How siding caulk failure could affect your next paint job

How siding caulk failure could affect your next paint job

Repainting your home is an investment. Under normal circumstances, if you hire professional painters who properly prepare and apply two coats of quality paint, and if you maintain your property between paint applications, you can expect your new paint job to last between 10 and 15 years.

Unfortunately, other factors can sometimes affect the longevity of a quality paint job. One of the most common, if unexpected, factors that can affect the appearance and longevity of paint is siding caulk failure.

Caulk is the waterproof filler and sealant used in building work and in repairs. It is often used by painters to fill cracks or repair holes in order to create a smooth and uniform surface on which paint can be applied. 

When caulk separates or fails to adhere to a surface, it can result in unsightly cracks, breaks or openings into which moisture can seep and cause a serious problem. This failure can happen for a variety of reasons. The most common cause is directly related to the substrate (siding material) to which the caulk (and paint) is applied. 

Due to exposure, weather and outdoor elements, siding wears over time. Some types tend to wear well while others tend to experience caulk failure at an alarming rate. We have seen the majority of caulk failure occur with the most popular brand of siding used by today’s builders and remodelers: HardiePlank.

HardiePlank siding is very popular because it is an extremely durable alternative to vinyl or wood siding. When it’s new, it actually holds paint longer than any other siding and does not require back brushing or rolling, under normal circumstances, which makes it easy to work with.

The problem is mostly with HardiePlank siding that was manufactured before 2008. This siding has had serious issues with cracking and breaking due to expansion and contraction of the product as temperatures vary. 

The obvious fix for this problem was to caulk at the butt joints in order to close the gaps. However, the same expansion and contraction that caused the initial cracking causes the filler caulking to fail. As a result, the seal is broken, allowing water penetration to occur, even on a freshly painted house.

The manufacturer of HardiePlank addressed this serious issue in 2008 by requiring builders to install flashing behind the butt joints and recommending that painters did not, from that point forward, caulk in the butt joints. Thankfully, as a result of this change in policy, newer homes with this siding should not have a caulk failure problem. 

Unfortunately, because the “fix” for this problem is not widely known by all builders and painters, we still run across this type of caulk failure fairly frequently, even in homes built after 2008.

If you are a homeowner or manager for a property with HardiePlank siding, it is important to understand that paint will not wear as well nor look as good when applied over siding that is failing due to cracking or breakage or caulk failure. We cannot guarantee results when working with this type of siding, because the problem is with the product, not with the paint.

There are some things you can do to minimize the issue. If your home was built before 2008 and you have HardiePlank siding, you should regularly maintain it by:

1. Replacing caulking as soon as you notice it failing.
2. Touching up the paint after any caulking repairs – this will help maintain both the appearance and the seal.
3. In extreme cases, siding replacement may be needed.

Home renovations are stressful, even under the best of circumstances. Things like caulk failure can complicate your otherwise straightforward job, but more knowledge about your property and your potential problems can help to assure a quality end product. 

About this Angie’s List Expert: Nancy Long is the co-owner of Sisu Painting, Inc., providing exterior painting services in Portland, Ore. Since 1995, Sisu Painting has specialized in residential interior and exterior painting, wall repairs, wallpaper removal and more. They are a recipient of the 2013 Angie’s List Super Service Award.

As of January 21, 2014, this service provider was highly rated on Angie's List. Ratings are subject to change based on consumer feedback, so check Angie's List for the most up-to-date reviews. The views expressed by this author do not necessarily reflect those of Angie's List.


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