If you live on Colorado’s Front Range and own a home in the greater Denver communities of Evergreen, Conifer, Morrison, Golden, or other nearby mountain community it’s likely you have one of the following types of home exterior types. If the outside of your home is looking old or damaged and you think it’s time to upgrade, refurbish, or replace your existing exterior with new siding you’ll find the following information an excellent primer on what your options are.
- Rough-sawn lap siding which shows the contour of the log on each piece.
- Standard lap siding, which can range from wood species to the newer fiberboard composites and the latest fiber cement composites like the James Hardie company manufactures.
- Board and batten siding, which is usually 4×8 sheets of rough sawn plywood or a fiberboard, with vertical battens of the same or similar material.
- Vinyl, steel and aluminum siding, which is often placed over existing siding.
- Full-round log homes, which may be smooth cut or natural logs, which form the interior and exterior walls of the house.
- Natural and synthetic stone, either in full or in combination with another siding product.
- Stucco, which has a variety of types, from the old style masonry stucco, EIFS (Exterior Insulated Foam Stucco) and the newer ‘First Coat’ masonry stucco with a top coat of an Elastomeric finish which helps avoid the natural cracking that is prevalent in masonry stucco.
- Multi-member siding panels such as Crane Board or CertainTeed products, which claim to have some insulation value.
Many of the above mentioned homes are in need of renovation due to their age, improper installation techniques and insufficient or poor maintenance over time. In order to understand what is required to bring these homes back to ‘tip-top’ condition, let’s first discuss each type of exterior finish, their relative pros and cons and possible sceneries for repair, renovation or replacement.
Old Style Bark-in-Place Log Siding:
- This type of siding is beautiful, but has often been neglected or simply aged and no longer looks good, and may be rotted. The very nature of the material suggests a very old home. This can mean that the framing members behind the log siding are deteriorated due to moisture intrusion over the years. This can only be determined in a case by case method which may include removal of some boards to check the conditions behind them.
- Re-finishing: If the logs are in good condition, they can be refinished by multiple coats of a good quality log finish such as ‘Sikkens’, ‘ Woodguard’ or ‘Permachink’ products. You will need to ‘chink’ the cracks with a good semi-malleable product that can be applied with a caulk gun. Read up on several product types prior to starting and you can save a lot of time and costs.
- Removal: if the boards have been installed over a wood sheathing, which would most likely be angled planks, because plywood was not available when many of these homes were built, then the logs may be removed. Once removed, the house should be wrapped with a product such as ‘Dow’, ‘Tyvek’ or ‘James Hardie’. This will seal the home and along with pre-caulk*, pre-flash* and joint taping, will prepare it for any of the alternatives we will be discussing in this article.
- Because I personally own a shingle-sided home, I can understand why one would want to keep it for the unique (stolen from Cape Cod!) Evergreen ‘look’ it affords. As the shingles age they cup and crack and lose their clean appearance. If the preponderance of the shingles are in good condition, damaged or poor quality ones can be replaced, but keep in mind that shingles are installed from the bottom up so it may be necessary to replace an entire wall. Should you choose to replace, use a good quality Class ‘A’ Red Cedar Shingle which conforms with CSSB (Cedar Shake and Shingle Bureau) rating. You should also consider a fire rated product; in fact it may be a code requirement these days. I suggest you hire an installer who is familiar with the process and requirements of shingle installation. As always, start with a house wrap or 15# building felts. I recommend the house wrap over the felts because the felts reflect heat back to the shingle and can cause it to deteriorate quicker. The house wrap is also a superior barrier to the elements.
- Removal: Should you want a different look, the shingles can be removed with a four tined pitch fork. It is then necessary to drive the nails or staples flat, prior to installation of a house wrap. The windows and doors should be caulked and a flashing installed above each unit. The house can then be covered with the finish of your choice.
Channel Rustic Siding:
- Channel Rustic Siding is a product that was used from the 60’s and is still in use today. Many of the older homes had the siding installed at an angle and thus ‘dates’ the house. This is not good or bad, but it can make some of the two and three story gable ends look very boxy and large. If the siding is in good condition, it can be refinished. For this I recommend a high quality solid body stain such as ‘Arbor Coat’ by Sherwin Williams. The solid body stains have more pigment than clear or semi-solids and this protects the siding from UV rays and lasts considerable longer than the others. Many of the newer homes sided with Channel Rustic Siding have been stained with solid body stain and they look fine.
- Removal: Channel Rustic Siding is a good candidate for removal and replacement with a more updated product, especially if it is installed on the rake. The trim boards around the windows, doors and corners can be removed and a house wrap applied directly to the siding. It is then possible to use a good lap siding with some trim bands to break up the large expanse of wall. We recently did a project of this nature on a Gambrel roofed home and the difference is amazing. We suggested ‘Hardie Color Plus’ siding with matching trim. The owner chose ‘Boothbay Blue’ with white trim and the results are remarkable. Here are a couple of before and after pictures:
Notice the ‘burned’ effect the sun has had over 30 years of exposure to the elements…and what about the numerous woodpecker holes!
