Friday, June 19, 2015

This surprised me

Real wood siding is a lot cheaper than fake. The Historical Society met to discuss just how to approach the modest windfall of 2% money* we received from the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community. The consensus was that we don't have a choice, we have to seal the building, so we'll take what we've got and see how far we can stretch it. The treasurer was instructed to research prices and report by via email, and then we'll decide what to do. Which is another way of saying that if we have to we'll dip into our cash reserves to cover expenses that the grant won't.

I had made some jokes about using T1-11 (plywood siding, for the uninitiated. It comes in 4 x 8 sheets). T1-11 would be the cheapest option; it runs about $150 per square, a "square" being the term used to designate 100 square feet of wall area when buying siding. What came next on the price list surprised me. It turned out to be actual wood, the half-round faux logs we'd been contemplating using but that we thought we couldn't afford. They're about double the cost of T1-11 but less than half the cost of truly fake logs, i.e., steel or vinyl made to look like logs, at least from a distance. When it's a foot away from you on a display panel the fact it's fake is glaringly obvious. Really made me wonder why anyone would ever want the vinyl version when it's so glaringly artificial. (Metal I can understand -- it's fire resistant.)  For some reason I was thinking that for sure the phony stuff would have to be cheaper than the real product. Nope. You pay more for faux. That strikes me as bizarre, but I am relieved. I'd much rather go with actual wood than with something made from petroleum products.

I was also a little surprised by the variety available these days in half-round. About all you ever seem to see is the stuff that's been rounded to a very smooth silhouette. Turns out you can also get it in styles that look rough-hewn so it's not so perfect that it makes a building look like it was constructed from Lincoln Logs. We can even get it prestained so staining the building once the siding is up won't be an issue. I'm not sure why it's referred to as "half round" when it's actually more like a thin slice; it's just thick enough to be able to do a rounded profile that looks like the side of a log. Who knows. . . maybe when they first started doing this stuff the slices were thicker.

So now it's basically just a question of measuring the building so we know for sure just how much siding we're going to need. Depending on the total number of squares required, we may opt to just do the two worst walls this summer (the ones we can see daylight through) or we may manage to enclose the whole thing. I can hope. I don't ever want to step into the museum and see water running down the walls again.

*2 percent money = revenue sharing by tribes that operate casinos that were covered by the 1993 Michigan gaming compact.


  1. well that is just weird..faux more expensive then real..glad you got the money to do it.

  2. Not so weird. You have to factor in the cost of maintenance for vinyl versus wood. Wood need to be primered then painted every 10 years or so in order to seal it, or if you're going to stain it, you'll need to apply stain then re-seal it every 5 years. Vinyl, you just put it on there and that's it for the next fifty years. Note that painting could cost several thousand dollars, so you can't just look at the raw siding cost, you need to look at cost of paint too. Which for vinyl will be $0, and for wood depends on the size of the house and what quality paint you apply and how often, but if you're going to primer and paint we're talking probably around $6 per square foot of area to paint, i.e., if it's a small square 10x10x8 building we're talking around $5K just to primer and paint it. Staining and sealing it will be half the price up front, but has to be done more often because the sealer only lasts around 5 years. So pick your poison...

    Frankly, if this is one-time bond money I'd put vinyl. Because the wood is going to need re-painting or re-sealing if it's stained/sealed later on, as in 5 to 20 years from now depending on the quality of the paint, and you won't have the bond money then, so then what will you do? Meanwhile the vinyl will last 50 years or more, based on what we've seen so far in the field. Several experts say it can even last 60 to 100 years with absolutely no maintenance other than perhaps an occasional washing.

    You can't look at up front raw material costs, you have to look at total costs over a lifetime. With vinyl those will be $0 after the initial expenditure. With the other materials you're looking at... not so much. (Even the aluminum will need another coat of paint at some point in time).

  3. We're going with prestained half-round. For a whole bunch of reasons (e.g., not enough members, location in a poor rural community) there's no way we could raise enough additional money to pay for a contractor to install vinyl faux logs. The 2% funds are enough to pay for the half-round; it's so simple to install we can hire a couple high school kids to do the work under the supervision of one of our members who's a retired contractor.

    If we had the bucks to go with something other than half-round I'd opt for steel instead of vinyl. The two types of faux logs look about the same, but steel has the added benefit of not being flammable.

  4. Vinyl siding is "flame resistant'. It will burn if you put it into a flame, but if you remove the flame it will self extinguish. Aluminum siding will last 50+ years also, but has the issue that it makes galvanized screws corrode and eventually the screws pull through and you need to re-screw it. Galvanized steel doesn't have that problem, but my experience with galvanized steel is that it only lasts around 30 years before it starts rusting through, That was in a very wet climate, granted, but.

    Good luck with the half-round. I'm not joking about needing to apply sealant to the stained logs and then re-seal it every 5 years, BTW. If you don't do that, it will split and disintegrate fairly rapidly. Maintained, it will outlive the high school kids who install it.

  5. Oak trim is considered a luxury item with mahogany the "standard". Except oak is cheaper. When schools are tendering construction, they have to state mahogany or the public goes apeshit. So the contractors bid on mahogany then offer to "upgrade" to oak at no charge.


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