Vinyl Siding Pros and Cons

Is vinyl siding the horrible thing that everyone makes it out to be?  I don’t believe so, and here is a balanced view at the vinyl siding pros and cons:

Vinyl Siding Pros

  • Vinyl siding is the cheapest type of house siding available.
  • Vinyl siding requires no painting.
  • Vinyl siding is very easy to clean–no power washer or special liquids.
  • Vinyl siding is a highly competitive industry, so homeowners can often negotiate good deals with siding companies and get extra perks like gutters and window casing.
  • Vinyl siding can be installed very quickly, usually in less than a week.

Vinyl Siding Cons

  • Vinyl siding, a petroleum product, is more flammable than other types of siding.
  • Vinyl siding can crack when hit by a rock from a lawnmower or something similar.
  • Vinyl siding will melt when subjected to even moderate heat: a barbeque grill placed nearby or even reflection from a neighboring window.
  • Vinyl siding is widely viewed as “cheap,” so potential home-buyers may look down on it.

Vinyl Siding Myths

Lots of misinformation is circulating about vinyl siding.  Let’s put a few of these vinyl siding myths to rest:

Vinyl Siding Myth #1: One Color…Beige…Blah

Myth: Vinyl siding is available in any color you want–as long as it’s beige.

Fact: Vinyl siding manufacturers in recent years have developed deeper, richer colors popular with homeowners–hunter green, barn-red, etc.

Vinyl Siding Myth #2: Zero Insulation Value?!

Myth: Vinyl siding has no insulation value.

Fact: Yes and no. By itself, it provides no insulation. However, in a normal installation, vinyl siding is backed with thin sheets of insulation which provide some R-value. Also, manufacturers are developing cellular siding which will provide greater insulation without the need for backing.

Vinyl Siding Myth #3: Looks Like Plastic

Myth: Vinyl siding looks like what it is: plastic.

Fact: Vinyl siding manufacturers have learned that homeowners are eager for siding that imitates historical clapboard styles and colors. The manufacturers have begun to produce vinyl siding that looks less and less like…vinyl siding.

Measure Your House for Siding

Want to measure your house for siding?  It’s a lot more difficult than simply plugging numbers into an online siding calculator.  Better to take the “measured approach,” to avoid getting ripped off by vinyl siding salespeople.

How One Hour of Work Saves You $500

The biggest mistake that homeowners make is to rely on the siding salesman to measure the house.  Think about this in another area of your life.  Would you let the auto salesman tell you how much your trade-in car is worth?  No, you would research this ahead of time.

Vinyl siding salesmen make their commissions based on the cost of the job.  So, if your siding job costs $10,000, they get a cut of that price.  It’s just plain dumb to let someone measure your house who has a vested interest in seeing your cost go up.  Got that now?

Truth be told, this will take about an hour to measure and calculate the figures.  But you might save $500 just by taking the time to do this.  Unless you make $500 per hour in your job, it’s well worth your time to do this.

Tools You Need:

  • Buy or borrow a 50-foot or greater tape measure.
  • Buy or borrow a “wide” 25-foot tape measure such as the Stanley FatMax.  The FatMax is a cool tape, so even though it’s expensive you might want to consider buying one.
  • Painter’s telescoping aluminum pole (optional).
  • Calculator
  • Pencil and paper.

Step 1:    Measure “The Square Parts”

Measure Your House for Siding - Height and Width

With the 50-foot measuring tape, measure the height and width of the square or rectangular parts of your exterior walls.  Multiply length by width to get area.

In the example shown here, the height is 10 feet and the width is 30 feet.  So, the area is 300 square feet.

This is the easy part.  But remember that most houses are not made of perfect squares and rectangles.  The siding people add in every single conceivable weird shape.  But they also subtract “cut-outs” for windows.

Step 2:    Measure “The Triangular Parts”

Measure Your House for Siding - Triangular Parts

With your “wide” tape measure (i.e. the FatMax), measure the triangular portions of the walls.  Since the triangular portions are ten feet high or greater, the “wide” tape measure provides the stability you need to push the tape measure up to the very top of the triangle.

Still can’t reach it?  Alternatives:

  • Affix the end of the tape measure to a telescoping aluminum painter’s pole with duct tape.  Push it up that way.

  • Stand on a ladder to gain a few extra feet.  Be careful:  looking up can cause you to lose your balance.

Multiply width by half of the height to get the area.  In the example, the width is 30 feet.  The height of the triangle is 10 feet.  30 x (1/2 x 10) = 30 x 3 = 90.  So the area of the triangular portion of this wall is 90 square feet.

