Each home is as unique as the family that lives in it. And that means unique challenges when it comes to maintenance and care. In this Ultimate Guide, I’m breaking down the eight most common types of siding I find as a home inspector in Marquette, MI, and the central and western U.P. And, we’ll also learn how to care for each kind of siding properly.

8 Popular siding types in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan include:

  1. Vinyl
  2. Wood
  3. Masonite
  4. Aluminum
  5. Hardy Plank
  6. Shake Shingle
  7. Asbestos
  8. And asphalt

No matter what type of siding is on your home (or the home you are looking to buy), regular maintenance is required if you want to extend its life. Let’s get started!

Why Does Siding Need To Be Maintained?

Siding is much more than aesthetics. Yes, it can increase the curb appeal (and value) of your home – but it also works to keep out sleet, snow, rain, hail, bugs, dirt, and wind. Your home’s siding will also function as an additional layer of insulation, keeping in heat. Heat retention is especially important (for both your safety and your wallet) if you live in a cold climate like the U.P.

Let’s take a look at the most common types of siding I see during my inspections, address some typical problems, and explore how to maintain your siding for years to come.

Vinyl Siding

There’s a saying: “Vinyl is final.” Some homeowners take that to mean they’ll never have to lift a finger once it’s installed – but that’s a myth. Vinyl siding is popular because it is affordable, low-maintenance, extremely durable, and can be replaced easily. But no siding is zero maintenance, and that includes vinyl.

Here are my suggestions for keeping your vinyl siding in tip-top shape:

  • Wash it each year – Each year, vinyl siding will accumulate a layer of grime, debris, mold, and mildew. It’s essential to wash your siding each year with either a pressure washer or a specially designed detergent to keep it from deteriorating.
  • Watch the yard care tools – Lawnmowers, snowblowers, weed-whips, and edgers will easily damage vinyl siding.
  • Look for signs of animal damage – This past weekend, I ran into a situation during an inspection where a woodpecker bore through vinyl siding right into the wall of a home!It happens.

What I look for: During my inspections, I look for any damage that should be repaired or replaced. Small openings can be easily caulked, whereas more considerable damage will need to be replaced – which can be fairly easy to do.

Next, I will see if any siding has popped out of place due to expansion and contraction with temperature fluctuations. This is crucial because if the siding isn’t placed correctly, the wind will get underneath it and remove the siding.

Lastly, I look for discolored areas because it usually means someone has kept up with home maintenance and replaced damage. While it’s not the most aesthetically pleasing thing, it’s actually a good sign because it shows someone’s been keeping up with maintenance.

T-111, Clapboard, and Wood Siding

An old Victorian home with wood siding and shabby blue paint.
Shabby chic is a popular interior design trend, but not recommended when it comes to siding.

Several types of wood siding are used in the U.P., including T-111 (which consists of plywood) and clapboard (which features an overlapping-board design). Regardless of the style of wood siding your home (or prospective home) has, maintenance will look quite similar.

How to maintain wood siding:

  • Maintain the façade – Keeping up with paint, caulk, nails, and finishing of wood siding is critical to maintaining its integrity.
  • Avoid tree hazards – Prolonged contact with wet leaves can cause wood siding to rot.
  • Keep it clean – Each year, you should wash your wood siding with a brush and soapy water. If it’s abnormally dirty, consider power washing.
  • Apply a sealant – Applying a wood stain or clear sealant to the siding can be highly beneficial in inhibiting mold, mildew, and water damage.

What I look for: When inspecting wood siding, I look for signs of rotting wood, loose-fitting or popped nails, peeling paint, and crumbling caulk. If I find any of these problems, I always suggest the homeowner repair them right away to avoid water damage and rot.

Masonite Siding

Masonite siding photographed during a home inspection in Marquette, MI, with cracked and peeling red paint.
When inspecting Masonite, I look for signs of delamination, cracked or crumbling caulk, and signs of animal damage that would allow water damage to set in.

Masonite is a siding made of wood chips pressed together with resins. It can look just like natural wood—but be careful to examine it thoroughly at the end of each season, as it can rot, delaminate, and harbor mold when not correctly cared for.

How to care for Masonite siding:

  • Paint – To avoid delamination, be sure to paint your Masonite siding every six to eight years. I always recommend opting for the highest quality exterior paint you can find to avoid costly repairs down the line.
  • Caulk – Twice a year, examine areas where each plank of siding connects with doorways and windows (and every nail head). If the caulk seems cracked or damaged, be sure to cut it out with a utility knife and replace it right away.  
  • Replace any damaged pieces – Any pieces that have delaminated are rendered useless and need to be replaced. While Masonite siding is no longer being produced, you can pick up a fiber-cement siding at any hardware store as a substitute.

What I look for: When inspecting Masonite, I look for signs of delamination, cracked or crumbling caulk, and signs of animal damage that would allow water damage to set in.

Aluminum Siding

Aluminum siding is not as popular as vinyl because it dents so easily. But it does have its benefits. Compared to wood siding, aluminum siding is a cinch to clean and won’t warp or crack. That said, aluminum siding has some particular maintenance needs that you will need to adhere to.

How to preserve and maintain aluminum siding:

  • Watch out for foliage – Trees and bushes are known to dent and damage aluminum siding easily. You will need to regularly check the perimeter of your home for shrubbery that could bash into your siding during a windstorm. Hail and ice will also damage and dent your siding, so watch out for signs of ice damming in your gutters once winter rolls around.
  • Keep it clean – Aluminum siding is easy to clean. Any simple detergent or solution should suffice. Pressure washing is also an option but be careful to test an area first to avoid causing unnecessary dents and damage. When repairing dents in aluminum siding, you will need to create a hole, so it’s best to hire a professional if large dents occur.  

