By REBECCA SLOAN
iding. It is perhaps the most crucial design element in making -- or breaking -- the outward appearance of your home.
Because siding is a major purchase and such an important factor in defining your home's character, selecting the right color and style might initially seem a bit daunting.
Furthermore, once you've chosen the perfect color and style, then there's the job of making sure the siding is hung properly.
Should you try to do it yourself, or hire a professional?
Whether you're planning to re-side the home you live in or trying to decide what siding is best for the home you are building, local experts say doing your homework first will help guarantee siding satisfaction.
Type: The first thing to consider is what type of siding will be best for your home and budget.
Henry Levy and Kathy Weinberg, of Bi-Rite Home Improvement in Youngstown, said vinyl siding is more popular than aluminum and cedar siding because it requires little maintenance, is affordable and will last a lifetime.
"Vinyl siding has pushed aluminum siding to the wayside and almost no one uses aluminum anymore. This is because, over time, aluminum siding will oxidize, or start to appear chalky, while vinyl will maintain the same look for a lifetime," Weinberg said. "Vinyl is also more popular than cedar siding because it is less expensive and requires less maintenance."
Tom Colclough, of Exterior Design Company in Austintown, said cedar siding must be treated with a water-proof stain every four or five years and is also susceptible to beetle infestations, while vinyl siding only needs to be washed with a hose or power washer once or twice a year to keep it looking clean.
"If you have a lot of trees around your home, or you live on a dirt road, you might need to hose vinyl siding off more frequently. You should use just plain water and maybe a little bit of dish detergent. Don't use harsh or abrasive chemicals," Colclough said.
If you love the look of cedar, but are discouraged by the cost and maintenance, Weinberg said you can have the best of both worlds by choosing vinyl siding that looks just like cedar siding.
"You can buy vinyl siding that looks just like cedar. You can also get vinyl siding that looks like brick and vinyl siding that looks like different types of wood. It is a way to get the look you want and have it last a lifetime," Weinberg said.
Color: Of course, the most popular type of vinyl siding is the type that looks like painted wood, and Weinberg said that during the last five years, a rainbow of new colors have emerged on the market.
"Everything from pearl to pinkish-beige to greenish-gray to very dark gray and even red -- there are many new color varieties," Weinberg said.
When selecting a color, remember that darker colors will make a home look smaller, while lighter colors will make it look larger.
The style of your home will also help determine the color you choose. For example, grand, Victorian homes can pull off dramatic, bold color choices, while smaller, cape cod style homes look best in subtle, understated shades.
When comparing color chips of siding, it is a good idea to take them outside so you can see what they will look like in the light of day. You should also compare color chips with the color of your home's roof and the color of trim and shutters, Weinberg said.
But whether you settle on gray, red or clay-colored vinyl siding, there are still more decisions you must make.
Grain: First, consider grain.
Most types of vinyl siding are molded to resemble different wood grains, which gives the vinyl a more natural appearance.
When selecting a grain, remember that smoother grains tend to look better on traditional homes, and deeper, more pronounced grains give a home a more rustic appearance.
Weinberg said that deeper grains also seem to "weather better" than smoother ones.
Gauge: You must also consider gauge, or the thickness of the panel.
Weinberg recommends a medium-to-thick gauge.
"You don't want it to be too thick or it will show the seams -- or where the siding panels overlap. You also don't want it to be too thin or it won't hang as straight or as flat," she said.
Levy recommended a gauge of .044 inches.
Panel: Besides the gauge and the grain, you must also choose a type of panel.
Weinberg said that vinyl siding panels of Double 4 or Double 5 recreate the look of traditional wooden clapboards.
Dutchlap panels are a more decorative variation of the traditional clapboard style and recreate a hand-carved, old world style used by early American settlers.
In addition, decorative variations, such as vinyl scallops, can serve as accent pieces.
"Scallops work well as a decorative feature on a Victorian home," Weinberg said.
When you've chosen the color, style, grain, gauge and type of siding you want, the next thing to do is decide how you will get the job done.
Doing it yourself? If you think you want to do it yourself, know that hanging siding can be a tricky task.
According to Brian Groover, of Groover Roofing and Siding in McDonald, novices are likely to have trouble on cuts and angles.
"If you don't know what you're doing, it's easy to end up with gaps and incorrectly-sized cuts," Groover said.
Colclough said do-it-yourselfers often "nail siding too tight, and cut it too tight, which causes bowing and swelling" since vinyl siding expands and contracts with temperature.
Weinberg said the type of insulation that is placed behind the siding also affects how the siding will rest against the wall of the house.
"Different types of insulation work better with different types of siding," she said.
In addition, Weinberg said it is also important to consider how you will handle the work around the gables, the trim and under the overhang of the roof.
"These are areas that require know-how and it is easy to make mistakes here," she said.
Weinberg recommends hiring a professional, but if you're set on doing the job yourself, you should buy the appropriate tools and do lots of research, she said.
If you think it's best to leave the dirty work to the experts, Weinberg said you should always choose a contractor who has been in business for more than two years and is listed with the Better Business Bureau.
How much will it cost?
Groover and Colclough said the cost of having siding hung professionally varies greatly depending on the size and style of your home.
For example, a home with several windows, a gabled roof or uniquely-shaped windows will increase the cost of the job.
Weinberg said to get estimates and ask for references.