What’s the Science Behind Vinyl Siding?

There are lots of pros and cons of vinyl siding. Weighing heavily in the pros list are: It’s very affordable, it installs quickly, it’s virtually maintenance free, it can come re-inforced with foam insulation backer, and there are plenty of colors and styles to choose from. Weighing heavily in the cons column: There is a void of science involved.

Now let’s just get the record straight, I’m no primadonna. I don’t need to build or even repair a home as if it were a baby grand. I don’t utterly refuse to work with some materials out of sheer carpentry snobbery, and I’m equally grateful to be working on a modest single story ranch as I am on an elegant Queen Anne Victorian.

There are, however, plenty of times when I need to lobby for the implementation of fundamental building principles. The cardinal rule of building has always been Water Management. It starts with the selection of a buildable site, is adhered to when determining the elevation of the building, and so on until the end of time.  With regards to this cardinal rule, vinyl siding offers virtually nothing. Does that mean that vinyl siding shouldn’t be used? I don’t feel that way at all. It just means that it’s critical to have a bulletproof “drain plane” behind the vinyl siding. What’s a proper drain plane? It is the proper overlapping of weather resistant building materials (such as tar paper or Tyvek housewrap) to continually carry water out over the face of the home. This technique used to be common knowledge in the trade. Used to be.

Without making this a doctoral dissertation, do I like vinyl siding? Sure. It’s on my first home now. It won’t be the selection for my dream home. But it will be the selection for my final home. Ahh, the circle of life….


By John Bradshaw

Simple Roof Upgrades to Stop Chronic Leaks


Not long ago I was asked to consult the realtor in charge of obtaining proposals for removing a steeple and re-roofing a church in Rochester. He had obtained many bids and there was quite a big price difference between the top and bottom. I looked the project over, took pictures, measured it, and analyzed what a winning game plan might be. Then, I looked at all the proposals. One of the proposals stood out for its outstanding warranty. It was from a roofing contractor that I know of to be very reputable and skilled. There was a common theme amongst all the proposals, though: They all included the bare minimum to meet code.

Fix leaky roof

This is the bottom of the troubled valley. It’s clearly been repaired, heat tape added for ice dam solution, and notice gutter right down onto the roof plane.

proper metal valley

This is the properly installed open metal (aluminum) valley. Notice we cut back the gutter to allow drainage.

Normally, that may not be a problem. In this case, my professional advice was that this approach was narrow-minded. As soon as you climbed on the roof, it was plain to see that they had chronic ice dam and water infiltration problems. The 2 valleys had been pulled apart and re-done, and the front one still had electric heat wire in it to mitigate ice damming. Furthermore, the gutter at the bottom of the valley butted right into the adjacent roof plane, preventing water from clearing under it. I determined that this roof required a small heaping of extra effort to ensure problem free performance for another generation.

finished roof

This is the finished roof project. You can see the construction storage trailer that we used throughout to keep the site super clean at the end of each day.

I suggested to the pastor that he choose the roofing contractor with the great reputation and warranty, but request some adjustments to the proposal. I suggested he ask for Certainteed architectural shingles instead of Iko. Iko shingles don’t hold up nor do they stand behind their warranty, in my experience. I recommended stipulating Grace brand ice and watershield or other non-granular surface product, and I also recommended extending the ice and water shield protection 9’ up the roof line instead of the minimum 6’. This will be absolutelynecessary during heavy snowfall years to avoid water damage from ice dams. Finally, I recommended installing 2 open metal valleys. This would convert the valley from a liability that promotes ice damming to an asset that helps clear ice dams. The open metal valleys really allow water to run and heat up and melt ice in subfreezing weather if the sun hits it.

The pastor said that all of those items were exactly in lock step with what one of his engineer parishioners had recommended. Because his confidence in me was high, he asked me if I would provide a number for the roof project. When I provided a detailed proposal that was $4,000 less than the nearest competitor it was a done deal. Take a look at the finished product.


By John Bradshaw