Help me not wreck my house.
May 13, 2015 8:07 PM   Subscribe

We love our house, an 85-year-old home that was extensively remodelled, preserving much of the charm, including original A-grade fir hardwood floors, but with many improvements, including plumbing and wiring. The outside is the original cedar siding, which was sanded/filled/primed/painted about seven years ago. Now that it's in need of repainting, I'm considering whether I should paint or replace. Don't know if this wrecks the look/value of the house. Hope me!

Overall the siding is in pretty good shape, though there is a 25sqft area on the side of the dormer where it will need to be replaced. The paint is showing its age, and the siding needs repainting, which I was prepared to do.

However, there are more than a few nail heads that are starting to rust and bleed through the siding (potato quality). In addition, I have several of the original, single-pane windows which I'd like to replace, either now or later (I've replaced several already, but can't afford to do them all at once). My hardware store guy said this is indicative of moisture escaping the house, and that even with good kilz-style primer, will still come back in fairly short order.

I'm trying to decide if aesthetically/design-wise, it's a better idea to (a) repair and repaint, or (b) replace with fiber cement-type siding. I'm not personally a huge fan of the wide cedar boards (I'd likely want to use narrower cement boards if going that route), and I tend to like new vs. old myself. I don't want to ruin the look (and value) of the house by doing so. But, I know nothing about whether the current siding type and style add value to the house.

Thoughts? Is new better than old? Cedar better than cement board? Is wide better than narrow?

Other data points:
-My primary concern is negatively impacting the style of the house, about which I know nothing.
-House is pretty efficient, so removing siding/adding house wrap or insulation would likely make only modest improvements.
-The plan is some windows will get replaced this year, and others in the next year or two.
-No plans to sell the house in the near term, but selling within the next ten years is definitely a possibility.
-I'll almost certainly do the work myself with assist from a carpenter friend (I tend to be pretty handy). That being said, my time is valuable, so time to completion has a value too.

Thanks, house-style-gurus.
posted by liquado to Home & Garden (8 answers total)
Someone told me once to stick with the original material but that is subjective. I would re-place if possible.
You have a lovely home and either decision sounds good.
posted by clavdivs at 8:57 PM on May 13, 2015

I would stick with the cedar and replace the pieces that are necessary to replace; there is something about wood that a lot of people look for in a house. There's something organic and genuine feeling about it.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 1:14 AM on May 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

If you ever have to describe your old home to potential buyers looking for an old home, you will want to be able to say "original cedar siding" and not "all-new modern stuff" (assuming the old stuff is in decent condition).

Here is a guy who says
Cedar siding and shingles, especially if they are old growth, are extremely long lasting and resistant to rot and insects. When properly installed and cared for they will protect your house for well over a century. Problems arise when they are installed poorly or neglected. So here’s some helpful hints when it comes to repairing your real wood siding. [...]

I always prefer to prime the back of any siding with oil-based primer prior to installing them just for added security. That way if there is a leak or moisture build-up behind the siding you’re still protected.
Instead of replacing the cedar siding, I wonder if you could you have the cedar removed, gussied up in the back, nailed back up in place, and painted? And if there's any shit going down behind the siding that needs tending to, you'll be able to fix that at the same time.
posted by pracowity at 4:01 AM on May 14, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: No damage to the siding, it's efficient and it's not rotting? Doing its job and keeping your house dry? Repaint it and keep.
posted by slateyness at 6:20 AM on May 14, 2015 [4 favorites]

Best answer: From an old house junkie: Please do not replace your lovely and practical siding.
The wide planks match your house style, and it appears to be in good condition. Don't worry about those nailheads unless the plank is loose.
Do no remove it in any manner unless you plan to replace a rotten part, it was designed to be installed as it currently stands.
Replacement siding on old houses is used when the original siding is rotten and unsalvageable. Don't send a message to future buyers that at one point your house had been so badly neglected it needed very expensive repairs.
Be proud of your well maintained home and keep it up.
posted by littlewater at 6:26 AM on May 14, 2015 [4 favorites]

Good advice above, but I would like to add: stop changing out the windows! Windows made today are very rarely of the same quality as any window made before 1950, (well except if you get them made by a master joiner knowledgable of traditional materials and methods, and then they are extremely pricey - between 4 and 10 times the price of a "normal" window).
What you need, if you major experience energy loss through your windows or draught, is a removable storm window.
After insulating my basement and attic, I have realized that I only need storm windows to the north side of my house. (This was expected, which is why I waited to be able to measure during winter).
Aslo, windows should be regularly maintained. But even badly maintained windows can be brought back in shape with the right treatment. It is better to repair old windows, replacing bad parts, than to replace them.
posted by mumimor at 8:33 AM on May 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

As someone who bought a refurbished old house similar to yours, I really appreciated how the renovation improved certain things in the house (opened up small rooms, improved insulation, replaced all plumbing and wiring, updated kitchen, etc.) and that they didn't do things like remove the amazing character of the original wood staircase, a few stained glass windows and the vast majority of the exterior.

Those wide cedar planks are gorgeous. If they are in good shape, definitely definitely keep them!
posted by barnone at 10:37 AM on May 14, 2015

Best answer: Hey all -- just a followup, we decided to do as suggested, keep the original siding, and rehab/repaint. We washed, sanded, patched as needed (cedar tends to show its grain really strongly when it gets older), and prime with Kilz Stain/Seal primer, and two coats of Dutchboy premium exterior latex, all brush and roller. Bottom line? Took forever. Looks fantastic. Glad I did it. Thanks Mefis!
posted by liquado at 6:14 PM on July 30, 2015

« Older Am I over-reacting?   |   Digital painting and intuitive color blending in... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.