The New Discussion on Vinyl Siding: Part Four

Vinyl siding and historic preservation typically do not play well together. It’s an ongoing debate, sometimes cringe-worthy sight as buildings across the country are clad in vinyl. Preservationists know vinyl isn’t the maintenance free answer that people think it is. Yet, we seldom make headway. Perhaps until now.

Introducing a guest series by a new contributor: Philip B. Keyes, a fellow preservationist, with four new approaches to the old discussion on vinyl siding in a four part series. Part One. Part Two. Part Three.


By Philip B. Keyes


Approach #4 (of 4): Call your Realtor.

That is to say, those with influence in preservation should connect with those with influence in real estate to discuss effects not only on real estate values, but on the structural integrity of the buildings. Just about everyone who owns property talks with a realtor at some point, so is there a better ally? In each case the buyer of an old house covered in plastic should rightfully ask “what is this guy hiding?” Take a look at some of the maintenance malfunctions that are being covered over with plastic, or imagine what is going on behind that shiny veneer to a wooden structure that was never intended to be shrink-wrapped with a chlorine/ethylene tango. Realtors can make this point better than anybody, and in their clients’ best interests, they should.

What could this vinyl siding be hiding?

What could this plastic siding be hiding? (And it’s for sale. Realtors, what do you think?)

The real estate community should also consider (with our help) plastic’s macro effects, i.e. the drabification of America. How many rich, vibrant colors do you see in neighborhoods where the historic building stock has been covered in plastic? Very few, because the more pigment in the siding the faster if fades in the weather, and thus is more challenging to warranty or retain its appeal over time. Richer colors also mean more heat is retained in the plastic, increasing expansion/contraction that leads to all sorts of problems. This explains how rainbows of rich and interesting neighborhood colors became a sea of pale grays, pale blues, pale greens, pale yellows, and pushed house values down. You don’t need to take my word for it, the evidence is there.

These houses have lost their colors to plastic siding.

These houses have lost their colors to plastic siding.

If I may, I would like to close with this which I hope will make you smile: I ran into a contractor the other day who said the longer term issue of faded vinyl has been resolved; they’ve developed a new line of coatings so we can now paint it.


Thanks to Philip Keyes for sharing this series with PiP readers. Keep the discussions coming, everyone. What do you think? Does this bring us to another era of vinyl (or, ahem, plastic) siding discussion?


6 thoughts on “The New Discussion on Vinyl Siding: Part Four

  1. lori says:

    oh my, i’ve always hated vinyl on historic houses, and my own too for that matter, but didn’t think anyone was on the web writing about it. interesting post.

  2. thatmidcenturyfella says:

    Laughing at your closing statement. Painting vinyl siding? Wasn’t that the selling point years ago for covering the wood facade? Home ownership is work and will never be “maintenance free”.

  3. Arianna says:

    What about…aluminum siding? When my parents bought their c. 1900 house in 1995, it had (okay, still has) mint-green aluminum siding.

    Worse or better than vinyl? Are there many other houses that still have aluminum siding on them?

    Thanks for this great series!

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