Building Your Own Home For Dummies
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Whether you have vinyl or aluminum siding, taking a little care will prolong its life and keep it looking its best. To prevent the need to repaint your siding, clean it regularly. You use slightly different approaches depending on whether your siding is vinyl or aluminum.

Cleaning vinyl siding

Vinyl siding is a great-looking product. It doesn't warp, split, or buckle, and, according to several manufacturers, you never need to paint it.

This fact wouldn't be important except that, like all types of exterior siding, vinyl does have its shortcomings. The surface of vinyl siding etches in time. As the surface deteriorates, the pitting causes the material to become dull and prone to stain.

Several brands of exterior paint are now available that are designed for use on vinyl siding. Check with your local paint shop or hardware store for the lowdown.

Cleaning twice a year is good — once in the spring and then again in the fall. Use a pressure washer with laundry detergent to get the surface sparkling clean. Most pressure washers have a plastic dip tube that you can use to blend in agents like detergents. Keeping the surface of the vinyl clean won't prevent it from oxidizing, but it will prevent corrosive chemicals in the air from attacking the surface, slowing the process of deterioration.

Maintaining aluminum siding

Aluminum is a beautiful siding that man has created in an attempt to outdo nature. They said it wouldn't rust like steel, that it would never have to be painted, and that it would simply last forever. Well, the truth is that it probably will last forever. But by then, it won't look new at all.

Think of aluminum siding in the same way that you think about a car body. It's a smooth metal surface covered with paint that needs to be cleaned, polished, and waxed regularly. Think about it: Aluminum siding is metal that's formed, polished, and given a factory paint job just like a car body. What automobile paint job do you know of that lasts forever?

If you want to see a good case of chalked (oxidized) paint, look closely at a 20-year-old home sided with aluminum that's never been cleaned or painted. So how do you prevent chalking? You don't prevent it (in fact, chalking is the paint's way of self-cleaning), but you can make light work of getting it to disappear. All you have to do is attend to your siding. Pressure wash once or twice a year, making sure to fill the plastic dip tube on the pressure washer with laundry detergent. Your aluminum siding will remain bright and shiny for years, and the task won't seem overwhelming.

When the time comes to paint your aluminum siding, keep these tips in mind:

  • Never scrape aluminum siding. Aluminum has a smooth surface; sand it with 400- to 600-grit sandpaper.

  • A zinc oxide primer (metal primer) is best for bare aluminum.

  • Because an aluminum surface is smooth, spray-paint it for best results.

  • Always patch an aluminum surface with a filler made especially for metal — like Bondo, used for cars.

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