I'm seeking recommendations for re-siding a farmhouse in central Illinois built around the turn of the century.

Asked by Lisa
Bement, IL

The farmhouse was built in the late 1800s to early 1900s. The current siding is over 40 years old and needs to be replaced. I would also like to keep energy efficiency in mind and for that reason will also be replacing windows. We are on a budget.


Rick Goyette

Answered by Rick Goyette

Pawtucket, RI

Emerald Dream Builders

April 22, 2010

This is a great time to consider improving the energy efficiency of your home! Many homes built during the late 1800s and early 1900s have had several renovations performed over the years. Often, these renovations make it difficult to improve energy efficiency from the inside. At the top of the list of concerns is electrical wiring that pre-dates current building codes and makes installing insulation impossible. Many homes in this category are forced to insulate from the outside. You may want to consider exterior insulation as part of your project.

There are many green insulation options available to increase the insulation value of your home while re-siding. My recommendation would be to consider sheathing the home with Extruded Polystyrene Foam Board (XEPS). Several systems are available that include taping the joints to control air leakage (typically the biggest cause of energy loss in a home). Ask your contractor which system he/she is most comfortable with, and be sure to ask what type of foam board they typically use as cost and R-value vary (as previously stated, I prefer XEPS). Once the 40-year-old siding is removed, you can typically install these products right over your current sheathing. Be sure to order your windows in conjunction with the insulation board, as the thickness of your new sheathing may require a deeper window or extension jambs. Toolbase provides a great starting point for research if you are completing this project yourself.

Keep in mind that as you eliminate air leakage you will need to mechanically ventilate the home to remove moisture from cooking, bathing, and human occupants. Review your bathroom and kitchen ventilation at a minimum and consider a heat recovery ventilator (HRV) or whole-house ventilation solution.

Lastly, the choice of cladding/siding for your home is important. I assume that maintaining the historic look of the home is not a primary consideration as it was not mentioned. If you are seeking a maintenance-free exterior, the least costly solution is vinyl siding with aluminum trim. Fiber cement board is another great option if you don't mind painting; some fiber cement products even come with color installed and a 15-year warranty against fading or peeling. There is a plethora of information available debating and defending vinyl versus fiber cement as a green solution. These debates often do not include the environmental cost of producing paint. My opinion is that -- given a budget -- you should choose to insulate and re-side with vinyl versus not insulating and siding with fiber cement.

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