Dear Barry,

The plywood siding on my home is badly deteriorated. Now that I can finally afford to replace it, I have six questions. What kind of new siding is best? How should it be installed? What problems can develop if it is not installed correctly? How long can we expect the new siding to last? Is it true that rain gutters can protect the siding? And how often should the rain gutters be cleaned out? –Diana

Dear Diana,

Replacing the siding on a home is a major undertaking and a considerable expense, but it is becoming more common as a means of renovating the exterior surfaces of older, badly weathered homes.

The current material of choice is cement siding, commonly known as HardyPlank (a proprietary name given by the company that developed the product). This is a traditional-looking lap siding, designed to have the appearance of wood planks, but consisting of fiber-reinforced cement. It is preferred for its strength and durability and can be installed without removing the existing plywood siding. If properly installed by a qualified professional, it should last as long as the building.

HardyPlank should be installed over an approved-type moisture-resistant membrane to keep the interior wall cavities dry. Any punctures or tears in the membrane should be repaired before the siding is applied. Errors in this aspect of the installation can allow moisture penetration and resultant dry rot and mold infection.

Rain gutters at the roof eaves can keep water runoff from splashing onto the siding, thereby preventing stains, damage to the finish, and increased likelihood of water intrusion. Gutters should be cleaned as often as leaves accumulate in them. Frequency depends upon how many and what kind of overhanging trees you have. If the gutters are not cleaned, they become clogged, and water overflows from them when it rains. If leaves remain for long periods, they can cause rust damage to the gutters and downspouts.

Dear Barry,

I live in a high-rise condo and continually hear noises through the wall that separates my unit from my neighbor. Coughing, sneezing, the phone ringing, and noises of a more personal nature might as well be happening in my living room. I’m considering having the walls soundproofed and would appreciate some suggestions. –Brian

Dear Brian,

Walls between adjoining living units, commonly known as “party walls,” are supposed to be double-framed and fully insulated. If you hear noises from your neighbor’s unit, the party wall may not be properly constructed. The only way to verify this is to cut a hole in the drywall to enable inspection. If the insulation is missing, you can have some installed. If the walls are not double-framed, more costly alterations may be needed.

A second wall can be constructed on your side of the party wall, but this will slightly reduce your usable living space. Another approach would be to install soundproofing board, overlaid with drywall, on the existing party wall. You might also consult with a company that does soundproofing for recording studios. They may suggest some unusual alternatives to provide acoustic privacy in your home.

To write to Barry Stone, please visit him on the Web at

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