Siding, Design, Location and Climate

Siding material and installation choices are often made without regard to local climates and conditions and/or a building's design. This often results in siding failure. The examples are numerous: LP and EIFS siding systems tend to fail in wet climates and exposed locations and yet work quite well in many types of building designs in dry climates. I recall a national seminar about such siding issues. Inspectors from areas with wet climates had all of the horror stories, the others only knew of these problems from the professional literature.

These choices are not just regional ones, they often depend upon "micro-climates" and specific design elements. For example: within the city of Seattle one can find a large variation in rainfall, sun exposure and wind patterns. As a result, the cedar shingle siding on an exposed building on the west side of Capital Hill will tend to require a great deal of maintenance and may experience siding failure. The shingle siding on the same building on the east side of the same hill will tend to last with minimal maintenance.

The use of vinyl siding on such a capital hill building might be a good alternative, but that will depend upon the design of the building. Vinyl siding tends to leak at structures without good roof overhangs or those with exposed decks and balconies.

If the building sits on a hillside and requires complex scaffolding for siding maintenance and repairs, then a lower maintenance siding product might be called for even if the original cost is a higher. If the building is on a wet and flat lot then adding a few inches to the height of the concrete foundation will save in future siding and other maintenance and repair costs. And, if one invests in quality wood siding at a seaside location, an investment in stainless steel nails will help prolong the life of the siding system.

Siding choices require a thorough understanding of local climates and conditions, the specific design demands of the building and the characteristics of siding materials.