Installing Tile ... Vinyl vs. Aluminum Siding

Learn how to properly install ceramic tile and to choose between vinyl and aluminum siding.

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Question: My house is three years old, and I want to put ceramic tile in the bathrooms. They are relatively small. I did not think I would have to put down concrete board, but I also am getting differing opinions.

Answer: If you placed one 12-by-12-inch tile on sheet vinyl, it probably would break when weight was applied. If you are going to all the expense of installing tiles, then do it right. Use a cement underlayment board. The underlayment is easy to work with and can be cut with a utility knife or a saw.

The problem in a bath is that you have to remove the toilet bowl to install the underlayment. The tiles can be cut to fit around the tub and the vanity cabinet, but cutting around the toilet bowl is very difficult to do if you want to make the job look professional. Also, installing the underlayment and the tile usually takes two to three days, so if your home had only one bathroom, this might present a problem.

Q: A company will be out next week to give me an estimate on vinyl siding. When I called, the company made sure I understood that it uses vinyl siding and not aluminum siding. What is the difference? Also, I have stucco on the exterior of the second floor. Would the stucco need to be removed before putting up the siding? If not, should insulation be put between the two?

A: Vinyl is a flexible plastic-like material that can be molded to create any form that the manufacturer requires. Aluminum is a rigid material with little flexibility. You bend it, and it's damaged.

Aluminum is a painted metal, and the paint can fade with time. Vinyl's color goes all the way through the plastic, so there is no fading. Scratches would be barely noticeable. Aluminum siding can be dented; vinyl resists denting. If a piece of aluminum siding is damaged, it is difficult to replace. A section of vinyl siding can be replaced in minutes using a tool that looks something like a bottle opener.

Vinyl is the preferred siding material and can be installed over almost any smooth exposed surface, including stucco, brick, block and wood. You cannot install vinyl over aluminum siding or over any uneven surface material without major remodeling or demolition.

Installing insulation between the siding and the stucco might save a few energy dollars, depending on where you live. Contact your utility supplier for information concerning insulation and what the long-term savings might be.

(C. Dwight Barnett is a master inspector certified by the American Society of Home Inspectors.)

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