Solid PVC & Composite Sidings Blog Image

Solid PVC & Composite Sidings

 

Solid PVC & Composite Sidings

Vinyl siding, like other claddings that have preceded it, has a finite life expectancy. We see this not only in terms of its performance on the wall, but also in the larger scope of generational time: Siding materials come and go. As we look back, vinyl, aluminum, asbestos, beveled wood, and so on, have all had their heyday. Changes from one “mainstay” to another are never clearly defined, but rather have overlapping periods. I think we are in the midst of just such a period right now.

While vinyl remains the biggest seller and cementitious siding is seen as the “high-end” alternative—at least here in in the Siding State of New Jersey—a new kind of siding has been making its way into the professional siding contractor’s playbook. It’s made of a mineral composite, cellular PVC, or a combination of inorganic materials all of which share a key feature—they are solid materials. These new sidings are more stable and easy to handle. They cut and install much like a wood siding, but have factory-applied finishes that are typically warrantied for 25 years. And they have rigidity that you just don’t find in ordinary vinyl siding.

 

NUCEDAR SETS THE STANDARD

NuCedar Mills was one of the first cellular-PVC sidings to come to market in the mid-2000’s. Their specialty (in my opinion) is the replication of shingles. NuCedar manufactures them the same way wood shingles come: individually sized in several widths, prefinished, with multiple exposures, and are sold with the required accessories to match.

The difference is in the upkeep. Because they are cellular PVC with a “heat reflective industrial coating” finish (which is included in their 25 year warranty), they are virtually maintenance-free.

These shingles are a niche product though, given the cost of manufacturing so many individual pieces and the incredible variegated finish that is put on each one. But for those looking for more than what a vinyl shake product can provide, and want to avoid the upkeep of finished cedar shingles, there is no better alternative.

Much the same can be said of the vertical sidings from NuCedar. The long, authentic cedar grain is unmatched in the industry, and perfectly complements a vertical application. Vertical applications can be tricky though. The problem is, well, gravity. You need one installer up, and one down, and they have to be on the same page and communicate constantly. This is so important, because if they don’t communicate well, and panels start to go wavy and it’s going to show.

The only reason the NuCedar products haven’t been more prevalent in the field, I believe, is because of the cost of materials, and the time required for a proper installation. Not many homeowners are willing to pay for this fantastic material. Nor are there many siding contractors willing to put in the time to learn how to properly install it. The lead photo on the previous page gives you an idea of part of what’s involved: Shingles must be sorted by size, dabs of Flex-and-Fill are applied to the bottom corners of each shingle, and stainless nails are shot to apply. The photos above provide a little more detail.

Two things we run up against with all new solid sidings: First, it is imperative to find aluminum trim coil that will match, or nearly match, the finish sidings. Manufacturers that provide color-matched coil stock are one step ahead. NuCedar is not one of these so we have to work at the beginning of the job to find the best match and set client expectations accordingly. Second, we always focus on managing the water. Under the siding and foam underlayment we use aluminum trim coil at all inside and outside corners over the house wrap. We like to use a drainable house wrap with stand-offs or folds to help get the water out and away. This is especially important in our market along the Jersey Shore. (Remember Sandy? We remind ourselves of this all the time.)

 

A FLEETING MOMENT WITH FIBERGLASS

For a time, NuCedar was the main player in this new field of siding materials. Then Marvin developed a siding made of the same material as their Integrity windows – pultruded fiberglass. This was in 2012. It was – and still is – in my opinion, the finest siding of them all. It was aptly called “Apex.” We did several jobs early on, as I recognized it as the ultimate answer to all things “suspect” in the vinyl, fiber cement, composite and engineered-wood categories. But, alas, it just didn’t take off and the product went off the market. We were disappointed, as we were just gaining momentum with several jobs under our belt by then.

Azek followed that with their own version in 2016 that, I suspect, had some element of fiberglass in it, too. We did a job with it, hoping to continue our foray into this New World of sidings. But alas Azek pulled the plug on this one, too. (Azek has recently made forays back into the cladding market with a repurposed decking board formulated for open-joint and plank siding, but we have yet to use it.) I still think fiberglass is in our future. Just the fact that expansion and contraction are negligible makes the material a no-brainer. And best of all: no caulk is necessary when properly flashed. Also no pocket and no J-channel: The look was perfection.

 

ROYAL BUILDING PRODUCT’S CELECT

Sometime in 2014, I became fully aware of a new siding made by Royal Building Products. I say “fully aware,” because back in 2011 I was visited on one of my jobs by a representative from Royal with a new prototype siding to see what I thought. It was solid, and had a shiplap interlock at the end of each panel. This would make it virtually seamless, which has always been a draw for me, and my customers. (I believe I was actually contacted because of my membership in the “Seamless Siding Association”, an organization in the 90’s and early 00’s which included siding contractors from the New England and Mid-Atlantic states who had exclusive areas to sell and install Royal’s “Suprema” 40-foot-long vinyl siding.) I imagine it took Royal a while to go from prototype to production, because it wasn’t until 2014 that the material became readily available in my area. Once I saw it was a viable alternative, we knew this was a special siding, indeed.

