5 Worst Mistakes of Historic Homeowners (Part 3 Siding)

By Scott Sidler December 20, 2011

5 worst mistakes historic homeowners sidingNo Maintenance. These two words scare the heck out of me when it comes to home improvement products, especially when it pertains to historic homes. So, let’s dispel a myth…

There is no such thing as a “No Maintenance” product for your historic home. Not a single one! No car will last very long without an oil change, your lawn needs water to stay green, and your house needs painting to stay healthy. But many people search for products to sheath their house that will last decade upon decade with no upkeep. The unfortunate news is that these products don’t exist and many of the ones that claim to be such, are actually wolves in sheep’s clothing.

The Problem With Siding

Vinyl siding covering up original cedar shiplap siding

The problem with siding is simple. It’s outside! It gets rained on, snowed on, tortured by hail and sleet, and the sun is constantly beating down on it and baking its protective layer of paint off day by day. It’s no wonder that folks look to “solutions” like vinyl or aluminum siding to “protect” their home’s exterior. The problem is that they cause more problems than they solve.

Vinyl siding is touted as a no maintenance product. It is rot proof, insect proof and comes in a variety of colors so it doesn’t need painting. But the problems begin almost immediately. First, vinyl siding doesn’t allow the house to breathe.

Most of the time when I remove vinyl siding from a historic house, I find wet, spongy, and rotted wood siding. Inevitably, the vinyl siding got some moisture behind it sometimes from rain seeping in and sometimes just from water vapor trying to escape the house. Since water vapor can’t get through the vinyl, it just sits on the wood siding and turns it into a mushy mess that termites love.

But don’t worry, you’ll never know that you have termites because while they munch away at your home, the evidence will be completely hidden behind your perfect vinyl siding. Vinyl siding hides all kinds of ills which, along with its inexpensive price, is what makes it so popular. Unfortunately, you and your inspector will never be able to know there is a problem lurking beneath until it’s far too late.

Hail Damaged Aluminum Siding

Aluminum siding is another enemy of old houses. Not so much because of the damage it can cause but because it’s just plain inferior to historic materials. We actually came upon an aluminum sided house once that was built with brick! After a little show and tell, the homeowner was thrilled to have us remove the siding and reveal their beautiful brick home. More often than not, aluminum siding gets dented by any number of things like hail, strong storms, and the occasional baseball. The bottom 3 ft. of aluminum siding is usually covered in dents after only a couple years from its biggest enemies…Mr. lawn mower and Mrs. weed eater.

There is one product that I don’t mind, and actually use occasionally on our projects, that is not historically accurate. James Hardi siding products are top quality, long lasting products that, in my mind, can be a good fit for historic homes. If you’re not going to use the original materials they are a fine substitute. You see, I’m not a blind purist! I simply appreciate quality products and they do a good job.

The Solution

Cedar siding and shingles, especially if they are old growth, are extremely long lasting and resistant to rot and insects. When properly installed and cared for they will protect your house for well over a century. Problems arise when they are installed poorly or neglected. So, here are some helpful hints when it comes to repairing your real wood siding. Follow this advice and your siding won’t need to be replaced until your great grandchildren can swing a hammer. And remember, there is no such thing as no maintenance. Just like any relationship needs quality time and attention to remain healthy, so do our homes.

  • Always leave at least a 3/4″ gap (though we leave 1″) between siding and roofing materials to prevent rot.
  • Always prime the ends of boards with an oil-based primer before installing.
  • Follow the very specific nailing processes using only the approved nail types for your type of siding.
  • Always caulk siding/trim joints.
  • Inspect your siding at least once a year and touch up any chipped or missing paint.
  • Repaint your house as needed to maintain your siding.
  • (Optional) I always prefer to prime the back of any siding with oil-based primer prior to installing them just for added security. That way if there is a leak or moisture build-up behind the siding, you’re still protected.

And one last parting thought about historic materials…”They’re not good because they’re old, they’re old because they’re good!”

Read the rest of the 5 Worst Mistakes of Historic Homeowners:

Part 1 Windows

Part 2 Floors

Part 4 Plaster

Part 5 The Details

Share Away!

128 thoughts on “5 Worst Mistakes of Historic Homeowners (Part 3 Siding)”

  1. Hello!

    My husband and I purchased a 1927 craftsman bungalow in Los Angeles and will be renovating the interior and hoping to include the exterior as well, budget permitting.

    It’s a small 900-1000 sqft house with a 200 sqft addition added to the back. The main house originally had siding that was later covered in (horrible) stucco by a previous owner. You can clearly tell as the stucco sits flush with the original exterior window trim. The addition is stucco as well, but the window frames sit proud of the stucco since it was installed around the same time.

    Are there things we should be watching out for or questions we should be asking before we start work for the exterior siding? Is this too broad of a question?

    1. Hello! Congrats on your home purchase. Excellent choice! I wish we could see it person! Honestly, our best recommendation is to use our directory to find a certified historic preservationist in your area so that they can advise accordingly upon seeing it in person. //thecraftsmanblog.com/directory/
      Feel free to keep us updated on your restoration journey! Also, feel free to tag us in photos on Instagram so we can see!
      -Alyssa at The Craftsman Blog

  2. Hey Scott,

    My wife & I own a 1930’s bungalow in the DC area. It’s covered in aluminum siding from the 70’s or 80’s, but underneath we’re pretty sure we have cedar shingles. We need to get rid of the aluminum siding, and probably replace it with something more current, like hardy board, but first we want to see what condition the wood siding is in. Is it possible that it’s still in working order, or could be fixed up? If that were the case it would be like winning the lottery. We want to find a specialist who can help us investigate rather than just selling us more vinyl or even the hardy board options before we know what we have under the aluminum. We’re unsure how to proceed. Any advice would be appreciated.

