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advice for old novelty siding peeling paint

user-341253's picture

Im a long time reader and subscriber of FHB, and I find a lot of good help for mainting and rehabing my investment properties.  Its hard to keep up on the new materials and enhanced buidling methods.  I find myself often confused when I need to apply modern solutions to an old house.  This sometimes messess up the equilibrium of the structure.  I am dealing with a 1939 summer cottage in Southern NY that I acquired and rehabed as a place for my Mom to live.  The old pine novelty siding is nailed directly to the 2x4 studs without any sheahting or house wrap.  It was painted 4 years ago, and now is peeling in a big way.  This could be for several reasons, maybe the old paint was not removed and prepped adequately.  I suspect it may also be the increase in moisture in the house due to the spray foam insulation that was installed under the floor in the crawlspace and in the attic roof.  Cellulose insulation was also blown into the walls.  These measures were recommneded by the energy assessment to reduce drafts (lots of drafts) and improve the comfort of the home - which it did accomplish.   Prior, the HVAC "expert" had installed the new HVAC unit in the attic.  My question for some of you experts is what to do about the peeling novelty siding.  Should I patch the rot and try to repaint paying close attention to prep and finish or will it continue to peel due to the fact the water vapor from inside the house needs to go somewhere.  Should I reside over top with a new maintenance free material, or should I remove the siding to the studs, and install a completely new siding system (sheathing, wrap, rainscreen, siding).   I would like to keep the original details of the house as much as I can, but a cost effective and better performing materials are a big part of the decision on the best way foward.  Many thanks in advance to anyone who might respond with an opinion.


As old as your house is the (post #215182, reply #1 of 19)

As old as your house is the paint is surely lead based so you'll need to take precautions. Cover the ground 10' out with Visqueen and keep it cleaned up. I had the same exact situation years ago on my own house. I mixed Red Devil lye and wall paper paste  and applied it with a stiff bristled brush then pressure cleaned it. I had to do that twice to get it all off. After letting it dry I primed with a good latex primer.  I then used 40 grit sandpaper to knock the fuzz off, hit it with 80 grit and applied 2 coats of good latex paint.  It really didn't take that long to do and when we moved 15 years later the paint still looked good and wasn't peeling anywhere.

Florida Licensed Building Contractor, 50 years experience in commercial remodeling, new homes, home remodeling and repairs and all types building maintenance.

Thanks for explaining how you (post #215182, reply #4 of 19)

Thanks for explaining how you solved your similar problem.  This is very helpful.

You are never going to figure (post #215182, reply #2 of 19)

You are never going to figure out the cause of the peeling paint. SOme houses breath differently to others some sidings are different to others. Exposure to the elements is different on every house. It's all amatter of how much money you have vs hom much free time.

You could give the siding a washdown and paint over the exisiting or you could go try and strip it down to bare wood (lots of work) and see what happens. If it peels you willneed to go to stepp two. My advice would be to seal the heck out of the siding and then cover with a high quality vapor permeable rainscreen housewrap and cover it with new siding that will eliminate the need to paint in the future.

Peeling paint on houses built (post #215182, reply #3 of 19)

Peeling paint on houses built prior to about 1950 is quite common, and is generally due to a pair of factors:

  1. The old buildings were as airtight as a screened porch, so moisture never got trapped inside.  UNTIL energy efficiency became "a thing" and people started caulking and sealing and insulating.
  2. The old oil-based (and generally lead-containing) exterior paint was a pretty darn good vapor barrier.  And a layer of latex paint atop it somehow seemed to amplify this characteristic.

So as old homes were "modernized", the paint began to peel, due largely to the pressure of moisture driving from the inside.  (Not entirely sure of the mechanism involved.  In some cases I suspect the layer of moisture behind the paint actually froze, while in other cases the dampness merely softened the paint's bond to the wood.)

Your house is very much overdue for this phenomenon.

Hard to say what the best fix is.  Siding over is the simplest (and possibly cheapest), but would destroy any authenticity you might wish to preserve.  Scraping and painting has the lead paint problem, plus you must remove all original paint to be sure it will not immediately peel again.

Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well-warmed, and well-fed.  --Herman Melville

Thanks DanH and Sawdust_Steve (post #215182, reply #5 of 19)

Thanks DanH and Sawdust_Steve for you comments and suggestions. I'm apt to take the "siding over approach" as you suggest with a product where I can balance cost and performance.  My situation is that I work alone, nights and weekends because I have a fulltime desk job.  And two of my other investment houses are sided with cedar shingles, I may invest my time in learning to shingle sidewall with cedar shakes and use a high quality shake in this application.  With this approach, I think I could manage the installation as one person, I can re-use the skill on my other investments, and I believe I have seen some pre-stain options that have a claim to provide a long life. It would somewhat preserve the style of the cottage home.  I suppose I could look at vinyl and cement based products as well, but my concern is that may require help from a second person or advanced installation techniques which will translate into potentially higher labor and material costs.  Lastly, I had the front facing gable shingled 4 years when we moved the front door and window -.  continuing to use the same style shingle on the rear of the house where my biggest problem is currently, would blend nicely with the work already done in the front.
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RJ, I am a big fan of cedar (post #215182, reply #6 of 19)


I am a big fan of cedar shingle. Some of the pr-estained/pre-painted options look great but they start to get fairly expensive though they do have good warranties. You can use a housewrap such as benjamin obedyke's hydro gap to allow for dainage behind the plane of the shingle.

