Inspecting a House for Siding Problems

inspecting-a-house-for-siding-problemsSiding is expensive to replace. Water damage from bad siding can be even more expensive. When you are inspecting a house for siding problems you should be able to spot warning signs that there is damage.

There are pros and cons to different types of siding. These are a few common types of siding and issues to watch for.

Siding Layers

Typically, siding layers consist of three parts, sheathing, house wrap, and siding. Each layer helps waterproof and protect the house.


These are the boards that connect to the studs. It is commonly made up of plywood, OSB, or in very old houses it can be wooden boards nailed to the studs. Unless you are doing an addition, or water has leaked in and rotted the sheathing you shouldn’t have to deal with the sheathing much.

It’s difficult to tell if any sheathing will need to be replaced with siding up. When replacing siding assume there will be a few hidden expenses, like rotted sheathing. Budget extra for those hidden expenses.

House wrap

The purpose of the wrap is to keep water out and let moisture from inside out. This keeps things dry and prevents mold and rot. The type of house wrap varies, especially with older homes that have not had the siding replaced. House wrap can consist of anything from tar paper, asphalt-treated paper, a tar-like liquid that can be painted on, or synthetic house wrap.

When replacing siding, it isn’t always necessary to replace the house wrap, but it is recommended. The materials used now are much better than what was used years ago. Also, replacing siding will put extra holes in the house wrap. The holes create an area for possible water entry.


This is the outer layer that you see. The siding is the weather barrier and makes the house look complete. There are several different types of siding and different things to look for when inspecting each of them. Prices also vary considerably depending on what type of siding and the extent of the repair needed.

Wood Siding

Wood siding can last for 20-40 years but it needs painted or sealed every few years. Small damaged areas can be replaced or patched. Wood siding can be matched easily if repainting the entire house. Matching the previous paint can be a little more difficult but getting the color close isn’t hard.

How to spot wood siding damage

  • Look for cracks
  • Peeling or blistered paint. The wood may be fine underneath peeling or blistered paint or it may be damaged. Either way, the paint needs to be fixed to fully protect the wood.
  • Find areas that have the most exposure to water and check for rot or mold.
    1. Watch for leaking gutters.
    2. Roof valleys where water runs off.
    3. Chimneys on the edge of the house where water may run down the sides.
  • Wood that is rotted severely is pretty easy to see, but taking a screwdriver and poking at the wood will quickly let you know. When wood is rotted enough the screwdriver will stick right in the wood. Rotted wood can start flaking off. These are all signs the siding needs replaced or repaired.
  • algae or moss

Insects that damage wood siding:

  1. Termites

    • The damage can become severe before it is easily noticeable. A few signs are wood that sounds hollow when tapped, termites swarming in spring, rotted wood with tunnels throughout.
    • Termites can enter a house through wood that has contact with the ground, decks, mulch, firewood close to the house, and moisture close to the house.
    • Termites are not common in my area. If termites are an issue where you live take a look at Orkin’s website about signs of termites.
  2. Carpenter bees

    • These guys can be easier to spot. The bees create a hole half-inch in diameter that they use to access the nest. Carpenter bees are similar to bumblebees but less harry and a shinier body. They have a metallic blue-black body covered in yellow or orange hairs.
    • If the infestation is not very large, spraying with insecticide and adding insecticide dust after, can remove them. If it is a large infestation it may require a professional.
    • The bees die off in late summer and fall. But new generations will return annually.
    • Fill the holes and paint over the wood. Painting the wood is one of the best ways to prevent carpenter bee infestation.
  3. Carpenter ants

    • They don’t usually start with the siding but will get there eventually if the colony is big enough. They prefer to start on the inside walls with insulation. They prefer moist and rotting wood. If there is an issue with carpenter ants the walls may already have some decay issues. Signs of carpenter ants:
      • They can leave behind little piles of sawdust.
      • Look for the ants, they are small black ants. Queens and workers are wingless but swarmers have wings. Watch for flying ants near the house in warm weather.
      • A line of ants marching into the house can be a good give away there is a problem.
      • Ants in the house, especially between sunset and midnight.
  4. Powder post beetles