Step 3:    Measure “The Weird Stuff”

Measure Your House for Siding - The Weird Stuff

This is where it gets tricky.  Little things can add up.  Most houses have all sorts of things jutting out that are hard to measure,  This is a laborious process, but this is the part that many siding salesmen neglect to measure–and where you can get the upper hand on them.

Measure the odd-sized parts of the exterior such as dormers.

Here, the area of the dormer is 6 square feet.

Step 4:    Measure the “Cut Outs”

Now that you’ve added, it’s time to measure the subtractions.  Yes, there are certain things, like windows and doors, which will not be covered in siding.  To be precise, and to save money, you need to measure them.

The easy part?  You only need to measure one door and one window.  Each door and window will stand in for the others.

But of course, if you have larger or smaller doors (such as French doors or sliding doors) or windows of different shapes, you will need to measure each one individually.

In our example, we have measured one window and found that it is 14 square feet.  The other two windows are the same size.  So, 3 x 14 = 42 square feet.

Step 5:    Arrive at Total Area of Wall

Add Steps 1-3, minus the cutouts in Step 4.

Step 1 – Add Square Parts 300
Step 2 – Add Triangle Parts 90
Step 3 – Add Weird Parts 6
Subtotal 396
Step 4 – Subtract Cut-Outs 42
Total 354

Step 6:    Measure Rest of House

Repeat these steps for the rest of the house.  Add all amounts to get a total square footage for your house.

Step 7:    Important:  Add in 10% Wastage

Wastage.  Sounds pretty bad, doesn’t it.  Actually, wastage is a normal part of estimating siding.  Yes, sometimes the installers will make a bad cut, and that will become wastage.  But what wastage really means are the ends of the siding that are are cut off to make a perfect fit.  These waste ends can sometimes be reused in other places, sometimes not.

You will need to buy more siding than is actually used to allow for wastage.   Take the total square footage of the house, multiply by .10 on the calculator.  The amount shown on the calculator is your wastage amount.  Add the wastage amount to the total you have at this point.

Step 8:     Divide Everything by 100 to Find Number of “Squares”

Siding companies and manufacturers speak in terms of “squares.”  A square is 100 square feet of siding material.  They generally do not talk in terms of individual square feet because the measurements they are dealing with are so large.

So, for our example:  the total wall area for the house is 3200 square feet.  Divide 3200 by 100.  The siding installer will use 32 squares of siding material on the house.

Step 9:  Should You Put the Salesman on the Spot?

Don’t tell the salesman the square footage upfront.  Let them tell you their measurements first.

If your measurements match theirs–great.  Fine and dandy.

If your measurements are different, you can either:

  • Call them on it (“Why did you get 23 squares when I only got 7 squares?” Or,

  • Cross them off your list, because obviously they are trying to cheat you.

How to Clean Vinyl Siding

Even though it’s relatively easy to clean vinyl siding, you’ll want to observe a few rules so that you do not damage your expensive purchase:

Q: Do I have to use a power washer?

A: No. For mild cleaning, you can use a garden hose and long-handled, soft-bristle brush if you wish.

Q: But can I use a power washer if I want to?

A: Yes, but be careful. The danger of using a power washers is this: 1.) the powerful jet can damage the siding because vinyl siding can easily break; 2.) forcing water behind the siding.

Q: How can I avoid the danger of using a power washer?

A: Stand at a reasonable distance from the siding (5-6″) and make sure that the spray is always level to the siding. Do not aim the power washer upward at the siding.

Q: How can I clean mold and mildew?

A: No special vinyl-cleaning liquids are required! You have three options:

For small spots, use Fantastik or Windex.

For larger spots, a solution of 30% vinegar and 70% water will work just fine.

Or for very stubborn larger spots, use a solution of 1/3 cup powdered laundry detergent, 2/3 cup powdered household cleaner (like Spic and Span), 1 quart liquid laundry bleach, and 1 gallon of water.

Q: What about other kinds of stains?


  • Bubble Gum: Fantastik, Murphy Oil Soap, or a solution of vinegar (30%), water (70%) and Windex.
  • Crayon: Lestoil.
  • DAP (an oil-based caulk): Fantastik.
  • Felt-tip pen: Fantastik.
  • Grass: Fantastik, Lysol, Murphy Oil Soap, Windex.
  • Lithium (car grease): Fantastik, Lestoil, Murphy Oil Soap, Windex.
  • Motor Oil: Fantastik, Lysol, Murphy Oil Soap, Windex.
  • Paint: Brillo pad, Soft Scrub.
  • Pencil: Soft Scrub.
  • Rust: Fantastik, Murphy Oil Soap, Windex.
  • Tar: Soft Scrub.