Shingles definitely lend themselves to someone working alone. Buy a cheap narrow crown staple gun get some stainless steel staples and get to work... 

Seriously, it is a cbin and (post #215182, reply #7 of 19)

Seriously, it is a cbin and not a historical fixture, eh? :


a. Yer mom will live there.

b. mom probably would not care if it has fancy or even viny siding

c. so, just slap cheap vinyl over it

d. when mom no longer wants to live there, then repair  put on whatever the local market will provide the best $$ return if you sell it.

Do it right...don't "just do it" (post #215182, reply #8 of 19)

  Please take a moment to read an article and view photos of a fiber cementboard siding job my company did in San Antonio, TX

This structure, like yours, hand siding boards nailed directly to the studs. No insulation in the stud cavities. Plaster walls on the inside. Even a good siding paint job did not last more than 4 years before the paint peeled. Friggin’ summer sunshine on the outside, with an air conditioned interior. Interior moisture navigated through the siding boards. You get the drift!

I am not keen to put up new siding without first solving the problems that exist behind it. And, a new siding job is only as good as the stuff its attached to. If you re-side over the existing siding, you will have to deal with window and door trim issues.

My suggestion: take off the existing siding and install proper sheathing. Follow up with house wrap. Then side. Because you are dealing with rock wool insulation, take off siding starting at the top and work down in 48” swaths. Sheath with OSB or plywood. Continue downward. This method will prevent insulation from falling out. Now add house wrap. You are ready to side.

Your siding choices: 1) Re-install the existing siding, properly fixed, sanded, and OIL primed on all faces and edges, including cut ends. You can apply the first finish coat of paint before you re-install the siding. Follow up with at least one more, latex based coat of house paint.  2) Install fiber cement board siding. The labor is significant, but the result is durable and long-lasting. I like to apply the first finish coat before the boards are installed, followed by 2 more coats of Sherwin Williams Duration house paint. 3) Install vinyl siding. That’s an easy, one-man job, but not my preferred choice….just saying.

I am not a fan of siding over existing siding. Sure, it’s easy and relatively cost-effective. Only you can decide how thorough a job you want. As for me, I like to start from scratch and “do it right”…rather than opting to “Just Do It”, as Nike might say. Check out the photo of a lovely modern bungalow with an old-time twist:  That’s painted fiber cement board. I have given my client an unconditional 20 yrs guarantee against paint blisters. The fascia and trim is composite material. This bungalow has an appealing, “old time” appearance…I think.

Mel Fros

finished-product-1-e1448240520837.jpg1.1 MB

Hey Mel, I agree with you for (post #215182, reply #16 of 19)

Hey Mel, I agree with you for the most part, but he did say the insulation was blown in cellulose, not rock wool, so removing the siding will more than likely mean totally re-insulating.  The blown in has a binder that sticks to the back of the siding so it will come with the siding when it is removed.  

I tend to agree with the fix (post #215182, reply #9 of 19)

I tend to agree with the fix it right approach. New everything if the structure is otherwise sound.  Cedar shingles over the old not a bad idea for stopgap or fiber cement shingles or boards [maybe preferred].

Vinyl? Absolutely never! That's the building  material from hell. The shame!

But  after all this profound advice I still don't know what "novelty" siding is. Not in my nomenclature. In the off chance that is solid wood sawn live edge the picture changes.


wow, a thread with 10 posts (post #215182, reply #10 of 19)

wow, a thread with 10 posts in less than a week,

and, like the good old days, various opinions for the OP to choose from <G>

Art (post #215182, reply #11 of 19)

boring Saturday night?

A Great Place for Information, Comraderie, and a Sucker Punch.

Remodeling Contractor just outside the Glass City.


in memory of (post #215182, reply #12 of 19)

in memory of Rez



just a comment as to # of posts....

novelty? (post #215182, reply #13 of 19)

I'm still waiting on someone to tell me what novelty siding is. Sometimes I can be plenty slow.


It's siding made from small (post #215182, reply #14 of 19)

It's siding made from small chocolate treats.

Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well-warmed, and well-fed.  --Herman Melville

Oldhand, It is the same thing (post #215182, reply #15 of 19)

Oldhand, It is the same thing as drop siding...  novelty is usually tongue and groove horizontal siding with the tongue installed up, there is a gentle cove scooped out of the top and the bottom of the board is the full 3/4" thick.  Installed over the frame the back of it is the interior wall finish and looks like v-joint pine..  you know the stuff now?  

got it..... (post #215182, reply #17 of 19)

Yeah, thanks!


Thanks for the suggestions (post #215182, reply #18 of 19)

Thanks all for the sound advice.  I appreciate your time and suggested methods.  i'll update the post once I tackle the project. -RJ

good boy.. (post #215182, reply #19 of 19)

Thank you for keeping us updated.

Seems odd but many times these days the OP just gets some well considered opinions ad disappears. Bad for the forum, that.