“Low-Maintenance” usually means “Unrepairable.”

Did you know that “Low Maintenance” usually means “Unrepairable”? These two photos are of different walls of the same building. The one on the left was resided with “Insulbrick” siding in the 1960s. The one on the right retains its original 1920s wood clapboard siding.

Insulbrick is a fibreboard sheathing coated with tar and added granular material, similar to asphalt shingles. In spite of its name, it has low thermal resistance value and provides minimal insulation. Once water penetrates the joints and saturates the fiberboard backing, it has no insulating value. Moisture retention on the wood surface below it can lead to rot or carpenter ants. Being tar based, it is flammable, and some types contain asbestos. It is not repairable.

Despite not being painted in 50+ years, the wood clapboard siding on the right is easily repairable. A number of clapboards need renailing, and a few need replacing. Then a good paint job will allow them to continue doing their job for another century or more with periodic repainting.

This building nicely illustrates the problem with cheap and fast “low maintenance” products. They are not as long-lasting as traditional materials and frequently create and then hide serious issues. They may create the illusion of “low maintenance” for a time. But they are only delaying it, making it more complex and expensive in the long run.

“Restoring Your Historic House, The Comprehensive Guide for Homeowners” addresses how to deal with such materials.

Signed and personalized copies of the award-winning and bestselling 720-page hardcover book are available from the author in our shop, YourHistoricHouse.com/shop/.

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