–Information courtesy The Vinyl Siding Institute

Window Glossary

Learn a few basic window terms in our glossary:

Argon gas

A gas several times more dense than air, argon is injected between window glass to inhibit the transfer of cold or heat between the outside and inside. Contrast with krypton gas.

Balance system; balancer

The method by which the sash is held in place when the window is open. Typically, a spring, counterweight, or friction device.


Two panes of glass between you and the exterior. The space between window glass panes is often filled with gas such as argon or krypton or may simply be an air vacuum. Double-pane has largely become the standard for most windows. Contrast with triple-paned windows.

Krypton gas

A gas denser than air and argon gas that is forced between double-paned windows (or triple-paned) to slow the transmission of outside temperatures to the inside.


This “low emissivity” coating reflects sun back from the outside, while allowing most of the light to come through.


A small tab on the inside of the window that allows sash to open only a few inches. Note: despite the name, this should not be used at night or to keep children in, because the tab is easily broken.


The component of the window that contains the glass and moves upward or outward (except in the case of fixed-glass windows).


Three panes of glass between interior and exterior. Used mainly in extremely cold climates. Contrast with double-paned windows.

Common Window Styles

Learn some common window styles:


Its sash slides upward. A classic window style, perfect for older homes or new homes that want that older look.

Horizontal Slider or Glider

Its sash slides sideways. Typically cheaper than other window styles.

Picture Window

Fixed in place; does not open. Allows for much larger glass area. More weather resistant than other window styles.


Hinge is located on the side. Window opens with a crank and opens like a book.


Hinged at top. Opens outward but does not fully open. Good for rooms that need only minimal breeze. Effective at shielding open window from rain.

Bay or Bow

Windows that “bow” outward. They either do not open or have limited openings. Attractive from the exterior. Bay windows appear to give off more light, though this is an illusion.

Replacement Window Frame Materials

Learn about replacement window frame materials:


  • Attractive, fits in with historic homes
  • Slows the transfer of heat/cold from outside
  • Needs painting or sealing on exterior and interior
  • More expensive than aluminum or vinyl


  • Modern, high-tech look
  • Needs no painting
  • Transmits outside temperatures
  • Less popular, so may be difficult to find


  • Inexpensive
  • Needs no painting
  • Cannot be painted, even if you want to
  • Has “cheap” look that many homeowners don’t like


  • Can be painted
  • Inhibits transfer of heat/cold from outside
  • Expensive

Replacement Window Manufacturers

If you’re looking for Pella, Andersen, Marvin, or any number of other off-beat replacement window manufacturers, we’ve got them all–right below this no-hassle replacement windows request quote form.

Request your Replacement Windows Quote

Please fill in the information below to receive your quote on replacement windows, from a licensed local professional. You will also receive a free copy of “The Insider’s Guide to Replacement Windows” and a referral to a licensed local windows professional

Start your quote request here!





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ABC Window Co.

A & H Windows,

AccuWeld LLC

Action Windoor Technology Inc.


All Weather Windows


Amerimax Building Products Inc.

Amsco Windows


Anlin Window Systems

ATI Windows

Atrium Windows & Doors


Barber & Ross Co.

BFRich Windows & Doors


Cascade Windows

CertainTeed Corp., Window Product Group

Champion Window & Patio Room Co.

Champion Window LP

CMI/CraftMaster Manufacturing Inc.

Croft LLC

Crystal Window & Door Systems Inc.

Custom Window Systems Inc.


Elixir Industries

Empire Pacific Windows


Florida Extruders International Inc.,

Focus Group

Four Seasons Solar Products LLC


Gerkin Windows & Doors

Gienow Group

Gilkey Window Co. Inc.

Gorell Enterprises Inc.

Groupe Bocenor Inc.,


Harvey Industries

Hayfield Window & Door Co.

Heritage Veneered Products


Ideal Window Manufacturing Inc.

International Aluminum Corp.,


Jancor Cos. Inc.,


Jordan Cos.


Kinro Inc.

Kohler Windows & Entrance Systems,

Kolbe & Kolbe Millwork Co. Inc.


Larson Manufacturing

Lincoln Wood Products Inc.




Masonite International Corp.

MGM Industries

MI Windows & Doors

Midway Windows & Doors Inc.


Modern Builders Supply,

Monarch Holdings Inc.,,

Monarch Windows & Doors

Moss Supply Co.

North Star Manufacturing

Northeast Building Products


NuAir Manufacturing


ODL Inc.


Patio Enclosures Inc.


PGT Industries

Philips Products Inc.,

Plastpro Inc.