As you can see in the ‘After’ picture below, the home now has a completely different ‘look’ with pre-finished siding and trim that has a full 15 year pro-rated warranty. To make the change, a house wrap was applied right over the channel rustic siding and all windows wrapped with ‘Vycor’ prior to installation of the finished trim. The soffit and fascia was replaced with matching materials. All flashings are pre-finished the same color as the trim. It is quite a dramatic change!
Rough-Sawn Lap Siding:
- This product was often milled ‘Rough Sawn’ (which shows saw marks) and is most often stained or painted. If it is still in good condition, it can be treated with one of the finishes mentioned above.
- Removal: This type of siding must be removed prior to installing house wrap and new siding because it is too ‘deep’ to be installed over. The boards are usually ¾” thick or more.
Standard Lap Siding:
- Lap siding often still looks good and can often be ‘refreshed’ by re-staining or re-painting.
- Removal: it can be ‘sided over’ by first installing vertical batten strips to nail the siding to, but I strongly recommend removing it to avoid having to extend all the jambs of the doors and windows and for a cleaner finished product.
Board and Batten Siding:
- Board and Batten Siding can be refinished and may look great and additional battens can be applied prior to painting or staining to change the appearance.
- Removal: It is very similar to the channel rustic in that it is easy to remove the battens, corner trim, window and door trim and re-side as described above.
- T-111 siding: This is similar to board and batten, but has grooves milled into it to simulate siding material. The grooves are usually vertical and it is easy to either re-finish or side over.
Vinyl, Steel and Aluminum Siding:
- All of these types of siding are much more popular in the east where there is much more moisture. Vinyl is quickly sun damaged in Colorado. Steel and aluminum are better but dent easily and do not trim well. I don’t recommend using any of these products.
Full Log Homes:
- Full log homes are rarely re-sided and should not be unless the logs are so deteriorated that it is necessary to do so. If it is possible, I suggest repairing rot with a product recommended by one of the log home associations and then re-finished.
- Covering: in the instance where logs must be covered with another product (sad as it may be!), then careful ‘furring’ of the logs must be done and then a finished product installed. The furring process is timely and difficult and should be done only by someone with ‘a good eye’.
Natural and Synthetic Stone:
- If they are in good shape, maybe just re-grouting and re-sealing will do the trick. If they need to be removed, you are into a very expensive and involved project!
- EIFS (Exterior Insulated Foam Stucco) is notorious for leaking and ruining windows and doors due to the improper installation techniques that have been used over the years. It can be repaired, but the process is one that should be undertaken by an experienced professional.
- Removal is usually easy as the Styrofoam insulation (which, by the way is often a very low R-value rigid insulation) can be stripped of and usually is backed by a solid surface such as OSB (oriented strand board) or plywood. A new finish can then be applied as described above.
Stucco and stone as replacement finishes:
- Stucco is a great replacement finish for any of the types of siding I have described here. It is important to have an experienced professional do this type of work because it is quite labor intensive and involves a large amount of scaffolding.
- Stone is usually used as a detail below another finish such as stucco or siding. The new synthetic stones can be applied anywhere, but look really silly above other finishes, because they simulate stone, which is heavy and must be ‘grounded’. There are many special stones for covering plugs, lights and even used for house numbering.
- The pre-flash* rules are doubly important because water behind these products will ruin them or in the case of stone, cause them to fall off!.
I hope you have found this overview of exterior finishes informative and helpful! The process of exterior renovation is a very good way to upgrade the appearance of your home and add value to an element that was formally detracting from the homes value.
Below is an explanation of terms I’ve used in this article that I feel are very important to consider and understand when doing any exterior finish renovation.
*Pre-Flash: This is a very important and often overlooked element of exterior construction. It involves the simple idea that all elements must lap over the element below. Example: If a direct vent fireplace is installed in a home, it is attached to the exterior sheathing (or surface below the final finish); with screws through a flange that is part of the flue. To pre-flash this flue, a piece of approved exterior wrap, such as ‘Tyvek’, etc. must first be attached to the sheathing surface, then the vent attached via its built in flange. The house wrap is extended at least 6” on all sides of the flange. This allows the building wrap, or felts, in the case of stucco to go under the pre-flash material on the bottom and over it on the top and sides. This same procedure must be used for all exterior penetrations such as windows, doors, etc. Windows are pre-flashed with a bitumen product, such as Grace, ‘Vycor’ or ‘Ice & Water Shield’, which adheres to the opening which the window will be placed in. The self adhering surface is covered with a removable film which keeps it from adhering while on the roll. In this case the bottom piece has the film pealed back half way so it will stick to the horizontal surface below the window, but not the vertical one. This way the house wrap can be later applied, under the ‘Vycor’ for the same reason as explained above. The sides of the opening are fully adhered to the face and sides by forming a corner with the material that extends into the opening and over the exterior face. The window is then installed and the final piece of ‘Vycor’ is installed above it and laps over the flange of the window. The idea of lapping over the element below always applies.
*Pre-Caulk: In the above mentioned window installation, an additional step is necessary. Prior to setting the window, a bead of good quality, (I recommend 35 year) caulk is applied to the rear of the window flange. When the window is set in the opening, plumbed and squared and attached via the nailing flange, it is sealed to the three sides of the ‘Vycor’ and to the sheathing on top. The top piece of ‘Vycor’ creates, in essence, a double seal at the top, where there is the most leak potential.