Removing vinyl siding is one of the best things one can do to a house.
As much as a homeowner may want good curb appeal, their house will never have the appeal of homes of those who understand and appreciate good curb appeal.
Unfortunately there are many people who just don’t know any better and love their shiny plastic.
But for those that do there is a wave of homeowners removing vinyl siding and aluminum from their homes and allowing the beauty to return.
Here is the story written by a historic neighborhood organization making things happen.
The Great Unveiling
A Recipe for Removing Vinyl Siding
Several years ago there was an article in the Illinois Association of Historic Preservation Commission’s newsletter regarding the program started in Rock Island, IL for the removing vinyl siding by volunteers. The Gifford Park Association, a neighborhood organization in Elgin, IL was so impressed with the idea that we decided to try it. We found their name, “The Great Unveiling” to be very catchy so we asked for and received their permission to use it. We decided to add to their idea by offering a $1,000 (proceeds from our house-walk) for any homeowner willing to let volunteers remove their siding. We decided to make it a part of our Preservation Week festivities by doing it on the last Saturday of Preservation Week.
We hand delivered a catchy flier to each home in the Historic District (over 600) to advertise the program. Our first year we had only one taker but it was a once in a lifetime chance that had the potential to be spectacular.
Surprises Under the Siding
Rumors had been circulating for years that a small, nondescript home in the district was actually a cobblestone built by a prominent resident in the 1850s. Most found that hard to believe. The owner asked us to do a small test patch to finally settle the question. We took off a small piece of wide exposure aluminum siding only to find stucco underneath. We then broke into the stucco with a large hammer and found…COBBLESTONES with tooled tuck-pointing!!!!
The owner was warned that the stucco removal would probably remove some of the fancy tuck pointing which could be expensive to restore. She was told that the $1,000 reward would probably only be a small portion or what would be needed. She was undaunted and excited about proceeding.
The Neighborhood Party
We sent out a flier to members and assembled quite a motley crew for an old-fashioned barn-raising event including lots of refreshments. The press showed up and gave us some nice coverage. One of the reporters actually took a pry bar and joined in the fun. He found the destruction to be the exact therapy he needed for his job. Well into the morning, our jaws literally dropped to the ground when we discovered round porch columns made of cobblestones had been framed over with aluminum.
With lots of volunteers, the entire job and cleanup was actually finished before lunch. Several feet of sub sandwiches completed a very, very fun and satisfying day.
The owners worst nightmares were realized when she received bids between $7,000 and $12,000 to remake one entire column and re-point the remainder of the tiny house. She bit the bullet and went ahead with the project leaving us with a wonderful addition to our neighborhood. The following year she received a Mayor’s award during our Preservation Week festivities.
Thirteen Homes Followed
Since that first exciting unveiling in 1997, we have been responsible for thirteen more. Elgin has three historic districts so we decided to try to do at least one in each every year. The Heritage Commission helped with the rewards and other prominent neighborhood organizations took the responsibility for the actual unveiling in their respective neighborhoods. Our record year came in 2001 when FIVE homes were unveiled all in one day – all but one was complete before lunch. A picnic in the park with a check issuing ceremony highlighted our day.
Before signing up candidates, we do go to their home with a ladder to do a test patch. Aluminum siding has to be taken off from the top down if you don’t want to ruin it. If the homeowner backs out, we have to be able to put the test piece back. Before committing to the program, the homeowners need to know if there are clapboards under the siding and the extent to which details have been removed. Often corner boards or window casings and hoods are removed to create a flat surface. Homeowners need to be thoroughly cautioned about the expenses that they could face.
We do recycle any aluminum, which typically gives the homeowner another $300. Any Styrofoam backing can be recycled if a thorough search is made for a recycler. Any other type of siding, we require the homeowners to get a dumpster to remove. We do not do asbestos siding because of the health hazards.
We have had a hard time keeping insurance despite our volunteers signing a waiver. We also use volunteers to salvage architectural details on houses before they are bulldozed. Homeowners require us to have insurance and we have found it at a cost of about $1000 above our basic liability insurance for the house-walk. If your insurance company is currently covering your volunteer efforts, it might be wise not to ask any questions.
I was inspired when I first read about Rock Island’s Great Unveiling. Hopefully your neighborhood will be moved to action by this article.