Siding photos: P 146-P 158, P 220-P 222
The siding on a house is used to provide weather protection. The siding doesn't support the house structurally. A load bearing wall is what provides the structural support of the house. If you find a building constructed of brick, stone or masonry, then these materials aren't considered the siding since they are load bearing walls. Check these types of structures for problems with bulging or leaning walls and deteriorated mortar joints. The are many different types of sidings used on residential homes. The types you will generally encounter during a home inspection are the following:
- Wood Boards(often called Clapboard Siding)
- Wood Shingles
- Wood Shakes
- Plywood Panels
- Aluminum Siding
- Vinyl Siding
- Asbestos-Cement Shingles
- Asphalt Siding
- Veneer Walls
Wood siding can be painted or stained. Painted wood will have a more uniform appearance but needs more maintenance. Stained wood will have spotty areas due to the wood absorbing the stain unevenly in some sections. However, staining lasts a lot longer than painting and is less maintenance.
Make sure all joints around windows and doors are caulked properly. If there any are vines growing up the side of the house, recommend that they be removed. Many people like the cosmetic look of the vines but it's terrible from a maintenance point of view. The vine roots create rot and moisture problems, as well as, deteriorating any mortar joints.
All siding should be at least eight inches above the soil all around the structure. This will help prevent termite and rot problems.
All siding should be at least eight inches above the soil all around the structure. This will help prevent termite and rot problems. The moisture in the soil will rot out the siding. Also, when the siding is in contact with the ground, wood destroying insects can get behind the siding very easily. All siding should be installed with galvanized nails to prevent rust over time. If you see many parts of the siding that are loose or missing, then check the nails. You may find they're becoming too rusty and corroding away. If this is the case, then all the siding will need to be reinstalled with galvanized nails. This is a major expense so tell the client to get estimates.
Check all wood siding for rot and wood destroying insect damage. Use an awl to probe sections of the siding. Near the ground level areas you want to look for termite, carpenter ant, and powder post beetle damage. Use binoculars to check the wood siding and trim work near the roofline areas. This is a common place to find small holes due to carpenter bee damage.
Check with the seller to see if they've replaced any siding or if there's an underlying layer of older siding on the house. You want to try to find out what's underneath the exterior layer. The exterior maintenance of condominium units is usually paid for by a monthly charge assessed to all of the condo owners in the complex. Recommend that the client check with the Condo/Owner's Association to find out what the fees and responsibilities are for each owner in the complex.
Wooden Clapboard siding can be installed vertically or horizontally. The majority of the time wooden clapboards are installed horizontally. Horizontal installations make the house appear lower and longer. Vertical installations make the house appear taller and are used more often on one-story houses. Check the condition of the wooden clapboard siding. See if it needs to be painted or stained, if there are any knots in the wood, if there are any damaged or rotted sections, etc.
Wood Shingle and Wood Shake sidings are usually made of cedar or redwood. This is due to the lack of knots in these types of wood. Also, these woods are rot resistant due to the oils in the wood. These sidings are very similar to wood shingle and shake installations found on roofs. Wood shingle and wood shake sidings are also expensive to install and are usually only found on higher priced homes. These sidings have a life expectancy of about 40 to 45 years or more. The lifespan will depend upon the climate and maintenance given to them over the years. Check the condition of the wood shake or wood shingle siding. See if it needs to be painted or stained, if there are any knots in the wood, if there are damaged or rotted sections, etc.
Plywood Panel siding is made of an exterior type of plywood with a waterproof glue. A common type of exterior plywood is called T1-11 siding. Plywood is an inexpensive siding material to install on homes. Check for any loose, warped, damaged or rotted sections. This siding is prone to warping over time since it is a cheaper construction material. When this happens, water will get behind the panels and cause damage.
I have seen houses that needed all new wood panel siding due to warped and curling sections. The damage was caused by the lack of gutters on the house or a proper roof overhang area. Some architects designed these houses thinking gutters were not needed. They also felt the roof overhang was unnecessary. Due to their ignorance, the rain water prematurely destroyed the siding on these homes. Rain water must be kept away from the side of the house as far as possible.
Aluminum siding is relatively maintenance free and termite proof. Aluminum won't rot like wood sidings. Often you'll find aluminum siding installed over an older siding that was originally on the house. In some areas, it's required that aluminum siding be grounded to an exterior grounding rod embedded in the soil. The reason for this is to prevent shock hazards from electrical currents contacting the aluminum. After about 15 to 20 years, this siding can begin to fade and may need to be painted. Aluminum siding is a rigid material and can dent if hit hard enough.
Vinyl siding is very similar to aluminum in that it's relatively maintenance free and termite proof. It also will not rot like wood sidings. Vinyl siding is a flexible material, unlike aluminum. Aluminum siding can dent, but vinyl siding can crack if hit with hard objects in cold weather. Often you'll find vinyl siding installed over an older siding that was originally on the house.
Asbestos-Cement Shingles are made by combining asbestos fibers with Portland cement under high pressure. This siding is termite proof and rot resistant. However, it's a very rigid material and you'll generally find some cracked and damaged shingles. It's not used for newer construction and is found on older houses. Often it can be found under aluminum or vinyl sidings. Some areas have requirements that Asbestos-Cement Shingles must be removed by an EPA licensed contractor. This is due to the asbestos fiber content in the shingles. If they're removed improperly, the fibers can blow around in the wind and create health hazards.
Asphalt siding is similar to asphalt shingle roofing. It can be installed in either a shingle form or a roll product. Asphalt siding is found in many different colors and styles. This siding isn't used in newer construction. Asphalt siding is usually found underneath aluminum or vinyl sidings. The life expectancy of asphalt siding is about 30 years. As it ages it becomes brittle and will cup and curl, like asphalt roofing shingles. Any open or brittle areas need to be sealed to prevent water problems.
Stucco siding is the same composition as the lath and plaster or stucco walls found on the interior of older houses. This exterior siding will have a backing paper, called sheathing, to help prevent water penetration through any open joints. Stucco siding is very rigid. You'll probably find some settlement cracks that need to be sealed periodically. Be very careful to check for any loose sections of stucco. This indicates that the metal lath underneath the concrete coating may be rusty and deteriorating. Falling stucco can be heavy and is a hazard that needs to be repaired.
Veneer Walls refers to a layer of brick, stone or textured masonry siding that's a decorative covering on the exterior of the house. These materials are used to give the appearance of a solid brick or masonry constructed house. It's a decorative type of installation and it doesn't support the walls of the house like a load bearing wall would. Veneer walls are attached to the side of the house with corrosion resistant metal ties. Make sure you check to see if the wall is leaning which may suggest the ties are rusted and need replacing. There should be a one inch gap behind veneer walls to help prevent any water or moisture problems due to lack of ventilation. There should also be weep holes at the base of the wall. These are small holes that are needed to allow any water that might accumulate behind the wall to safely drain away.