    1. Hi Timmy,
      Thanks so much for reading our articles and reaching out! The best advice we have for you would be to check our directory ( //thecraftsmanblog.com/directory/ ) and try to find a specialist in your area who can more accurately assess in person. We also do have an article about caring for cedar shingles if you are in fact able to salvage them! //thecraftsmanblog.com/how-to-care-for-cedar-shingles/
      Best of luck to you. Keep us updated on your progress!
      -Alyssa at The Craftsman Blog

    2. We live in Iowa and removed the aluminum siding ourselves. It’s really easy. Start at the top and work your way down. We found cedar shingles underneath in mostly good condition. We hired someone to patch and stain them. You won’t be able to know their condition until you remove all the siding.

  3. I own a house in southern Ontario, Canada built in the 1870s. It has wood board and batten siding with no sheathing from what I can tell, and lathe and plaster walls on the inside. There is no insulation in the walls and most of the windows are original. For such an old, drafty house the heating bills are surprisingly reasonable. The siding and exterior trim is in rough shape and will need to be replaced soon. I have read a lot of opinions about insulating houses like this one and creating moisture issues in the walls. When I remove the siding that would be the time to insulate. Should I bother insulating at all or if I should then what would you recommend? Thanks!

  4. Hi Scott.
    We live in a 50 year old home that my father-in-law built. He was the top of the line builder and loved using old techniques. We live in the Pacific Northwest and he put Western Red Cedar shake siding on most of the home (no sealants or stain} and cedar planking on the rest of it. We recently changed insurance companies and they had an individual company come out to inspect the home. They have come back to us saying they want the siding painted or stained to prevent water damage. After 50 years of nothing on them the wood is still dry and we have no moisture wicking into the siding. Is it necessary for us to seal it after all this time and if so what is the best approach? Would applying an oil (linseed or similar) be best? We don’t want to paint or stain it, we like the weathered appearance it has taken on. Any suggestions?

  5. I have a 1942 house which I am renovating. It has redwood siding and no paper behind and nailed to the frames. In the past few weeks I put fiberglass insulation and drywalled the inside and was trying to water proof the outside. Was looking for a solution. I happen to read your article that the house needs to breathe and should not use close all the holes and use thick paint. How do I make sure that water doesn’t seep in? I don’t have a water barrier and concerned that the fiber glass will get wet and mold start developing.

    1. Nathan, the fiberglass will likely get wet and can cause some mold issues if you aren’t careful. In your situation you can either remove the siding and add a building wrap to keep the stud bays dry then replace the siding or remove the fiberglass batts. The extra insulation isn’t worth the potential mold and rot issues it can cause.

  6. I remodeled my families 1899 Eastlake style farm house in 1990. I took out all the
    Plaster and lath, rewired, plumbed, batt fiberglass insulation and installed central heat and air. Big mistake.This house originally had lots of wood stoves with chimneys. Now 27 years later I have never had paint stay on the original cedar siding. I believe I changed the dew point in the wall to the back side of the paint. I am going to remove the 128 year old siding, install a permeable tyvek like vapor barrier and put cement board lap siding back up. Maybe a very thin layer of insulation also to make the spacing on the existing trim work match. The current siding with 3/4″ diagonal boxing under it is very drafty. I want to solve this problem so my children and future generations have less maintenance issues and myself as I age. Also this two story house is balloon framing. Has this solution worked for others in my boat?

  7. What is your take on those old asbestos shingles? My home isn’t insulated (1890) and has the original plaster interior walls. I would love to get rid of the asbestos but my fear is what I’ll find underneath. I cannot afford to redo the house with cedar siding. Assuming the house was in great shape when they put this stuff on, should the wood still be good underneath? The shingles are in great shape. I did remove ugly old asphalt shingles on the kitchen addition and found great cedar shake shingles underneath that for the most part were in great shape.

    I do like the fact that the shingles hold their paint longer than wood (no expansion and contraction), and while I’m used to the look (which is also historic in and of itself since nobody uses those types of shingles any more ;)) I’m not sure the expense of removal and disposal will be affordable to my wallet.

    1. My son bought his first house, a 1910 Bungalow. The siding is asbestos. His siding looks good except for one southern exposure side. Is there a product that duplicates the asbestos siding that is not asbestos? I was told a few years back that someone is making one. But I can’t seem to find one. Thank you

  8. Hello,

    I have a 1928 Bungalow in Oklahoma. At some point the previous owners put up aluminium siding with faux rock on the bottom half of the house.

    We removed the aluminium siding and the orginal wood siding was is ok condition. However, when we removed the faux stone, the was significant rot from a leaky drain and we had to replace the sill plate and the corner studs had to be replaced as well.

    We were planning on just replacing the bottom siding with new novelty siding. But im wondering if I should replace it all and add sheathing. There is only tar paper under the siding and in an added on area paneling was the only wall barrier so we are planning on putting up drywall in place of the paneling.

    Is it a big deal to not have sheathing? If I have to replace most of the siding anyways should I just add it?

    Kind Regards

  9. I recently purchased an old farm cottage one side of the cottage had a stair and entrance added, without removing the old siding. After peeling off the old asphalt siding I found the original siding which looks like cedar boards that are 1/2″ thick. I have tried to gently pry off the boards which were dry, some were brittle and cracked. Underneath where these beautiful 8-12″ wide, about 1.5-2″ thick pieces of lumber. Between the cedar siding and the lumber (probably about 110 years old) there is lots of old bug activity. I have used a stiff brush to remove all the chunks of bug nests, the wood itself is solid and undamaged. Will this be enough or should I treat the lumber further? My plan is to leave some of the lumber exposed and use the salvaged cedar planks to make an accent board wall.

