks and exposed nails and other abnormalities. If you spot something, call your siding contractor.

4) Bad install

Not all contractors are created equal. Some don’t have the experience necessary to install the siding correctly, which can significantly reduce the its lifespan. Do your homework and research contractors in your area. Ask around – talk to friends, family and neighbors and see whom they recommend. Make sure your short list of prospects can back up their work with plenty of references.

5) Roof issues

While it might seem like a completely opposite topic, the quality of your roof impacts the stability of your siding. When your roof begins to fail, such as shingles that are wearing out and allowing moisture to get underneath and into the under layers, the moisture can also work its way to your siding, causing damage to the understructures. While your siding might look fine, a lot is going on underneath that can lead to major issues later.

6) Weather

House damage

Hail doesn’t have to be as big as a table tennis ball to ruin your siding. For that matter, any debris making contact with your siding in high winds will make it’s mark, sometimes less visible than others, but it can still warrant repair or replacement. Furthermore, severe winter weather also takes its toll on siding as ice turns to water, gets into small cracks and freezes again, creating significant damage over time.

After a big storm with high winds or during significant winter weather, be sure to call your contractor and schedule an inspection whether you see visible damage or not. They know what to look for and will recommend the proper fixes, from minor repairs to a complete replacement.

7) Fading

Siding manufacturers are doing a great job of putting out products that are resistant to fading due to sunlight exposure. But they can only do so much, as ultraviolet light will eventually cause discoloration, making for an inconsistent appearance that is rather off-putting.

8) Loud siding

Your siding isn’t supposed to be “loud” (unless you’ve chosen a particularly garish color). However, when it is not properly installed, it will generate noise as the wind goes over it. It will also make noise as the temperature fluctuates and the siding expands and contracts. It’s often the case that the contractor installed it too tightly, not allowing for expansion and contraction, which leads to noises you don’t want to hear.

The common siding problems by siding type

As you can see in the chart below, wood siding incurs the most problems, from pests to moisture to fading and failures due to roof issues. That’s not going to stop people from having cedar and LP SmartSide wood siding installed on their homes – there is nothing like the allure of natural wood. However, with proper maintenance and regular inspections, yours can last as long as advertised.

Horizontal siding houses with different types materials: vinyl, cedar, James Hardie, LP Smart

While vinyl siding is the most popular choice for homeowners, it also has its issues. That being said, the common thread here is that bad installation will impact any type of siding you put on your house. It doesn’t matter if it’s vinyl, cedar, fiber cement or SmartSide wood – a bad install is the worst-case scenario impacting all types of siding.

Vinyl siding Cedar siding JH fiber cement siding LP SmartSide wood siding
1) Pests - + - +
2) Moisture - + - +
3) Bad maintenance habits - + + +
4) Bad install + + + +
5) Roof issues + + - +
6) Hail & wind damage + + + +
7) Fading + + + +
8) Loud siding + - - -

Top vinyl siding problems

Vinyl siding comes in many shapes, sizes and colors; plus – it’s cost effective, which makes it the top choice for homeowners today. Despite its popularity, there are issues you need to be aware of, including the following:

  • Warping and buckling

    Heat and cold will cause vinyl to expand and contract. If it is installed properly, it will adjust accordingly and reduce the probability of warping and buckling. When installed too tightly, it has no mobility and won’t allow for the expansion in the summer heat or contraction in the winter cold.

  • Releases toxins at high temperatures

    Most vinyl siding is made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which contains a host of toxic chemicals. Dioxin, a carcinogen, is one of them. Lead, which is also toxic, is present in the stabilizing agent in vinyl siding. These chemicals aren’t an issue unless exposed to high heat, which is when they can be released and go airborne. This doesn’t occur via exposure to sunlight, but will happen in the event of a house fire.

  • Excessive noise is usually associated with vinyl

    It’s not uncommon for loose-fitting vinyl siding to flap in the wind, causing significant noise. Weather fluctuations will also cause noises to siding as it expands and contracts, especially if it was installed too tightly, in which case you’ll hear creaking or popping sounds. It’s not an issue for most people, but if you’re distracted/annoyed by noise, it might get to you.

How to avoid vinyl siding problems

The first defense in avoiding vinyl siding problems is to work with a professional contractor with years of experience. They’ll make sure the siding is installed perfectly, which will help you avoid the most common problems.

Your second line of defense is to follow a regular inspection/maintenance schedule. Weather, ultraviolet rays, a house’s shifting foundation and high winds can impact even the best installs. Your contractor will spot problems before they become a major nuisance.

House after vinyl siding installation

Finally, make sure the vinyl siding you choose is from a quality manufacturer. Top contractors will work with the best products on the market, but if you insist on a cheap and poorly made product, you’re going to get what you pay for.

Top cedar siding problems

If you’re looking for real wood siding, you’re probably leaning quite heavily toward cedar. It makes total sense – it’s among the most popular options for real wood siding. It’s easy to push any problematic issues that might come along with something you really want, but consider the following most common problems and make sure you’re doing what you can to mitigate the issues:

  • Moisture

    Left untreated, cedar will become a target for moisture. Even the most carefully installed cedar siding will be impacted by moisture over time, but especially if it is not treated. Moisture will blow in through the seams on a windy, rainy day and be absorbed by supporting structures.

  • Woodpecker damage

    There are roughly seven species of woodpecker in the Midwest, and any of them could target your cedar siding. If you’re adjacent to a wooded area, your siding could be a highly prized target. These birds have been known to “drill” holes two inches in diameter in siding. They generally target the seam between planks and they can go as deep as your insulation while digging for food.

