Repairing Aluminum Siding | Troubleshooting Your Aluminum Siding

Troubleshooting Your Aluminum Siding

Troubleshooting Your Aluminum Siding: What to Do If It's Dented, Faded, Scratched or Corroded, or Seriously Damaged

Have you noticed blemishes, abrasions, or even more significant damage on your aluminum siding? Wondering what course of action you should take to protect your investment and preserve the beauty of your home?

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Troubleshooting Your Aluminum Siding

The first thing you want to do, after assessing the situation, is to look at your warranty. Many home siding manufacturers today offer unbelievably long-lasting, comprehensive warranties on their siding, protecting against defects in workmanship and installation, among other things. Before you do anything that might void your warranty, read the fine print and find out what is, or isn't, covered.

The second thing you want to think seriously about is whether you feel confident enough to handle the work yourself. Is it a big job, or complicated? If you feel it might be beyond your skill set, contact a contractor or professional installer for assistance. Tackling a project that you aren't actually prepared to handle can be more costly and time-consuming in the long run. Don't take the risk play it smart and call a pro.

If it is something you think you can handle, here are a few tips on how to make some minor repairs to your aluminum siding.

What to Do If It's Dented

A dent in aluminum siding is not all that different than a dent to a car, and fixing the dent is therefore really similar to doing some basic bodywork on a car. Most of the time you can just pop the dent out, much like how a mechanic might fix a door panel.

Here's what you'll need to get the job done:

  • Drill and 1/8-inch bit
  • Washer
  • Self-tapping screw
  • Screwdriver
  • Pliers
  • Plastic aluminum filler
  • Sandpaper
  • Paint
  • First, locate the center of the dent and drill a 1/8-inch hole. Take a washer and put it on the end of a 1-inch self-tapping screw. Drive this screw through the hole you just drilled in the dent. Remove the dent out by grabbing the washer (use pliers if necessary) and, applying gentle but consistent force, pulling on the washer.

    Now that the dent's out, remove the screw and washer. You can use plastic aluminum filler to patch the hole (use according to the directions on the tube). After that you can sand the patch if necessary, and touch up the area with paint that matches your siding. Be sure to use 100% acrylic paint.

    What to Do If It's Faded

    Over the course of its lifetime, the factory coating on aluminum and steel siding can fade. More accurately, exposure to the sun and weather can degrade the outer layer of the factory finish, causing chalkiness. This is what causes the color to look like it's fading, when really it's obscured and muted by residue.

    Generally speaking, a quick yearly rinse with a garden hose, or a less frequent power wash, is all it takes to rejuvenate the appearance of your siding. As the years pass, however, it will most likely become necessary to repaint your siding. Repainting is a cost-effective alternative to re-siding, and will not only restore the luster to your home's appearance but add years to the life of your siding. Plus, you can make a dramatic change for a small expense, just by changing paint colors.

    The most important thing to remember is to choose your paint carefully. Do not use oil or alkyd-based paints use only high-quality, 100% acrylic latex paint with a flat finish. Also, avoid dark colored paints.

    Acrylic paints and light- to medium-colored hues will adhere better and prevent much of the cracking that lower-quality, oil-based, or dark-colored paints will. That's because dark colors and non-acrylic paints will cause the metal to expand excessively. Acrylic paints, on the other hand, expand and contract with the metal substrate.

    A flat finish might seem counterintuitive to many, as a satin finish best resembles the shiny freshness of newly installed siding. Glossy finishes also tend to highlight imperfections in the siding, however, so it's more appropriate to go with a flat finish that will camouflage any dents or dings.

    What to Do If It's Scratched Or Corroded

    Even the most durable aluminum siding is bound to get scratched during its lifetime. If the scratch is deep, all the way through the baked-on enamel paint to the bare metal, it's best to make some repairs right away to prevent the area from rusting. If your aluminum siding has corroded to reveal the metal underneath, the repair is probably more about restoring your siding to its natural beauty, but patching and repainting will also help prevent rust in this case, as well.

    Luckily the process to repair damage of this nature isn't very complicated. The first step is to lightly sand the problem area using a non-metallic* scouring pad (sandpaper will do). After that, apply a metal primer and then let the area dry. Lastly, using a 100% acrylic paint, cover up the primer with a paint that matches your siding.

    *A metallic scouring pad, such as steel wool, can leave minute traces behind. If not completely eradicated, the remaining bits can corrode the siding and cause pinholes.

    What to Do If It's Seriously Damaged

    If you notice serious damage to a section of your aluminum siding, the best course of action is to replace the panel. For some, this can be a challenge if the manufacturer is no longer in business for instance, if the aluminum siding was installed 30 or 40 years ago.

    If that's the case, or you can't find a perfect match for some other reason, then a little strategy might be necessary. Try taking a section from another part of the house, somewhere out of the sight line of visitors or passersby, and replacing the damaged piece with that section. Then replace that undamaged original panel with the imperfect match.

    Aside from the replacement section, you'll only need a few tools to replace your damaged aluminum siding:

  • Butyl gutter seal
  • Silicone caulking compound (optional)
  • Tin snips

    Once you have those on hand, it's time to get to work. First, take the tin snips and cut the nailing tab off the top of your replacement panel.

    Now it's time to remove the damaged piece: Make a vertical cut at each end of the damaged section. Next, slice the damaged piece horizontally along the center. Remove the lower half of the damaged section, leaving the nailed upper section in place.

    Spread the butyl gutter seal (be generous) along the upper nailed section, then fit the lower replacement piece into place, pressing it firmly into the gutter seal. Lastly, take the silicone caulk or more gutter seal and caulk the joints.

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