  10. I gave a house that half of the main and the the top floor are siding with T-111 wood siding. None of the trim boards were flashed and they are all rotted. I was going to install vinyl fake cedar over the T-111 after pulling the rotten wood. Is tgis the best way to go?

  11. I have a 1928 craftsman bungalow and the original siding and trim has been wrapped in vinyl siding with aluminum trim. Can I restore this? I have been told by contractors here that I can not. Is it a matter of filling thousands of nail holes?

  12. I have removed steel siding that was covering up beveled cedar siding. After removing it I found that the siding in a large area of a wall had deteriorated around the nails holding it. This was due to poor installation of the steel siding which lead to water getting behind it for 40+ years. With that being said I am replacing a large portion of the wall with new pre-primed finger jointed cedar siding that dimensionally is an exact match 1/2″X5.5″. The problem being is all cedar siding manufacturers say when installing take care not to nail the top piece through the piece below. The siding on my house has a 3.5″ reveal so that means a 2″ overlap. This only leaves 1.5″ to nail. The nail would be 2.5″ up from the bottom and 1″ down from the piece above. This puts the nail in an thin part of the siding where it will split. The original siding is nailed through both pieces .75″ up from the bottom and 2.75″ down from the piece above. I need to match the existing reveals so the siding lines up with the windows. The original siding has lasted 100 years nailed through both pieces. Do you have any thoughts or suggestions.

    1. Nailing through both pieces of siding is not always a problem and I have done it many times in the same situation especially when the original siding was installed that way. I think it’s best to copy the original installation unless there are obvious flaws in workmanship that way the patches behave the same as the original portions.

  13. Here’s a nightmare for you. Unbeknownst to us (we would come home and just see sections of primed house), our painter caulked in between each and every cedar shake shingle on the upper half of our 110 year old Craftsman 4 square. This was 2 years ago. There were many other things that went wrong before we said “ta ta” to him but now we are left with trying to figure out how to remove the caulk from between these shingles to save them. Besides cutting the caulk out (which is very difficult to do w/o ruining the shakes w/ razor knives), do you have any ideas? Does any stripper exist that would “dissolve” it? We are devastated. The entire house has to be repainted as if it was never done. It’s a disaster.

    1. Wow! That is a LOT of work! I don’t know of any stripped that are good for caulk, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any. It sounds like a lot of manual labor sadly.

  14. I was wondering if you could tell me if hardi siding is vapor permeable. I am worried about water vapor retention and a negative effect on my house’s breathability. thanks!

    1. Hardi siding is vapor permeable I believe, but the paint or factory coating may not be. Also with the gaps between siding that allows vapor movement but if your painter caulks everything tight then you might start running into bigger problems.

  15. I have an old Victorian home in SLC that I am presently restoring. The previous owners covered the original siding with some horrible asbestos siding that I just recently had removed. For the most part, the original siding (a wood Dutch shiplap) is in great condition, especially considering how old it is. However there are a few places I need to replace and for some reason, some of the siding is missing from the front entryway. I am having a difficult time locating wood Dutch shiplap siding. Any suggestions?

    1. Jules, a local mill shop can likely duplicate the pattern for you. You’ll have to bring them a sample and have them cut a custom knife for the siding (usually $175-250). After that they can mill new siding for you exactly like yours.

  16. My son recently bought a home built in 1957 (first time home buyer). The garage is a detached wood structure that is an eye sore. The paint is peeling so badly that there are many areas of exposed wood. The inspector did state that the structure is sound. What would be the best option–hire someone to clean and paint or possibly cover it with siding?

  17. Does anyone have any recommendations for a pre-war stucco house? I have a few areas that need repaired and the paint is starting to peel in some locations. The stucco is almost a 100 years old and feels pretty sound. What concerns me is the idea of having to repaint every 7 years and possibly damaged sheathing behind it. Re-stuccoing sounds expensive but maybe it saves in the long run?

  18. Does anyone have an opinion on Sandblasting my 1912 Craftsman Home. I currently have original old growth siding and trim.

    1. NEVER sandblast an old house. It will erode the wood and even bricks. Don’t pressure wash an old house either. It will erode the siding and drive moisture into the wood that will take months to dry out.

      You could have someone scrape just the loose old paint wearing a face mask and keeping plastic sheeting on the ground to catch lead paint chips. You could also use an infrared heater like the a Silent a Paint Remover to loosen all the old paint so you can scrape it off. You will need to sand lightly if you take all the old paint off as the scraper will make the wood too smooth and the new paint won’t adhere to it.

  19. I purchased a Craftsman home built in 1912, I am considering residing the entire house and detached garage with Smooth Hardie Siding. I have over 30 windows in my home and the old siding runs under the exterior window treatments. I think my first question is if the siding is over 100 years old am I wasting my money by painting it again and not residing? Also, when/if I do reside should I now put the Exterior Window Treatment on first then side up against them which is standard process in todays industry or is that new process taking from my historic value?

    1. Christopher, residing an entire house when you already have old growth siding installed is a completely unnecessary expense that you’ll never recoup. Save your money! Plus changing the exterior trim from a siding pattern that runs underneath (which is very common for your age house) to one where the siding butts to the trim will be another huge project with little to no payoff. Likely the whole project will create more problems than it will fix.

      1. I read the exchange you had with Christopher L. on May 2, 2016 and it has caused me angst as we have been working diligently toward a re-siding project for two months now. My home probably doesn’t count as historic. It is a 1965 4-level split with a cottage style roof all around, located in Canada about 2.5 hrs north of the ND-Montana border. Cold winters and hot summers.