What I look for: When examining aluminum siding, I look for loose areas that could allow moisture in. I also look at how the paint is holding up because aluminum oxidizes over time.

HardiePlank (Fiber Cement) Siding

HardiePlank is a highly fire-resistant fiber-cement material produced by the Canadian company James Hardie Industries. While HardiePlank is quite pricy, this siding commands excellent ROI. Additionally, HardiePlank is insect and vermin-resistant, easily paintable, and eco-friendly.

How to care for HardiePlank siding:

  • Fiber cement siding can shrink, crack, or lift off the house entirely if improperly installed. Weather is also a factor. All the usual siding maintenance applies to HardiePlank (cleaning the outside of the house yearly, trimming nearby trees, and keeping gutters clear). Every 8-10 years, your siding will need to be repainted and sealed to avoid water intrusion.

What I look for: With this type of siding, I mainly look to see if it has been properly installed. Signs of improper installation are cracks, sinking, settling, and torn caulking.

Shake Shingle Siding

A close-up image of shake shingle siding with dramatic lighting.
Shake shingle siding is a popular design feature in the Upper Peninsula.

Wood shingle siding (also known as shake shingle or cedar shake siding) is an attractive finish that provides an excellent layer of insulation, especially in harsh Upper Peninsula winters. But maintaining shake shingle siding can be a huge pain. Typically made from cedar or pine, wood shingles tend to go downhill FAST once they start to age.

With a bit of smart maintenance, your shake shingles can last up to 40 years. Let’s look at how you can accomplish this.

Maintaining shake shingle siding: 

  • Always use a sealant – To decrease water absorption and shingle damage, your wood shingles will need to be sealed with a latex or oil-based finish. When applying the finish, be sure to use a back brushing technique to ensure even application to every inch of wood. For the best results, apply the finish when the shingles are thoroughly dry and according to manufacturer’s directions. Typically, a sealant will need to be reapplied every six years.
  • Clean the wood – You will need to stay on top of managing mold, mildew, lichens, and moss when dealing with wood shingles. You can use a diluted bleach formula to keep mold, moss (and more) at bay. Be sure to conduct a test patch on a small piece of wood before applying any cleaning solution to the rest of the house.

What I look for: When inspecting a home with wood shingle siding, the first thing I look for is loose, warped, or curled shingles and signs of mold, moss, lichens, or mildew (especially in shady areas).  

I frequently come across moss and lichen issues when examining roofs in the U.P. To learn more about this common problem, please read our blog, The Yooper’s Ultimate Guide to Roofing Maintenance.

Next, I examine the siding for signs of animal damage. Squirrels and birds are a huge issue. They love shake siding, and there’s really no preventative. Some homeowners use pie tins or balloons with eyeballs to deter animals, but that’s not always effective. Animals love to chew or peck holes in wood shingles which then creates cavities for insect growth – something that can become a MAJOR problem. It’s not a reason to replace good siding, but if your shake shingle siding is ready to go, you might consider replacing it with something less attractive to our furred and feathered U.P. neighbors.

Asbestos Siding

The UP has a lot of older housing stock, some of it featuring asbestos siding. Asbestos siding is siding made from a mixture of cement fortified with asbestos fibers. The cement binds asbestos fibers into a rigid mass, making it fireproof and robust. We all know asbestos is dangerous when inhaled, and identifying asbestos siding is complex, so it’s best to call in professionals.

What I look for: Typically, a sample will need to be taken and sent into a lab for confirmation. The real danger with asbestos siding comes when you damage, remove or disturb it. Never cut or saw any piece of siding you think may have a chance of being asbestos! Typically, the asbestos siding will be covered with another type of siding rather than removing it, as asbestos abatement can be quite costly. Again, this is best done by a professional.

If you think your home (or prospective home) may have asbestos siding, please schedule an appointment for a home inspection right away before you consider disturbing it in any way.

Asphalt Siding

Asphalt siding is very common in the Upper Peninsula and can really date a home. If you see asphalt siding, you can safely assume the house was built in the early 20th century. Typically composed of an asphalt shingle-like or rolled material, colored mineral granules were used to form a pattern such as the faux-brick. Also known as Inselbric asphalt siding, this type of siding is no longer produced in North America, and once it starts deteriorating, there’s no saving it.

How to care for Asphalt siding:

  • Maintain caulking and sealant/paint – Because asphalt siding is no longer produced, you will have to keep up with caulking, sealant, and paint to make what you have last as long as possible.
  • Repair damage immediately – This includes the trim.If your home has Inselbric siding, it may need to be replaced altogether.

What I look for: When inspecting asphalt siding, I search for wear and tear, cracks, and missing pieces. Next, I examine the siding to see if there are any signs of water damage gathered behind it that can lead to rot and mold.

Frankly, almost every case of asphalt siding I’ve seen in the UP is a candidate for removal and replacement. If this is the case with your home, just bite the bullet and do it before you start experiencing structural damage due to inadequate siding. Your home will look a ton better, too!  

Does Your Siding Need a Check-Up? Schedule A Home Inspection Today!

If you’re wondering if your home (or prospective home’s) siding is in good shape – schedule an appointment with Rich Beasley for a home inspection right away! This critical step can save you tons of money in repairs and will help ensure your siding lasts for years to come.

Call U.P. Home Inspection LLC., offering home inspection services in Marquette, MI, Houghton/Hancock, Escanaba, Munising, and surrounding areas today at (906) 360-3879.

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