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Needs painting or staining

House with cedar wood siding with pine trim boards, freshly painted looks good – from a distance.

A common report defect I find on many homes with wood siding and or wood trim is “Needs painting or staining”. Unprotected wood products like siding and trim are vulnerable to attack by weather and ultraviolet rays from the sun. Paint and stains provide a protective coating over wood and will usually greatly extend the service life of the wood. But paint and stain are also vulnerable to attack by ultraviolet rays from the sun, and over time will break down and fail.

On most homes you will notice the wood siding and trim, whether bare, painted or stained the wood protective coatings will usually deteriorate first on the south and west sides of the home, those walls with higher exposure to the sun’s rays (in the northern hemisphere that is).

For proper maintenance I recommend paint or stain to protect the exterior wood. On some homes, the wood is not painted or stained to give a natural look, which can look good when new, but discolors over time. Some bare wood can be long lasting when of high quality and properly installed,  there are some bare wood sided buildings, mostly barns, are over 300 years old. Most homes today use lower quality woods and are painted or stained and require regular maintenance; when the paint or stain is begins to fail or has failed it needs painting or staining.

The need for painting or staining is indicated by any bare, cracked, damaged or rotted wood and also if the paint or stain is peeling, cracking, blistering, disintegrated or chalking. Wood siding and trim that is not properly maintained, may become vulnerable to rot, decay, warping and cracking and may require more than just repainting or staining. The longer, painting or staining maintenance is deferred, the more likely the wood siding or trim will require repair or replacement. The more needed maintenance is put off the bigger and more costly the job becomes.

stained cedar sidingHere is an example of deferred painting or staining maintenance on the red house above. When I inspected this house it was about 16 years old, the siding had been recently stained and trim painted. From a distance the house looked very nice, it was priced around $500,000 and the buyers had expected it to be in good condition. The red stained cedar siding boards were in great shape for the most part. However a large portion of the white, exterior trim boards were rotted and required replacement. The builder chose to use pine trim boards instead of cedar to save on cost. Pine is not nearly as resistant to moisture damage as cedar and if used must be carefully installed and maintained specifically to keep moisture out.

Pine is a soft wood that readily soaks up moisture and will rot quickly if not protected from water. Due to the number of windows and trim details on this large house, the cost of repairs was estimated at $40,000. Not a small job and the sellers were not willing to drop their price, so my client passed on the house. The problem with this house was partly due to lack of maintenance but more so due to poor choice of materials and improper installation at the time the house was built. The house had cedar wood siding that was in great shape, but the cheaper pine trim, did not hold up very well, moisture got into open joints and seams and cause a lot of rot that was beyond repair.