        80 to 85 % of the house is covered in 12″ (nominal) clear, beveled, smooth cedar lap siding with about a 9.5″ actual exposure. (The rest is manufactured stone.) For the most part the siding is in very good condition. The south and west facing walls however have lots of cracks in the paint (and sometimes the wood). These boards have never looked really good even right after a fresh painting. Also the 2001 addition to the house was sided with the same type cedar siding which had been salvaged from the original detached garage that was removed and replaced with attached garages. Some of those boards have since cracked.

        I started looking at replacing the siding when my painting estimate came in around $6000 CDN. I can replace all the siding with LP Smartside engineered textured “cedar” lap siding (approx 6.75″ exposure) that comes pre-finished with 2 coats of paint and a 30 yr prorated warranty on the paint and 50 yrs prorated on the siding. The pre-finished siding and trim would cost approximately $5600 CDN. (Replacing the cedar siding with the same type on the house would cost $18,000 CDN plus labour.) The siding removal, installation of additional 1″ insulation, wrap and the new siding and trim, etc will cost an additional $13,500 CDN with tax. A total of $19,000 to $20,000 CDN. Two paint jobs (in 5 yrs) of the existing cedar will cost almost two thirds of that.

        SInce we have 2×4 construction in the oldest part of the house and poor insulation in most of that, all of this seemed like a good investment in improving the insulation, reducing drafts and updating the look with a stylish, low maintenance wood product for essentially $7000 CDN more than what it will cost me to have it painted this year and in 5 yrs time.

        However, after I read your reply to Christopher I wondered if you would tell me that I too was wasting my money. I hate the idea of stripping off a natural wood product that is hugely expensive in itself (to replace) and which has in the main, stood the test of time, but given our wish to improve the insulation and update the looks this seemed to be overall a good investment.

        So – are we too wasting our money?

        1. John, every situation is unique and yours is no exception. First, I would shop around your painting quotes a bit more and let the painters know that you are looking for a high quality paint job. Canada and Florida are very different climates but if I can get a paint job to last 12-15 years then I know you can too. A longer lasting paint job changes the math in your ROI.
          The other Hong to think about is the amount of materials ending up in the landfill by removing all that perfectly good siding and replacing it.
          I understand the insulation dilemma, I really do and wouldn’t fault you if you went that route, but even maintenance smartsiding will need a paint job in less than 30 years even if it is just for a color update. Good luck!

          1. Many thanks for taking the time to reply. I appreciate your commitment to restoration and the environment. We are trying to see if I can have the siding carefully removed so that it can be re-used but if I can’t at least cedar is biodegradable.

            I agree that a long-lasting paint job of 12 -15 years could change the math on the ROI – and particularly if the price is the same. (I suspect that top quality paint job with that lifespan is going to come in higher – we’ll see.) On the other hand, if I can sell some of the used cedar it changes the math in the other direction.

  20. Last year my wife and I purchased a two story four square house built in 1925. The house needed painting as it had been neglected for years. My son and I painted it this past summer. I was very impressed with the condition the cedar wood was in after we stripped off all the old paint. Primed it and used two coats of white satin. The home looks beautiful.It has hardwood floors, 11 inch floor trim , I don’t think you can find that anymore without a special order and a beautiful open wood staircase. If taken care of this home will last another century.

  21. HELP PLEASE. I purchased a 1924 brick home. Outside of the roof, the only part that is not brick is the section of wood cedar shingles in the back of the house. Welp they are old an now squirrels have eaten a whole in a section about a foot long. I’m going to get it replaced, but my fear is the squirrels eating through the would. What the best siding in this case? The sections is about 6 feet by 12 feet. It’s only the area near the back attic windows.

      1. Scott,

        What do you recommend to insulate between metal and plywood on a new house? How would you vent in the attic to stop the deck from deteriorating?

  22. Hi, Scott. I am wanting to remove aluminum siding from my 1940 cottage-style home in Kansas City. I do have cedar shakes underneath. This is a terrifying prospect, but I do want to proceed. Is there a chance with aluminum that I am going to find rot and termites, or does aluminum allow the house to breathe enough for moisture to evaporate? Thanks!

    1. Lanie, there is always a chance you’ll find all kinds of things hidden underneath, but aluminum does not hold moisture like vinyl. Praying that you find nothing but easy fixes underneath!

      1. Just wanted to offer encouragement to homeowners thinking of removing aluminum siding. We just finished doing this for our 1920 home. There were cedar shingles underneath in remarkably good condition. Only a few mushy ones under the windows and the south side is warped from the heat, but no termites, just a lot of dirt. We did all the work ourselves and it looks so much better even though we haven’t cleaned and stained them yet.

        1. I’m encouraged by the comments on removing aluminum siding. I’ve a Cape Cod style house and want/need to remove the aluminum. Under is cedar lap. Apparently the windows were clad poorly and brick molding is rotting…dust in some areas. I’ve been shaking in my booties to think of what I might find as money IS an object for me. After reading this site, loaded with newfound courage, the aluminum begins coming off tomorrow. What would be best to fill nail holes in the cedar? Wish me luck!

  23. Local installer offering Hardi siding, said due to its rigid nature and the unevenness of house construction, its impossible to get a good even level finished job. They have stopped offering it and went back to vinyl and steel siding.

    1. Sounds like it may not be cost effective for them or they just prefer working with the others. I can install wood siding and hard I siding (both of which are rigid) with no problems here. Maybe they need to have better framers. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  24. My siding is exactly 7/8″ thick shiplap. It seems all the siding out there measures 3/4″, 11/16″ etc. I’ve even seen a paltry 23/32″ billed nominally as 1″. But no place I can find stocks 7/8ths under any nominal dimension. Do I have to get it milled, or as several contractors have suggested to my horror, just get some 3/4″ from the depot and fur it out? I’m not the only person with this siding. I live in an area where these thicker old sidings abound. There are places where you can get any molding ever made, but where can I get this siding of a thickness that used to be utterly standard?

