Tips from Charleston Property Managers: Installing Vinyl Siding

February 14, 2023 | By Charleston Property Company

Updated February 14, 2023

We've discussed the pros and cons of painting versus installing siding on the exterior of your Charleston rental property. Independent property owners who have no immediate plans to resell an investment property and who instead have their eye on long-term cost-effectiveness typically choose siding because of the one-time investment.

What should rental property owners know about siding and property installation? Today, our Charleston property managers discuss some of the most common errors made by both do-it-yourselfers and sloppy contractors when installing siding and how it can impact your ability to protect your investment.

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Avoid Mistakes When Installing Vinyl Siding

For this article, we are focused on jobs using vinyl siding, the most commonly-used exterior siding material.

From a do-it-yourself standpoint, installing siding on your Charleston rental property does not require any special technical skills but requires extreme attention to detail. Poorly installed siding can damage the home and cost you thousands of dollars in repairs. This kind of expense can eat into your return on investment in the form of missed rent collection and vacancy.

When tackling this project, avoid these mistakes at all costs or risk disastrous consequences. As Charleston property managers, we urge you not to approach this kind of project yourself unless you're certain you have the skills to do the job right.

water damage, property maintenance, Channeled Water Damage

Improper J-Channels

As the name implies, a J-Channel is a plastic or metal channel—shaped like a 'J'—used to support trim materials on the vertical walls.

The improper cut or trim of the horizontal J-Channel used around doors and windows or where corners meet the most common vinyl siding installation mistakes.

Even such a simple error as under-trimming the J-Channel or improperly directing water via bends in the trim can result in costly damage when rainwater is actually sent behind the siding. Here, it gets trapped between the moisture-impervious siding and the moisture-susceptible walls of the building.

With improper installation:

  • Trapped moisture can result in wood rot, water damage, and mold.

  • Because the siding remains unaffected in this situation, the problem can often remain undetected for years.

  • These maintenance and repair issues continue building until the damage to your rental property is significant.

In the worst-case scenarios for rental homes, windowsills can be rotted beyond repair, or the mold can spread to the interior sheet rock. Mold is difficult and costly to remove.

However, when the J-Channel is installed properly on your Charleston rental property, water is channeled outside, not inside the trim. Ultimately, this saves you on the cost of repairs and maintenance issues down the road.

Poor Nailing Practices

loose siding, property maintenance, poor nailing practices

You may choose to install vinyl siding on the exterior of your Charleston rental homes because it looks like wood. However, you may not know that vinyl has installation requirements that vary significantly from wood because it is a different material.

  • Wooden boards must be tightly nailed to exterior walls—but vinyl siding is attached to fasteners that enable the panels to expand and contract with temperature changes.

  • If the siding is nailed too tightly to the house, the pieces will be prevented from moving, resulting in buckling and warping of the panels.

  • According to Tom Silva of This Old House, a 12-foot length of vinyl siding can expand or contract as much as 5/8 of an inch as the temperature changes from season to season.

  • For a successful installation, it is recommended that you leave approximately 1/32 of an inch between the siding's nail flanges and the nail head.

Consequently, Silva says, "The worst thing you can do is nail vinyl tight."

How Can You Tell if the Nail Is Too Tight?

Here is how you can easily judge for yourself if you are installing siding too tightly on your Charleston rental:

  • Simply grab a panel and see if you can move it back and forth with your hands.

  • If you have installed it correctly, you should be able to move it about a half-inch in each direction.

If you can't, it's too tight.

On the other hand, siding that has been poorly secured can fall off or even blow off of your Charleston rental property during high winds. The chief cause of this is leaving too much space between fasteners. The farther apart the fasteners are, the more wind can blow in through the gaps.

Not only does this make for an unsightly appearance and completely defeat the purpose of installing siding in the first place, but out-of-place panels can also be a means of ingress for rainwater—meaning the type of water damage, wood rot, and mold potential for single-family homes and multi-family units alike.

Spare yourself some future rental property maintenance, Charleston investors, by getting this one 'nailed down' right!

Starting Near the Roof

Many do-it-yourselfers installing siding for the first time erroneously start at the top and work their way down, figuring that any mistakes they might make will be less visible by the time they reach ground level. The opposite is true.

  • Vinyl siding should be installed from the bottom up—and each piece has an interlocking edge that attaches to the panel above it.

  • Make sure each piece is pulled tight length-wise before beginning to nail, and panels should not overlap more than one-and-a-quarter inches.

One mistake that rookie installers make is using window and door edges as leveling aids. Unfortunately, most windows and doors are square and plumb to the opening, but the opening might not be entirely level with the wall itself.

Relying on the opening to help gauge the levelness of the siding only means that you will be several degrees off. Over the length of the wall, those degrees will result in a very noticeable discrepancy.

Settling for an Inferior Product Can Be Costly

property maintenance

Far and away, this is the biggest mistake you can make when installing vinyl siding on your Charleston rental property!

You are not expected to become an expert in all things vinyl siding just because it is the covering that you choose for the exterior, but you should educate yourself enough to know the differences because all vinyl siding is not created equal.

Cheaper Isn't Often Better

In the interest of saving money, too many do-it-yourselfers install the cheapest vinyl siding they can find. Unfortunately, as with all things, you get what you pay for. The worst thing you can do when trying to improve the exterior of your Charleston rental property is to settle for the lowest grade, cheapest vinyl product available.

As Charleston management experts for rental properties, we know firsthand that this can kill your ROI.

When choosing vinyl:

  • Look for 'virgin vinyl' siding. This means that the only thing your siding has ever been is siding.

  • The cheapest grades of siding will be 'reground vinyl,' meaning it has been made from recycled plastic products such as soda bottles and milk jugs.

  • Virgin vinyl siding has more protectants included at manufacture than reground vinyl. Without these protectants, the shelf life of the appearance of the siding is greatly reduced.

  • Inferior reground vinyl is subject to chalking, fading, UV degradation, and uneven weathering that can result in an odd "checkerboard" appearance on the surface of larger walls.

Finally, the least expensive vinyl siding can be as thin as .032 inches, while a premium product will be considerably thicker, up to .050 inches. This makes the panels more rigid, more durable, and less prone to warping or buckling.

Inferior Siding and Installation Won't Protect a Rental Property Long-Term

An inferior, thinner siding panel can also easily blow off your Charleston rental. In comparison, a thicker panel will typically have a reinforced nail flange and, when properly installed, can handle winds up to 180 mph.

Any home improvement project is only as good as the materials used and the skill and attention to detail of the person doing the work. If you have any doubts about your do-it-yourself ability, then it is imperative that you hire a professional to install siding on your Charleston rental property.

As with any outside contractor, the quality of work (and the price charged) can vary widely. Therefore, do the necessary homework and legwork to gather all the information necessary to make an informed decision.

The Best Property Management Companies Charleston, SC, Offers Ensure Quality

If DIY for new rental property siding feels overwhelming, turn to the property managers here at Charleston Property Company! We only work with vetted and trusted vendors, providing access for property owners looking for quality repairs or upgrades like new siding installation. We can also recommend any upgrades or updates your property might need to stay competitive and attract high-quality tenants!

Get started with our Free Rental Analysis to learn more about your rental property's potential in the Charleston rental market!


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