One of our friends writes that they own a home that was built around the 1890’s and that the previous owner had placed vinyl siding on it. After inspecting some water damage around a window they found that there was some caulking that had failed and some of the window sill and maybe some of the original wood under the siding has failed.
They are starting to get quotes about repairing and residing the entire home. The first contractor that came out actually told them that removing the siding that is on the house is cost prohibitive and that they would apply another layer of siding over what is already on the home.
In addition the home is a three story with gable ends so the highest parts are four stories high and they don’t feel safe doing the work themselves.
So, the situation may not be that bad but it looks like its not a do it yourself project for this home. If it was a single or two story home then the home owner could rent scaffold or pump jacks and do at least most of the removal and siding themselves. The repairs may require a professional but maybe not.
The first contractor that they got a quote from was a fool and I really suggest that they stay away from them. It might be ok to put vinyl siding over old style wood siding without removing it but it is never ok to place vinyl siding over a previous layer of vinyl that is over some type of asphalt siding that is between the wood siding. That is just a nightmare.
Making The Repair
You really need to remove everything down to the original sheathing which may have been wood siding and then make your repairs. Repairs can be made with half inch plywood if it is sealed well and then the entire home needs to be covered with either Tyvek or Asphalt Paper to prevent water penetration.
At that point you can install the new siding and it should seal off the home without the need for caulking at any point.
It seems that the hardest repairs will be around the window. If the interior structure of the home is in good condition then it may just mean reframing the window and maybe replacing the wood siding with some plywood. If the 2×4 structure of the home or the joist that make up the floor support system are rotted then the repairs can get very expensive and difficult to perform. You are talking about a structure that is old enough that balloon framing that spans more than one level could have been used. Lumber of that time was probably not the best grade and if floor joists under the window area need to be replaced then the ceilings and possibly the flooring in that area will need to be removed and replaced. It can get very expensive and time consuming if the damage is bad.
If the damage is superficial then the home can probably be sided in a week including strip down and the repairs to some water damaged original wood siding. The windows can be rehung if necessary or they may require replacement depending on water rot and age.
I have seen more than a few homes that are treated this way. They were built around the turn of the century and during the housing boom a contractor may have come in and resided it to look like its almost a new home. The owners if not informed by a home inspector are really buying a piece of garbage that has a nice new wrapper on it and repairs can cost lots of money if the work wasn’t done right.
When you purchase a home the original build date will be disclosed. You should then require the seller to disclose any upgrades they made. Did they install all new plumbing or electrical? How was the interior of the home prepared to remove lead paint. Was the exterior of the home sided to hide any damage.
If an older home is historic then repairs will be made to keep it looking the way it was built. If a very old home has vinyl siding be skeptical about why. Maybe it was an older owner that could no longer paint the siding or maybe it was slapped on in a couple days to hide damaged or rotting sheathing.