Ply Gem Industries,, www.mwwindows.comPrecision Entry Inc.

Public Supply Co.


Quaker Window Products Co. Inc.


Republic Windows & Doors Inc.
www.republicwindows.comRobert Bowden Inc.


Semling-Menke Co. Inc.
www.semcowindows.comSeven D Industries LP

Sierra Pacific Industries

Silver Line Building Products Corp.

Simonton Windows/SBR Inc.,,

Simpson Door Co.


Starline Windows Ltd.

Steves & Sons
www.stevesdoors.comStock Building Supply

Sun Windows Inc.

Superseal Manufacturing Co.


Taylor Building Products
www.taylordoor.comTherma-Tru Doors

Thermo-Twin Industries

ThermoView Industries Inc.



Ultra Sash Window Factory
www.uswindowfactory.comUnited Window & Door Manufacturing Inc.


Velux-America Inc.
www.veluxusa.comVentanas Cuprum S.A. de C.V./Legend Windows

Viwinco Inc.

Vytex Corp.


Weather Shield Windows & Doors/ The Peachtree Cos. Inc.

WinDoor Inc.
www.windoorinc.comWoodgrain Millwork,


Zeluck Inc.

Window Glass FAQs

Here are some common questions we hear about window glass:

1. How Many Panes of Glass?

In all but the most tropical parts of North American, the standard now is double-paned windows. But even in tropical climes, double-paned windows are the way to go. Provided the house has a cooling system, double-panes slow the transfer of heat into the house. Coupled with a non-conductive window material such as wood, vinyl, or fiberglass, double-paned windows are a great way to maintain an even temperature in your house. Triple-paned windows are used mainly in very cold climates.

2. The Low Down on LoE

LoE glass has a thin, metallic coating on the inside of the outer pane of glass. LoE does make a difference in repelling UV rays that are harmful to house interiors. But if you value sunlight in your house, LoE definitely cuts down on the light. It is possible to get windows without LoE, even though the window companies will only grudgingly admit it. LoE is a valid option and should be considered. But when salespeople give it the hard sell, it skates perilously close to being one of those gimmicks inflicted on unsuspecting consumers.

3. Krypton Gas, Argon Gas, or None?

Argon or the more expensive krypton gas is often injected with double- or triple-paned windows. Since these gases are denser than air, they slow down the transmission of heat or cold from the outside. It’s hard to buy windows without gas anymore. Window companies will swear that only you’re the only person on earth who wants gas-less windows. It is true that gas provides a better barrier than air. But if you live in anything approaching a temperate climate, you probably don’t need gas. Like LoE, it’s not exactly a trick or gimmick, but it’s an option you want to weigh carefully.

Replacement Windows FAQs

Here are some basic questions that come our way about replacement windows:

What is a replacement window?

A replacement window is a special type of window that replaces most of the components of your existing window. It is not a new-construction window, which is the type that builders use on new houses. It is not the type of window you see on the racks at Home Depot, Lowe’s, or any of those big home improvement stores. Replacement windows are available only by special order.

Will the replacement window have as much glass area as my existing window?

No. Because it fits within your current window frame, it does not–and cannot–have as much glass area as your current window.

What is the process of installing replacement windows?

The glass and working components (excluding any hidden components, such as sash weights) of your current windows are removed. The wooden window frame that holds the window remains in place. If necessary, minor repairs are made to strengthen the window frame to accept the replacement window. The replacement window is nailed into place. Exterior window casing is then formed and installed to ensure a tight weather-resistant seal.

Are cheap no-name windows necessarily worse than the expensive, high-end names?

No. With the current window technology and improved manufacturing techniques, it is possible to get a well-performing window at low cost. Don’t fall into the trap of automatically buying the high-end names.

How much more light will I get from a bay window?

None. Because the size of the window opening cut into the wall does not increase, you get no additional light. However, bay windows do give the illusion of more light. Also, bay windows are a good way to add interest to the house’s exterior.

I’ve heard that replacement windows recoup much of their cost when it comes time to sell. Is this true?

Yes. They’re a great investment. Let’s say you spend $10,000 on your mid-range replacement windows. When you sell, you can expect to recoup almost $9,000 of that cost. That’s a higher return rate (90%!) than a bathroom addition or even an upscale kitchen remodel. Keep in mind that almost no home renovation recoups 100% or more of its original cost. So, 90% is a phenomenal rate of return.

Will I save enough energy to justify the cost of the windows?

No. According to the EPA and Department of Energy’s authoritative EnergyStar program: “Replacing windows is rarely cost-effective based solely on energy-savings.”