    It’s 7.5″ wide from rebate to rebate, and the rebates are 3/8″ thick. It’s “V” sometimes called “rustic” siding with those 45 degree cuts at the joints.

    1. Angelo, when I come across siding like this the only option is to have it milled by a local mill shop or carpentry shop that had a molder/shaper. It’s not always cheap but it’s the only way to find the right fit.

  25. I am replacing the deteriorating Board and Batten siding on my small home and I want to give it a small, quaint “cottage” look. I think that the wider HardiBoard siding (7 inch face instead of 6 or 4 inch face after overlap) would give it a more quaint, old- fashioned look, but I am not sure if that is correct. Is the wider board more for faster installation or is there a particular look that the wider board gives?

      1. We plan to remove the aluminum siding on our 1924 bungalow. We live in the Pacific NW…will we lose some insulation benefits if we do this?

  26. Hi,

    I recently purchased a house that was built in 1882. I am looking to restore the front of the house, which has slate shingles on the top half of the house and cedar shingles on the bottom half of the house for siding. I have no idea how old the siding is, but my guess is that it is probably pretty old.

    The slate was painted a grey colour, and the paint is currently chipping. The cedar shingles were stained with a blue solid stain, which is faded and flaking off in some spots. The cedar shingles themselves are dry and have began to curl. I am wondering what is the best way to restore these two surfaces without damaging the shingles.

    I am thinking the cedar shouldn’t be too hard, I will just sand it lightly and re-stain, but the slate I am worried about. I don’t want to dislodge any of the slate shingles in the process of getting the chipped paint off. I was considering using a power washer, but not sure if that’s better or worse. I am also not sure if I want to repaint the slate, I think I would rather just get the old and chipping paint off the shingles and leave the natural slate as is.

    Any advice would be helpful. Thanks!

  27. Vinyl siding when installed with an air gap is not going to cause the rot to the underlying structure. Simple 1-by strips running vertical every 16″ will allow any moisture (from internal or external source) to drop to the bottom and drain through a special bottom channel specifically for this.

    That being said, I still wouldn’t put vinyl on an older home unless it had no discernible style.

    1. You’re right that anything with a rain screen and proper ventilation will breathe properly, but in my years of removing vinyl siding I have yet to come across a house with vented vinyl siding done properly. It may be out there but it’s as rare as a unicorn in my experience.

  28. Hi,

    How was the brick under the aluminium siding? My house (1946) has been covered with aluminium and I am afraid the bricks are damaged.

    Thank you

  29. Wind blew some aluminum siding off of my house in feb. Can’t be replaced. So entire front of house must be replaced by something
    any ideas? Or contractor interested
    Covered by insurance. Having hard time getting someone.

  30. Hi there!
    I’m hoping you can help me….I cannot find the answer to this anywhere online and no one has really been able to answer me that isn’t biased..I purchased a home with asbestos siding. The asbestos is in good shape, but was covered with insulation and then vinyl siding. I’m not fond of vinyl siding, and I’m wondering if it can be taken off safely?? The asbestos had to be messed with to attach the vinyl, I’m assuming, so it worries me to remove it. I also know that vinyl siding may destroy wood underneath it….but will it destroy asbestos underneath it? Asthetically I would prefer to just have the asbestos and paint it as needed…however, is it worth it to mess with and disturb the asbestos? I can rest easier with the vinyl on top if I know at least the asbestos will stay in tact. Would love to hear your opinion! Thanks for your time.

    1. Tammy, the vinyl won’t harm asbestos underneath which is immune to rot or insects. It’s a gamble taking the vinyl off because there is a good chance that you’ll damage the asbestos. I’d probably leave it all alone unless you have the funds and time to properly remove the asbestos.

  31. I own 1900 brick house. The very top of the house is tin with a flat roof. It’s been painted several times over the years. Can I cover it with aluminum or another product instead of painting it every 7 years? Thank you, Mary Jo

  32. We moved into a 1880s house 3 years ago- The paint hasnt chipped but its faded badly. I really dont want to paint a house every 3-5 years and I dont want to put siding on an old house. Is there any benefit to painting cedar shingles? Id much rather the weathered natural look and am considering residing it with new shingles.

  33. We are in the middle of removing aluminum siding from our 1920 home. The nails used to attach the aluminum go into the sheathing. How deep do we need to fill the holes to ensure that moisture won’t get into the walls? Is it enough to just fill the holes in the shingles?

  34. I have a 1937 Craftsman home. We’re adding a small addition to the back, but I’m having trouble finding materials that match. We have split faced block (which I can actually find but it’s grey) that has taken on a worn sandy color. The dutch lap siding is 4-1/2″ and I can only find 7-1/2″ without a special order, which is a noticeable difference. Do you suggest trying to match the existing structure or finding a way to compliment it? Any suggestions on what materials you would use to compliment? Thanks!

    1. Jeannie, I would try to find materials that are as close as possible to the original. See if you can find a local woodworking or mill shop to make you the siding. We do that often and it’s not that much more expensive. Matching materials always blend in better and fit the style.

  35. We have a century old 2-1/2 story American Foursquare with nice plaster walls and vinyl siding.Would like to insulate but are afraid of moisture issues. How do we do this? What kind of insulation should we use? Does Tyvek go between insulation and lath or between insulation and siding? We’re also replacing steam heat and radiators with a modern HVAC system. Should we just get rid of the plaster walls where we put in ducts, or just cut out where we need to run them?

  36. Do you have a recommendation for a supplier of Victorian style lap siding? We are renovating a 1884 Queen Anne and want her to be pretty!