    • These little beetles like warm moist environments, but can be in wood and survive for years before hatching and emerging. The adult beetle lays eggs in raw hardwood. It can be difficult knowing if the wood is infected until the beetles come out as adults. Getting rid of these guys can be difficult and they can reinfect wood over and over again. The best way to get rid of powder post beetles is to keep the wood dry and seal the wood. Larve inside the wood can eat through the sealer but if the holes are resealed soon after they come out the adults won’t lay new eggs in the wood. Fumigation or treating the outside of infected wood can work but it is not always effective. Sealing wood and keeping moisture down is probably going to be most effective. Once the beetles come out you will see
      • Small exit holes in the wood
      • Find powder like wood sawdust around the holes.
  5. Woodpecker

    •  These guys usually make their presence known with the drumming sound. They can leave many small holes looking for food or larger ones making a nest. A woodpecker destroying the siding can be a sign there are insects in the wood or the wood is starting to rot and soften. The woodpecker may just like the satisfying loud sound it makes to attract mates and scare other woodpeckers from its territory. Ways to get rid of them include,
      • Setting up a feeder and nest for them. They will hopefully go for the easiest option for food and shelter and leave the house alone.
      • Get rid of insects. If woodpeckers are feeding on insects in the siding getting rid of the bugs could stop the woodpecker damage.
      • Reflective streamers. This can work, but not always.
      • A plastic owl may help at first. Once the woodpeckers get used to them they will most likely return.

Aluminum Siding

Aluminum siding can last for up to 20-40 years. Although it may last that long the siding may not look very good by the end of the lifespan. 

Signs of damage

  • Scratched siding
  • Dented siding
  • Siding that is bulging out – This can be an indication the wall underneath is bad
  • Siding that reaches to the ground – creates a great area for insects to get in and damage the wall behind.
  • The siding needs to be repainted. Aluminum siding can be painted and will need a repaint every 5-10 years. The paint required to repaint aluminum siding can be expensive.
  • Aluminum siding tends to fade over time.

Aluminum siding in good shape can be left, painted, or repainted.

Some cons of aluminum siding

  • It can be repaired but matching the existing siding is difficult.
  • Aluminum siding doesn’t have a higher-end look and if can decrease the value of the house.
  • Easily dented
  • It can be noisy with wind or rain.

If there is aluminum siding on the house and much of it needs replaced or painted it is probably better to remove it and put vinyl siding or another siding choice in its place.

Residing may not be in the budget and if that is the case painting or washing the siding may give the house some curb appeal and attract buyers.

Vinyl Siding

Vinyl siding is a very common siding option. This siding can last 20-40 years. Despite how long it lasts there can be issues.

Siding signs of damage or improper installation

  • warping or buckling.
  • Grab a seam and tug gently, the siding should be able to move very slightly.
  • It can warp in extreme heat. Make sure grills are away from the house to avoid issues.
  • You can paint vinyl siding but be cautious about painting it or buying a house with painted vinyl siding. You need to use
  • Sometimes a seam can be gently pushed down and check to make sure there is house wrap. There should always be house wrap behind the vinyl.
  • check for holes or cracks. Some vinyl is a little brittle and can break and crack with impact.
  • Vinyl can fade.
  • Pieces of vinyl siding can be replaced although, matching colors can be very difficult. A good installer can take faded siding from a less visible part of the house and use that to patch the siding. Then install the newer siding in the less visible area.
  • Obviously, if any part of the vinyl siding is popping off the house that’s a sign the siding needs work.

Pros of vinyl siding

  • Low maintenance.
  • Long-lasting.
  • Easy to clean. A simple power washing can make the vinyl siding look new in most cases.
  • It is one of the cheaper siding options.
  • It can come in a variety of colors.
  • Buyers tend to view vinyl siding favorably.

