Maintenance8 min

How Freeze-Thaw Cycles Affect Popular Siding Materials

The elements are constantly working to break down the components that protect a home's exterior. We all know the damage sun, hail and high winds can do to siding, but did you know there is another equally damaging force? It's called the freeze-thaw cycle.

The freeze-thaw cycle occurs because water expands by nearly 10 % as it freezes. If water is trapped inside a material such as concrete and the temperature falls below 32°F, it creates extreme pressure on the material as it expands. When the temperature rises, the water contracts as it melts. When the freeze-thaw cycle happens over and over, year after year, the cumulative effect can eventually cause cracking and serious structural damage to siding material.

freeze thaw cycle
In addition to siding damage, freeze-thaw cycles also cause potholes in roads.

The number of freeze-thaw cycles a home experiences varies by location. The National Climatic Data Center estimates that Jacksonville, Florida, has an average of 13 freeze-thaw cycles annually, while Denver, Colorado, endures 105 every year! Here's more about the damage that can be done to siding in parts of the country that experience freeze-thaw cycles.

Fiber Cement Siding

Fiber cement is naturally more brittle than engineered wood siding and other materials, making it more susceptible to breaks or cracks when hit by a high-speed projectile. Cracking and degrading may also occur when water penetrates the substrate, then expands as the temperature falls. Repeated freeze/thaw cycles will cause the cracks to expand, weakening the substrate.

Vinyl Siding

Vinyl contracts and expands significantly with the temperature. For this reason, vinyl siding must be loosely installed on a house to allow for movement. The downside is strong winds can cause vinyl siding to chatter and even detach from the structure. Vinyl also becomes very brittle in the cold, making sections of vinyl siding more likely to crack in the winter.

Traditional Wood Siding

Traditional wood siding requires a high level of maintenance to protect it from freeze-thaw damage. Without routine maintenance such as painting and scraping, wood will easily warp, crack and split.

Engineered Wood Siding

Engineered wood siding resists warping, cracking and splitting. Because it is made from a combination of treated wood fiber and industrial-grade binders and resins, LP® SmartSide® Trim & Siding can withstand extreme temperatures, high humidity, fungal decay and termites. It is a durable, stable option in areas that experience freeze-thaw cycles.

Learn More About Engineered Siding from LP SmartSide

Find out why builders and remodelers have installed more than nine billion square feet of LP SmartSide Trim & Siding, and why LP is celebrating 20 years of manufacturing excellence in 2017. Find a retailer near you.

Learn more about the benefits of becoming an LP® BuildSmart Preferred Contractor.

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