It is a well thought-out product, and the line includes all the required accessories. We did our first job with it in early 2015. From the start, Royal included color-matched, heavy-gauge coil stock, as well as a line of color-matched cellular-PVC trim stock. This has made working with this material very convenient.

We continued to sell and install the Royal Celect to those homeowners who seek the “best.” Installation is slower than regular vinyl sidings, as all cuts have to be made with power tools. No snips here. And no J-channels to hide the ends. Everything fits in a high-profile trim element or custom fabricated (out of the matching color aluminum trim coil) receiver piece. At first, all penetrations had to have a “receiver pocket,” which we built following the manufacturer instruction by applying one 1×1-1/2-inch firring strips, and then overlaying a 1×3-1/2-inch trim piece. This created the 2-inch pocket that Royal calls for. Having spent many years in the seamless-siding world, I became very familiar with the required allowances for expansion and contraction. I also know that it is relative to the size of the panel, or in Celect’s case, joined together panels. So, we are comfortable with having smaller pieces of siding end in 3/4-inch pockets. Many times this will eliminate an otherwise obtrusive trim.

A couple of years ago, Celect introduced a shake profile. It is a single 7-inch panel, and comes in two different molds. This totally eliminates the repeating pattern issue found with other panelized shake sidings. And the window trim materials are varied enough to make several types of casing systems. These shakes are hard-nailed (the panel has no nail holes), so we can employ a siding nail gun. This helps speed up the process.

 

CHELSEA BUILDING PRODUCTS’S EVERLAST

Chelsea Building Products (founded in 1975) has been a behind-the-scenes maker of specialty products in the siding market for some time now. Many major manufacturers marketed Chelsea products branded with their name for a number of years. In 2009, Chelsea introduced their own “Everlast” siding product in New England, and it has proven to be a viable option in this emerging sector of the siding industry.

Made of a polymer base with inorganic minerals, we especially like the authentic finish, We also like that it has far less expansion and contraction than most other sidings in this new genre. It only calls for a 3/4-inch pocket for penetrations, so standard utility blocks, such as those by Mid-America, and more typical and readily available cellular PVC trims, such as Azek, can be used.

Like Celect, it also has a butt joint seam; mechanically fastened by using a stainless steel bar that spans the panels in the upper, hidden nailing area. This bar must be double screwed to each adjoining panel (four screws total), insuring that the seam will stay together. The screws are short enough to allow the siding to move freely, without attachment to the wall. This becomes a bit laborious, but after a while, installers get used to it and stop complaining. Here in New Jersey, we often find older homes that have fiberboard sheathing, which necessitates the need to fasten the new siding to studs easily done with their 8” O.C. nail slots.

Everlast is offered in two profiles: 6-7/8 and 4-1/2 inches, as well as a relatively new board-and-batten panel with an 11-inch reveal. I believe Everlast has captured the look of wood with their finish. Because it is thick, and not just a sheet material, the depth and character of the woodgrain is much clearer than what is found in ordinary vinyl siding.

Everlast does not have as many as ancillary products as we would like to see. There is no color-matched cellular-PVC trim, utility blocks or aluminum trim coil, although Chelsea does have an array of their own cellular PVC trim materials in white and we have had luck in matching their colors to other vinyl manufacturers that offer a wide selection of coil stock. They do have some basics: corners, J-channels and a 3 1/2-inch casing in colors

 

WOLF

Wolf is another brand of composite sidings we have used recently. “Wolf” is the marketer and distributor; Inteplast is the actual manufacturer. Regardless, the siding is fully backed and supported by Wolf, and is a well-made, very solid siding panel. Best of all for us, it is offered in a 7-inch panel, which is in high demand today. It is also available in a double 4-inch panel, but we’re not so sure there will be a call for double anything anymore.

Wolf calls for a 1 1/2-inch pocket, and provides a specific line of cellular-PVC trims in white only. We’re hoping they will get the memo and start making trims in colors to match. Not everyone wants white, especially for corner posts. They do offer color-matched aluminum coil material, which is a must.

Seams with Wolf are handled with a splice plate. Like Royal Celect and Chelsea Everlast, this results in a simple and secured butt joint. The Wolf system, however, is a little more involved, requiring you to place glue on the plates and apply some pressure to cure. This is only a small nuisance that quickly becomes standard procedure.

The new composites are well entrenched in our market … for now. While more expensive, they are making inroads because they are all accented with high profile trims, which is what really sets them apart from standard vinyl sidings. No aluminum casings with unsightly J-channels to clutter up the look.

Solid 4×8-foot PVC sheathing panels can be used for window panels as well as the “board” area of a board and batten accent area. Flexibility, as well as creativity, is unrestricted by the set sizes of vinyl materials. A specific width and a specific batten size are easily made with solid cellular-PVC material. All you have to remember is to seal any cut edges with Acetone, to prevent it from darkening over time. And many types of moldings, even crown molding are available. Most are available from each of the manufacturers covered here.

Steve LaPietra
sl@monmouthvinyl.com


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