Fiber Cement

Fiber cement can last 30-50 years. This siding is on the expensive side but when fixing up a high-end home the investment could be worth it. Fiber cement siding won’t warp in extreme heat, fire-resistant, water-resistant, not prone to insect infestation but there are a few things to watch out for including,

  • Cracked siding
  • Older fiber cement siding doesn’t have the flashing behind the butt joints. If there is no flashing the joints should be caulked. Rain penetrates the joints if not caulked. The gap by butt joints should only be about 1/8th inch. When there is caulk present in butt joints check to make sure the caulk is still intact.
  • Bubbling paint is an indication there is water getting behind the siding.
  • Peeling and cracking paint. Fiber cement siding can require repainting every 5-10 years., although some find they can make it over 10 years before having to repaint.
  • Improper insulation. Siding can start to pop off the house.

Fiber cement siding has many advantages and can last a long time but it is expensive. Unless you are familiar with the installation process it is hard to know if it has been installed correctly.

Brick Siding

inspecting brick sidingBrick siding can last 50 years or more. It can give houses an almost castle-like feel. Even though it is durable and long-lasting if the brick is starting to deteriorate it can be expensive to fix. If the brick is structural it can be even more expensive to fix.

Structural Brick

There are a few ways to tell if the brick is structural.

  • It tends to be on older houses check to see how old the house is.
  • Look over windows and doors there may be structural brick arches usually two layers of brick perpendicular to the wall.
  • The windows will be recessed in further, at least a brick length.
  • A structural brick will have alternating bricks. In the picture, you can see one layer of brick is perpendicular to the wall and the other parallel. Since structural brick is two layers of brick, the perpendicular bricks help connect the two walls.

Looking at the pictures I would guess the brick is structural. It gives a great example of many of the characteristics of structural brick. The window is recessed in at least a brick length, there are two layers of perpendicular brick arched above the window and the rows of brick alternate between parallel and perpendicular.

If the structural brick is in great shape that’s wonderful the siding will hopefully last many more years and be a great asset. Damaged structural brick is an expensive fix that requires professionals.

How to spot siding problems with structural or brick veneer

  • Large cracks. Cracks may mean there can be a foundation issue or simply brick is brittle and can naturally crack overtime with expansion and contraction. The cracks can be entryways for water. Even if the foundation is fine make sure water isn’t coming in the cracks.
  • Bowed walls. Pay close attention to high areas and parapet level. The parapet level is the part of the wall that extends beyond the roof level. If the wall is bowed moisture is likely getting in and causing expanding and contracting. Corners are more rigid and won’t move so the wall bows in or out. It should be fixed quickly if not it can crack the corners which is a more expensive fix.
  • Efflorescence on brick. This is a white powdery substance on the brick. This is a sign the brick isn’t drying well. Moisture in the brick causes expansion and contraction and can cause damage.
  • Morter joints crumbling or missing. This is a bit less expensive fix compared to replacing a wall. The mortar joints are softer than brick and need replacing over time. Take care and repair damaged mortar to avoid a very expensive wall replacement.
  • Diagonal cracking by corners of windows and doors. Sagging over windows and doors. This is a sign there is probably not enough support over those areas. Depending on the size of the area it could be a pretty expensive fix.
  • Compacted brick. When the foundation sinks or settles the brick becomes compacted down against other bricks. It can be a domino effect and once a few bricks are off they don’t keep the pressure on the rest to stay in place. This could be a sign of foundation problems so check the foundation carefully if you see this.
Should you add brick siding?

Brick can be a great eco-friendly, energy-efficient, fire-resistant, and long-lasting siding. It gives a house an expensive look. Unless remodeling a house in a high-end neighborhood I would stay away from adding brick veneer to a house. If there is already brick present it can be a great asset if it is in good shape.


This is not an all-inclusive list of sidings just some common ones. If you have any questions or comments about siding in your area please leave them below.

If you are to read more about inspecting the exterior of a house for damage check out this article about how to inspect a roof for damage.

There are many climate-induced problems. If there is a specific problem common in your area, but not on the list, let us know in the comments. If you found any of the information helpful let us know. We love hearing about other’s experiences.

Share with Friends

Leave a Comment