If you are having satellite or cable TV installed at your house you are probably concerned about the aesthetics of having all those black or grey wires running around the outside of your house. Back in the day they would find the shortest route from the satellite dish or cable box to either your crawlspace or attic and run the wires through there and then through your wall to an outlet. Nobody wants to pay for that any more and it certainly isn’t included in your free installation. Other than unsightly wires what you really need to be concerned about is what all those screw holes are doing to your siding.
The guys installing the wires will probably have you look at the finished job and beam with pride at how well-secured everything is. They will be completely unaware of what that siding will look like in a few years. All those screw holes for the plastic clips holding the wires provide another place for water to get past the top layer of material and destroy the siding. What can be done about this, you ask?
Don’t Put Screws in Your Siding
You’re going to have to educate your installer if you want this done right. Don’t just turn him loose on your house and think he’s going to do it in a way that will preserve your house. They haven’t been trained for that.
If at all possible, don’t put any screws at all in your siding. Most of the siding in the Tri-Cities is a press-board product, read that “glorified card-board.” People may call it MDF, Medium Density Fiberboard, but it’s only medium density if it stays dry. Only the outer skin has enough density to withstand moisture. The rest soaks up water like a sponge and becomes soft enough to poke your finger through. You might be thinking that shouldn’t be a big deal in this desert environment but unfortunately in areas like Kennewick we have irrigation water that we can use indulgently for the same flat rate. We water our lawns daily, sometimes even twice daily. The majority of sprinkler systems in this area are not designed to keep your house completely dry, especially when the wind is blowing the water back onto your house, and we get a lot of that in the Tri-Cities. If you can it would be wise to only use drip lines on the landscaping next to your house and keep the sprinklers at least three feet from the house, if not more.
If you happen to be blessed with an older house that has cedar siding then you don’t have much to worry about. Cedar is a great product for its longevity and resistance to the elements. If you pull the screws out of your cedar siding before painting you can just patch it with patching or spackling paste that’s made for both interior and exterior use. Most of it is only good for interiors so make sure and read the label first. With press-board siding, on the other hand, if there has been any water penetration you will never scrape out enough damaged material to find something solid to patch and paint. The board will simply need to be replaced before painting. In this picture below it may look like you should be able to do some scraping and patching and you’d be good to go for painting but the material here is soft enough to poke your finger through and the water had damaged about two square feet of the material behind the surface layer that you see here. If you try patching this you will end up with a smooth section that doesn’t have the simulated wood grain of MDF and will show a large smooth section after painting that will look like an obvious patch job that will stick out like a sore thumb, especially to the home inspector hired by the potential buyer of your house. As you can see from this picture the water got through the screw holes and softened the material between the holes and then some. This siding is irreparable.
Find Solid Wood and Use That For Mounting Your Wires
Most homes don’t have any solid wood siding but if it does it would be the trim boards – corners boards, fascia, top and bottom bands, and the like. If you don’t have any solid wood to run your wires on or if that’s just not feasible then the next best thing is to run them along the top of the wall under the eves where it only gets wet when you hose off or pressure wash your house. Getting wet once or twice a year isn’t going to ruin anything any faster than what the sun is doing on a regular basis so you don’t have to treat it like the compress the doctor puts over a surgery and says not to get it wet.
Should I Paint the Wires When I Paint the House?
That’s not a good idea. The paint will try to bridge the gap between the wire and the house and leave a thick glob of paint. If you ever want to move that wire it will pull the built-up paint off which will pull a layer of paint off the house. Besides that there will also be a bare spot behind were the wire was. You might think you will never need to move those wires but if you switch from cable to satellite or vise-versa the new company will run their own wires and you’re going to get tired of seeing wires that don’t have any purpose.
It’s best to just take the time to pull those wires away from the house and paint behind them to protect your siding. We do that on a routine basis unless the siding is so shot it isn’t going to make any difference.
It’s Hard to Paint a House on a Budget When the Siding Needs to be Repaired
Speaking of shot siding, you might think a painter would secretly want people’s siding to go bad to necessitate the need for a new paint job but I’ve bid on several homes where the owner had no idea the siding was as bad as it was and it wasn’t a matter of just scraping off peeling paint. They didn’t realize they were dealing with glorified cardboard and there wasn’t anything solid for paint to stick to after water got in behind the skin and made the press-board as soft as a sponge. Though a lot cheaper than re-siding a whole house, replacing several siding boards can double the cost of a paint job blowing a hole in most people’s ability to get anything done. It’s a deal-breaker because they know they won’t want to spend thousands on a paint job that’s only going to last for one or two years when the siding fails completely. This creates a vicious downward spiral where the longer you wait the more it’s going to cost to fix the siding because with every year that passes the water wicks its way through the fiberboard and more of it needs to be replaced.
Protect Your Investment by Protecting Your Siding
When you go to sell your house you will want to sell it for the best price that you can. Many people will spend thousands on remodeling the kitchen and bathroom but unless you do the work yourself you are not likely to increase the value of your house by as much as you spend on your kitchen or bathroom. You’re probably better off taking a hit on the price of your house and let the new owners remodel it the way they want it.
A good paint job that protects your siding, or several paint jobs over the life of your house, however, will pay for itself and then some compared to letting the siding deteriorate and devalue your house. The three things that do the most to allow for your siding to go bad are peeling paint, frequent wetting from sprinklers, and screw holes. Pay attention to these issues and do what you can for your siding and it will save you a lot of money in the long run.