Styrofoam Backed Vinyl Siding
LESLIE: Jim in New Jersey finds The Money Pit on WCTC. How can we help you?
JIM: I have a question about vinyl siding. I’m in the process of talking to some contractors about putting some vinyl siding on. I’ve got a couple of conflicting messages from the contractors and I was just wondering if you might be able to answer some questions.
TOM: Alright, let’s see if we can sort it out.
JIM: Okay. I’ve got natural cedar shakes (pc) on the house.
JIM: The house was built in ’69 so I guess that puts it around 37 years old. Both contractors are going to rip the shakes (ph) off, which …
TOM: That’s good.
JIM: … sounds like a good idea. They’re talking about wrapping it with Tyvek …
TOM: That’s good.
JIM: … and then putting a … kind of like a blue styrofoam insulation on.
JIM: The problem differs … one guy is trying to tell me that a styrofoam bonded to the vinyl is good. Another guy says no. The problem is the first guy I talked to, that has the bonded siding to the … to the styrofoam, I don’t know if it’s the same siding that the guy was showing me that says it breaks.
TOM: So contractor number two is basically saying that contractor number one’s product is not going to work because it’s defective or it breaks. Is that what you’re saying?
JIM: That’s correct.
TOM: Well, look, here’s the situation. Siding is usually sold with an option for a foam backer. I personally don’t think that adds that much R-value to the wall structure. If you’re removing the cedar shingles and you’re putting Tyvek vapor barrier around it, that’s great. If you do have siding with a foam backer, it will tend to lay flatter; as opposed to being sort of concave. So it does tend to look a little stiffer and a little more like real wood. But it’s not going to really add a lot as far as insulation is concerned. So I would make the decision based on looks; not necessarily based on whether or not it was going to be a better insulator.
JIM: Now contractor two is telling me that the bonded styrofoam is not good. And he showed me what looks like … looked like a white styrofoam … kind of like turns into pellets as soon as you touch it.
TOM: Yeah. And that’s probably because …
JIM: (overlapping voices) He’s telling me moisture is going to break it down.
TOM: Moisture is not going to break it down. Sunlight will break it down but sunlight’s not going to get to it. That would not be a concern for me. If you left that styrofoam out in the sun for a couple of months … he probably got that demo piece that he’s been carrying around with him for (laughing) … you know, for all … for all these years.
JIM: (overlapping voices) That’s a good possibility. Sure, OK.
TOM: I would probably not spend the money on that. I would just have regular, plain vinyl siding on top of the foam board, on top of the Tyvek.
JIM: OK. Sounds good.
TOM: Alright? Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
Sometimes it can be intimidating, Leslie, when you have two competing contractors like that, telling somebody that the other guy’s work is bad.
LESLIE: Well, also, you don’t know if contractor two is aware of what contractor one is offering and is just trying to make that offer look bad.
TOM: Yeah, exactly. And that’s another reason, when you’re doing a home improvement project that’s big enough, that it’s a really good idea to have an independent third party, like an architect, spec out the entire job. Because, this way, you know that when the contractors come in they’re all bidding apples to apples and you won’t have … be in the situation that Jim was in, trying to figure out who was making the most sense or not.
888-MONEY-PIT is the telephone number. 1-888-666-3974.