As spring dawns anew on a frigid Chicago landscape, many condo dwellers will get their first prolonged looks at Mother Nature’s wintery ravages. Nowhere is this better seen than on a property’s exterior siding, much of which might need cleaning and replacement in the season ahead.
When it comes to choosing siding materials, today’s condo boards have more options than ever—from vinyl to fiber cement to eco-friendly recycled clapboards and soffits. With so many options to choose from, boards might beg the question: What siding material is best for our multifamily building? Budget, Chicago’s inclement weather and maintenance requirements are the three main factors associations should consider when choosing siding, experts say.
Planning and Budgeting
Christine Evans, president and CEO of Vanguard Community Management in Schaumburg, emphasizes the importance of boards assessing their budget realistically before anything else. “There's a lot of different factors, and a lot of planning. People just have to be sensible about it and take into consideration where their property lies in the economic world of real estate, what money they have on hand, how their delinquencies are, and if they can qualify for a loan. Knowing all that financial information will tell them what they can afford to do and what they can’t. I would say they also should consider how long it takes to do the entire community so it all looks the same, especially if they’re upgrading. You don’t want to have one section get upgraded and then have the board change and scrap the remainder of the project.”
While experts agree that there is no such thing as a single best siding for Chicago condos, there are some that stand out above the rest and a couple they suggest boards avoid. Bill Conforti, president of Siding-1 Windows-1 Exteriors located in Chicago, says while the classic option of wood is aesthetically pleasing, unless an association has enough funds and time to invest in biyearly re-painting and basic upkeep, he advises against it. The constant fluctuation of wood prices—which have nearly doubled in the past few years—could also cost associations a lot more than expected in the long run when it comes time to replace panels and take other necessary maintenance steps.
“Some people think choosing wood is a good move because it's a more expensive product,” says Evans. “And right now it's considered to be a nicer appearance than vinyl in most instances. But they have to realize what it costs to maintain it. Wood doesn't look so good if you don't maintain it. Buyers need to know what those costs are—replacing wood that rots, what's the potential for rot, how often does it need to be stained, what does that cost?” Evans also says aluminum, which used to be a popular siding option because of its affordability, has been phased out due to denting issues.