  37. Question on painting a 1920s.. you mention caulking the siding/trim JOINTS. I am assuming you would NOT caulk in between each board ( as it needs to breath) correct ? I ask because this house has its existing siding and only 10% we had to replace – but I see a lot of areas where in between the siding overlap there is a gap… if this were a traditional newer house with newer siding I would tell my painter to caulk ever seam – cranny and crack. but here it seems wise to only do the joined edges and around windows ??

    1. Britanie, old or new wood siding should NOT be caulked on the horizontal joints for just the reason you stated. The siding design naturally sheds trapped water. The vertical seams at windows and doors are all that should be caulked along with any penetrations like plumbing lines.

      1. Re leaving the bottom edge of siding open: I wrote a while back on this thread about what to do with my 1930s badly-painted cedar shingle siding. Painters in past have painted the bottom edges of the shingles. Most of it’s not connected to shingle below at the moment, and it’s not like a caulk seal. Should there be paint on bottom edge of siding, shingle or lap? New contractor doing estimate suggests spraying on the paint and then back rolling. I wish it had never been painted. The wood is overall in good shape.

  38. We recently purchased a small 5acre track which was from the Georgia Land Lottery in 1805 from the family of the original owner. It had a one room log cabin built on the land in 1806. Over the years the family added onto the cabin and it is now a 3bed/1ba farmhouse. The original cabin is the home’s current living room with the orginal wood floors and fireplace. It really is a hodgepodge house of many different eras. The first addition was done in 1879 added a kitchen area. In 1902 they added two bedrooms and got water pumped into the kitchen. In 1947 they finally got a closet(bathroom)added in the home. And in 1960 they enclosed their wash room (laundry)into the home and added another bedroom. Somewhere around 1950 or so the fireplaces were closed up due to them not being safe. In 2000 they repaired the original fireplace on the outside but not inside. 2006 he sided the entire home, new roof of shingles and metal and got insulated windows placed outside the existing windows which are still there.

    With so much done to this home over time, would it be best to leave the siding in place as it is in good condition or try to see what is underneath and restore? He says he had a weather barrier placed between the home and the siding. I really want to restore the home as much as possible but with it encompassing so many eras I don’t know where to start.

    1. Melissa, it’s hard to say what to do. With so many additions and changes you’ll have to decide to what state you’d like to restore the house. I’d say look at your budget and let that make your decision for how far to go.

  39. We are restoring an 1890 Victorian in upstate NY. The upper part of the house has 6″ wide white cedar scallops. We can’t find replacements anywhere. They are all either 5″ wide or a bundle of mixed sizes. Lumber mills will not call us back or don’t do small custom work. We are willing to round them ourselves if we could find the right width. We need about 400 shingles…. HELP!!

  40. I just bought an hisitoric cottage which has aluminum siding. It must be 50 years old or so. A little dented, and faded. I’m conflicted about remmoving the siding, as, of course, i don’t know what the condition of the clapboard will be. I’ve gotten an estimate to paint for 8,000. I cou
    D have the siding removed fairly cheaply, but if the clapboard had to be redone, i think it would bring the pirce of the paining up too high for me. So I might just have the siding painted. Any advice? I live in the North East, BTW

  41. I have an addition at the back of my 1895 home. This addition was covered with barn board. Part of it is rotting. What is the best thing to do about this problem? I purchased a wood filler and I was going to paint it. After reading the issues with siding, I don’t think I should cover it with that. Any suggestions would be much appreciated.

  42. Hello Scott,
    I have come upon twice homes that asbestos siding that has been covered over with wood cedar shingles. One home had weathered cedar shingles that were at the end of their life. The other home near the ocean and built in 1948 has the cedar shingles stained, were installed about 20 years ago and are in good condition. What are your thoughts on using a wood material over asbestos siding? In addition, would you purchase a home that has this combination of materials? The garage was sided in a high quality vinyl that matches the look of the cedar shingles. I am concerned that this 1000 sq. ft. home is going to be a ticking time bomb in terms of when the time comes that all siding will need to be removed.

  43. We have removed most of the vinyl siding and rigid foam insulation from our house built in 1940 in Maryland. I was thrilled to discover that underneath the siding on the main part of the house were cedar shingles. However, not being skilled in this kind of thing, I’m at a bit of a loss what to do next, since a) the sunroom and back part of the house were added later and the walls are about 1/2″ proud of the rest of the house b) most of the windows were redone when the house was re-sided (with asbestos siding, in 1950, which was replaced with vinyl), so their frames are also not even with the original walls and 3) underneath the cedar shingles is construction paper, like what you used in kindergarten. I assume now I have to remove all the shingles as well and install tarpaper/felt underneath, since there is no real barrier between the old shingles and the outside walls? Also, how to deal with the junctures between the old and new walls to make an even surface, or should I just let it be uneven?

  44. I have an old 1920 Bungalow I’m in the process of restoring. I’m now removing the cement asbestos shingles. Under them is narrow cedar lap type siding. Its kind of a teardrop type profile. The old siding is in decent condition except for some splitting, peeling paint, no trim,a few missing boards and the complication of a garage addition with a dutch lap profile. I’m having trouble finding the correct profile to replace the bad boards and garage siding. My other option is to go with a hardie lap type over the existing cedar. Anyone have any suggestions?

    1. Steve, you can always bring a sample to a local mill or lumber yard and they can cut new siding to match the original profile if you can’t find sala aged boards at a architectural salvage yard. We’ve done that for several clients.

  45. i live in a home that was built in 1918. In the late 70’s they covered it with steel siding. and 6 layers of shingles. We have redone the roof and now have gaps under the siding and holes into the attic at the dormer soffits. The steel siding is also faded and starting to fall off. I want to remove the steel siding and restore the original clapboards and soffit. I have removed a portion of the siding on the porch and it appears there is only one coat of paint on the original siding. My guess is someone had it stripped and painted then later decided to side it. The paint is not chipping and the siding is in excellent condition minus the holes created by the steel siding. Should i remove the old paint? What should i use to fill the nail holes created by the steel siding? Should i apply a primer?