  • Warping in the wood (long term affects)

    While cedar is resistant to warping (as most coniferous woods are), if you have unseasoned cedar installed, it can shrink, which will cause warping. Another issue that can cause warping is if it is nailed too tightly, which won’t allow it to expand or contract as it heats and cools.

  • Wood siding is more susceptible to attack from pests than other materials

    We’ve covered bird damage to cedar siding, so what are the other culprits? Termites would be one of the more obvious ones, and they’ll tunnel up from wood underground when the source runs out and attack your siding. Carpenter ants, powder post beetles and carpenter bees are also on the attack. While any of these can target underlying wooden structures under other siding material types, cedar is a more obvious and easier target than non-wood materials.

How to avoid cedar siding problems

Cedar siding needs to be treated to protect it from the elements and from pests. While cedar contains tannic acid, which is a natural protectant against pests, years of weathering can displace the acid. One of the most common treatments include a water-repellent preservative. Another is a quality stain-blocking primer, which will keep it protected from the elements and slow the aging/staining, which is natural in this material type.

House after cedar lap siding installation

As with any siding type, installation is vital to its performance. Cedar installation takes a higher level of expertise, which means if you’ve done your research and chosen the right contractor, your cedar problems should be easily avoided.

Top James Hardie fiber cement siding problems

Fiber cement siding is a popular choice among homeowners looking to get long life out of their siding. Introduced in the 1980s, it now has numerous design options, including colors. James Hardie fiber cement siding is considered among the best of its kind on the market today and is the recommended choice of top contractors. Despite its durability, it has some issues you should know about.

  • Fiber cement is not the most environmentally friendly siding

    Fiber cement siding is a mixture of cellulose fibers, cement and sand, but it also includes some harmful ingredients, including crystalline silica, which is a carcinogen. Carbon black, also found in this product, is a known carcinogen. While not all exposure will lead to something as serious as cancer, it can be a lung irritant that leads to health issues.

  • Not the most energy efficient option

    Wood and vinyl siding have been found to be more energy efficient than fiber cement, which means when you go with this option, you can expect higher utility bills.

  • Fiber cement is difficult to install

    Heavier than many other siding products, fiber cement is more difficult to transport, handle and install, which means labor costs can be higher. For example, 100 square feet of it weighs around 300 pounds, compared to vinyl, which will weigh around 60 to 70 pounds for the amount of coverage. The material can break easily while being handled, which can lead to cost overruns.

How to avoid fiber cement siding problems

To avoid James Hardie siding problems, it’s recommended that you choose a skilled contractor for installation. Given its brittle nature, fiber cement requires a skilled hand.

House after James Hardie fiber cement siding installation

To avoid fiber cement siding problems related to health, it’s recommended that homeowners avoid handling broken siding, as they can be exposed to the dangerous silica that will become airborne when the siding is handled while broken/frayed.

To fight higher energy bills, make sure you have the right type and amount of insulation in your walls so you experience less heat loss in the summer and reduce heat absorption in the summer.

Top LP SmartSide wood siding problems

Looking for an easy-to-maintain alternative to natural wood? LP SmartSide wood siding could be the product for you. There are a number of benefits to “engineered wood,” including a variety of color options, sizes and shapes, but there are some LP siding problems you should also consider.

  • Is comprised of a wood base leaving it more vulnerable to fire

    One of the base components of LP siding is chipped Aspen wood. It’s combined with wax and a resin formula, providing a great water barrier. But because of the base component is comprised of wood, it is vulnerable to fire.

  • Many problems with installations of LP SmartSide siding

    One of the biggest issues with this product is that the edges of the siding arrive at the jobsite unpainted, even though the manufacturer requires they be primed and painted. Also, nails can be easily overdriven, causing punctures that are unsightly as well as a moisture hazard.

How to avoid them LP SmartSide wood siding problems

Applying a patented FlameBlock, which provides flame-spread resistance and burn-through resistance, will reduce vulnerability to fire. FlameBlock is a fire-rated OSB sheathing and ICC certified, which should reassure you regarding LP siding failures related to fire.

House before after wood siding replacement

To avoid LP SmartSide wood siding problems revolving around siding that is unpainted at the edges, your contractor should be the point of contact with the siding provider and ensure that all bundles of siding are painted as required. Furthermore, your contractor should be professional enough to notice any defects before a piece of siding goes up. An experienced contractor will also know about the frailties of the product, so they won’t encounter LP siding problems related to overdriven nail punctures.

Siding replacement and repair contractor to fix any siding issues

It takes a skilled eye and an experienced hand to replace and repair siding, regardless of it’s material. The right contractor will know where to look for issues that are unknown to the novice, and they’ll have the right solutions for timely repairs that will keep your siding in tip-top shape throughout its life expectancy.

A reputable contractor will recommend annual inspections and be available to you following major weather events for a close inspection. Minor damage now can lead to major damage later, which is why this is so important.

roofing homeowners illustration

At VIS Exterior, we’re the go-to contractor for installing siding professionally, whether it’s something as easy as vinyl, complex as cedar or difficult to handle and install as fiber cement and LP SmartSide. Our team is committed to delivering exemplary customer service and our reviews are proof of that.

If you’re hearing your siding making noises, you need to call us in immediately to remedy the problem. If your area is pummeled by storm and you fear your siding has taken a beating, we’ve got your back. If your wood siding is due for a treatment, we’ll make you a priority.

At VIS Exterior, our siding solutions will help you avoid the typical siding issues. We’ve got years of experience expertly repairing and replacing siding of all types. We only work with the best materials, so contact us today and let’s talk about your siding needs.