    1. I would remove the aluminum siding because I think the wood siding is always more attractive. Fill the holes with a good wood filler like WoodEpox or KwikWood. Then scare any loose paint and prime with an oil-based primer before repainting.

  46. The paint on wood lap siding on my 1885 house is in terrible shape with rotten siding in many places. I won’t go into all the “What were they thinking” things that have been done as they are too numerous and I’m trying to watch my blood pressure. The siding is directly on studs and through decades of paint, the lap seams are painted shut which I feel contributes to paint jobs not lasting very long due to the vapor escape path being sealed. Everyone thinks I’m crazy but I want to remove all the siding and trim, do all the siding work on the ground; paint removal, use a wood preservative, prime all sides, fix the windows, address electrical from the outside, then insulate from the outside against the interior wood lath, install Tyvek and maybe like 3/16″ strips on top of Tyvek on studs to give a little airspace behind the siding without majorly changing the trim profiles. Question 1: Am I crazy/off-base to go this far to address why I believe the paint fails whilst improving efficiency and durability? Question 2: To prevent future sealing off of the lap seams with paint, when reinstalling the siding, would you recommend a spacer of sorts to keep a little gap at the bottom? If so, where would I find such a thing, not having much luck searching the web.

    1. Andrea, I don’t think you’re crazy! I think your plan is sound and if you have the time or resources to do it this way it is definitely the right way. There is no spacer for the siding and painting over the siding is not as big of an issue as you might think. It’s when the gaps are caulked shut that the real issues start.

  47. I just purchased a 1912 craftsman. I have not read anything about asbestos siding. Can I get information on what are options are. My neighbor ripped theirs off bagged it paid thirty bucks to digard. Is there anything under this siding???? It looks good just want to know if it brings down value and above questions Thanks

    1. Stephanie, Asbestos siding is a great product as long as it is in good condition. The health danger is when it begins cracking and crumbling. If you want to replace it due to poor conditions or appearance it is definitely something that should be done by a remediation company to protect yourselves.

  48. Okay I have a old farmhouse originally built in 1857 then completely redone in 1883. You can tell it was a magnificent building. It currently has aluminum siding that I am about to replace. I very nervous of what lurks beneath it. Plan originally was vinyl siding because over the years now I am second guessing it. I recently came across a a sketch and photo from late 1800’s any advice.

    1. I’m assuming you want to remove the vinyl or aluminum siding. If that’s the case and the original wood siding is underneath (which it usually is) then the answer is yes. You may have some repair work to do on the original siding to bring it up to snuff, but I’ve removed these ugly coverings from many a house.

      1. Great article! It’s so hard to find genuine information online about vinyl siding – the siding companies have hogged the first ten pages on google. Can you please advise?

        I despise the vinyl siding my husband’s father installed over the original vertical wood on our 1971 house. I say we remove the vinyl siding, if the original wood is intact we celebrate with a paint party. If the original wood is rotted due to the gross vinyl siding, we utter a few expletives and proceed from there. Either way, if we leave the vinyl siding in place, it will eventually rot the wood underneath and possibly the house will lose structural integrity. My husband is addressing the issue by googling “vinyl siding and then filling out online forms to “request information”. This got him no useful information, but plenty of phone calls from people selling vinyl siding.

        Scott, your guidance is much appreciated!

        1. Sounds like you need what I call an unwrapping party. We tear off all the vinyl siding and see what we find underneath of the original house. It almost always needs a paint job and often there are some missing trim boards and a few rotten spots. It’s always a surprise but hopefully not too expensive of one.

    2. We are sort of facing the same dilemma with our 1939 home. I also suspect there may be some water damage underneath our horrid aluminum siding but don’t know how to inspect it without removing a big portion of aluminum siding on the front of our house. We are considering painting our aluminum siding to make it look “better” but would much rather expose the original cedar shingle siding. However, we are working with very low funds so painting the aluminum seems like the more cost-effective solution for now in case there is tons of repair work with the cedar (not to mention we cannot afford to reside the house if the cedar is not salvageable.). I wish there was some way to magically know what the condition of the old cedar shingle siding is underneath all this aluminum!!!

      1. Alison there is no magic way to know what’s underneath. Be patient and save your money and sometime soon you’ll be able to take that aluminum off one portion at a time. Till then it is keeping the rest of the house.

  49. I have just purchased a very old two story century home that has aluminum siding probably installed many years ago. Up near the top of the home there has been possibly 2 inch round holes drilled and are exposed and not filled in. Possibly from insulation blow in ?
    How do I fill in the holes? Can I use wooden dowels ? The holes are very unsitley. I also want to paint the entire siding with Tremclad Paint with a sponge roller is that OK ?

    1. Chuck, it does sound like the holes are from someone adding blown in insulation. I would cut patches from wood the same thickness as your siding and glue them in place then fill any gaps and sand it smooth. As for Tremclad paint, I’m not familiar with that product so I can’t say one way or the other.

      1. Hi and Thanks for your reply. Yes I do believe that your right and will give your advice a go!! Tremclad is a sort of rust paint that is extremely hard and durable especially on metal ( and wood ) I will send you a note once spring /summer arrives in Ontario Canada. Thanks again. Your site isawesome. Chuck

  50. I have discovered original wood siding underneath the vinyl siding of my house. After removing to inspect in a number of places, it appears in good condition. Called previous owner which said that they didn’t want to have to paint every few years. Is there any chance to restore the wood siding currently underneath the vinyl? I am concerned that it would not look right from the nail holes.

    1. Tareq, it can most definitely be restored! Fill the holes with a quality wood filler or epoxy and sand it smooth before repainting. You’ll never know there was a hole to begin with.

  51. I question the “prime the back of any siding with oil-based primer prior to installing them just for added security”. If the siding is sealed on all sides, does that mean it cannot breath and therefore not dry as easily if moisture does get in?

  52. Great information here. Looking for ideas for 1933 cedar shingle sided Midwest home that has been painted over the years, now peeling badly. One experienced painter says impossible to get good finish because old lead paint topped by newer paint will continue to peel quickly. Another will do it with extensive prep, no guarantees, for $11,000 for two-story house. New siding is costly — no matter the material — but wondering if that is better investment than frequent costly painting.

    1. Terry, it’s hard to decide what will be worth it. If the underlying shingles are still in good condition I would probably go with the extensive prep over re-siding. It’s true that paint adheres best to fresh wood that’s been primed. I’d get a few quotes for both options and see what will work best for your budget.

  53. If Vinyl Siding is installed properly, you will get none of the above mentioned problems. yes it will fade as does every other exterior product. Hardy requires future painting and constant caulking, oh ya it also lets moisture build up behind it with no airflow to dry the wall, vinyl siding has weep holes to aid in moisture removal. Both products will allow algea growth if installed in area of home that gets little to no sunlite. You can scrub off on vinyl siding without hurting finish, not so with hardi siding. Both have plus and minus benifits. If installed properly and maintained, vinyl can match hardy life span at a lower cost to homeowner.

    1. You should qualify that statement with “except in humid regions”… We are in SC and considering buying a Greek Revival with vinyl siding that has buckled away from the side of the house, showing extensive damage.

  54. My wife and I are thinking of purchaseing a home built in 1885 and I have a few questions. It appears to have a Dutch lap siding but I’m not sure the wood, based on this thread I would in that time period it would have been Cedar??

    There are locations that are rotten and one small section that the current owner covered in vinyl siding. Where can I find replacement siding that is the same or is it best to replace all with hardy board?

    Given the age if the home can one assume that the original lead based paint was removed on a previous painting and if not how do I check?

    Some of the original windows have be replaced. A couple aluminum and a few with just a sheet of glass. Is it possible to find historic windows to replace the replacements with? Were the sizes back then standard or were they all custom to each house? This house has 45 windows and most of them are original. Painted shut of course. Are all the replacement parts available for these old windows?


  55. I have a 1908 house with car siding that is in really bad shape. We’ve repaired and repainted numerous times but are just plain tired of that. Can I install cedar shingles over the car siding? If you think this is feasible, can you give me a link/s to the how tos and do nots on how to do this?

    1. Tammy, installing shingles over car siding should be much of an issue I wouldn’t think. I’ve never done it but I’d I were going to I would take the opportunity to at least install some building wrap on top of the siding and maybe even some rigid foam insulation.
      The shingles would be installed regularly with no changes since the siding gives a pretty much flat surface to install on.

  56. I live in a 60 year old condominium with aluminum siding on the 2nd story bump-outs. It does look a little cheap and 2 dimensional where it meets the windows (especially with the rest of the walls being masonry), but the corners have joint caps on each clapboard, rather than the hideous corner-channel you see with vinyl siding; being away from any activity, it still looks new after nearly 6 decades and I’ve seen it protect other houses from fire much better than a typical vinyl job would. So my advice to anyone who has aluminum siding would be to keep it until you can afford something decent, like HardiPlank, brick or stucco. Vinyl siding may seem like a step up at first, but it degrades much faster. I have some neighbors with vinyl siding that was covered with algae after only 6 months and who knows what power washing a house every 6 months will do to it in the long run.

  57. I need to replace the vinyl on my Victorian. I want to use Hardi, but I have a circular section. Is there anything I can use?

      1. I have an area that is circular or round in shape. This is two stories high with turret at top. The siding has to wrap around this area.

        1. Hardi siding is actually very flexible and can be wrapped. It just depends how much it has to wrap. If it is too much of an angle then shingle siding would probably work best.

  58. Boy, can I relate to this. I even share your tolerance of Hardie siding! In fact, due to the sad state of the cedar on the back side of my house, we are considering it. Our house has almost no insulation under the cedar, so that poses a problem when also trying to save the plaster inside. Ya gotta get in there to insulate from one side or the other, since our winter temps fall into the teens, and it’s a tough decision.

    The first siding coverup was a layer of tar paper imprinted with a brick design. I’m sure you’ve seen on some homes that were built in the early part of the 1900s. “Cheap siding fix” is all I ever think of when I see it. So my old folk Victorian farmhouse stood proud with its cedar shiplap until someone wrapped in that. Later, to add insult to injury, the faux brick was covered in a rather strange pressboard type siding. Because the sections very wide, it looks ridiculous on this house. Because it appears to be mostly paper and wood fibers, there is a lot of rot. But we tolerate it until the interior is more livable. We had to remove all of it from the back side of the house before doing anything else. The gutters were in such sad shape that one corner of the back of the house, which is the kitchen, was deteriorating, and fast. Off came the siding, and then we scabbed in new material and jacked up the house.

    Because there is still a long way to go on the inside, we’re putting off finishing the exterior. I’m sure my neighbors love us for that. It will probably get a coat of white paint in the spring, and then it will at least not be such an eyesore until we can finally repair, restore or replace the siding.

  59. Historic Homes are beautiful and often worthy of restoration. In the process, there are significant opportunities to improve the energy performance of the building. There is so much cost in the aesthetic and cosmetic details that taking care of the infrastructure before the details are finished is wise because it is impossible once the cost for the finished work is laid out. Before you start the process consult a BPI certified building analyst on how to improve your buildingโ€™s performance forever.

    By the way, paint holds up longer than stain I have found.

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