Design and build a maintenance-free house, is it possible?

Is It Possible to Build a Maintenance-Free House?

Foreword by Ian Thompson, Editor

I’ve been around the block a few times, seen homes designed and constructed in all corners of the globe, and had chats with a ton of experts. And there’s this idea floating around – that it’s possible to design and build a zero-maintenance home. Sounds like a dream, right? But if I’m being honest, I feel it’s just that – a dream.

Now, don’t get me wrong, in Matt and Will’s video they’re on a mission to reduce maintenance in their builds, and they’re doing it by choosing really durable products and materials. Take steel sidings, for example. It’s a far cry from traditional materials, and it sounds awesome, and expensive. But, put it in the sun and it will conduct a lot of heat. So, is there a perfect product to clad our walls and roof with? I’m not so sure.

Here’s the reality check: homes are battling the elements 24/7. The blazing sun, chilling snow, howling winds, torrential rains – they take a beating. Damage is going to happen, it’s inevitable. And then there’s the little things, like trees dropping pollen and pine needles that love to clog up your gutters and settle on your roof. Living in a wooded area myself, I can tell you that pollen gets everywhere – windows, solar panels, plaster, weatherboards, you name it.

So, while we can design homes to be super low maintenance, I believe it’s impossible to design a totally maintenance-free house exterior. And honestly, that’s okay. If we can’t eliminate maintenance completely, then let’s aim to reduce it as much as possible.

Remember when I reviewed that composite deck system that claimed to make staining and maintaining decks a thing of the past? And when I used bamboo decking on one of my own house projects? They had varying levels of success – and different investment levels. So, while I encourage you to check out Matt and Will’s video, stay tuned this coming year. We’ll be doing a lot more product reviews focusing on durability, quality, performance, sustainability, cost, and ease of installation. And who knows? We might just find that near-perfect product yet!

Over to Matt and Will’s video.

Video Transcript

I’m Matt Risinger and I’m with Will King on the Build Show today. We’re discussing the concept of a zero-maintenance exterior. It’s a big claim to make, but we believe it’s achievable. Today’s Build Show is sponsored by Edco, so let’s get started.

So, Will, when we talk about a zero-maintenance or no-maintenance exterior, what elements contribute to maintenance for homeowners? In my opinion, UV exposure is a significant factor that can lead to the deterioration of an exterior, whether it’s wood, fiber cement, or any painted surface. Typically, houses need to be repainted every five to seven years. Even painted brick requires maintenance.

Also, if you’ve got caulking on the outside of houses, you’re likely going to have to redo it, maybe even sooner than you repaint. This is especially true if the caulking is part of the weatherproofing system. Another important aspect of maintenance is the durability of the materials used on the outside of the house. For instance, asphalt shingles sometimes have a 30-year warranty but often get replaced in 20 years. Therefore, maintenance encompasses painting, caulking, and even power washing.

So, if we’re aiming for a zero or nearly zero exterior maintenance, what steps did you take with this house? Well, despite the board and batten look behind us, it’s actually not fiber cement; it’s steel. This is steel siding from Edco with a fiber cement profile and a wood grain texture. I love it! It’s a board and batten style, but we also have some shake up in the gables. The Edco roof is also steel, except for the brick you see at the bottom.

Our fascia soffit is fiber cement, but it could have been Edco or steel. I like that this house doesn’t have a lot of caulking. The siding has a 35-year fade warranty, so you’re going at least 10 years before you need to repaint this, probably longer. They also offer a lifetime warranty on chips, cracks, and any type of damage to the panel, making it a really durable, long-lasting product.

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We also have a steel roof from Edco, which doesn’t look like a metal house from the street. It has a traditional look, even though the exterior is metal. For instance, from the street, you wouldn’t know that it’s not a slate roof. The homeowner loved the look of slate, but due to the weight and expense, we opted for the Slate metal profile from Edco.

In terms of the board and batten look, we’ve used fiber cement in the past, which still requires painting at least every 10 years. This steel siding, however, looks like regular board and batten from the street. Because it has a wood texture, it gives the appearance of something familiar, like fiber cement.

However, the conversation goes back to painting. When you’re pricing a house and looking at all the exterior details, you have to factor in paint. Paint costs are high for exterior work. And, it’s a repeating expense; every 10 years, you’re going to be buying it again. But with Edco’s product, you get the look of wood grain with a durable coating, making a significant difference.

We’ve also installed this siding over a rain screen. If water ever gets behind it, we have a way for it to drain. You also have some exterior insulation back there. I know you’re a big fortified guy, so you did your roof deck to fortified standards.

We’ve been focusing on resilient construction in the last two or three years. I’ve seen a lot of damage from high winds, severe storms, and even tornadoes. Here in the South, we get a lot of that, and it seems to be getting worse.

The Edco product has a 160 mph wind rating, which is way more than what you’d get from a tornado. It’s a big difference in being able to have a resilient roof. If we did lose it, we’re still sealed. This product’s interlocking as they install it, plus you’re using screws and putting it on a specific pattern to get that. They have their own clip system instead of just a nail flange, which gives it added strength.

Regarding fire safety, we do have a chimney. If a leaf fire or grass fire occurred, having a non-combustible exterior is a big deal. I’ve seen many vinyl siding houses go up in flames. Obviously, we don’t have that, and our exterior insulation is rockwool, which provides added fire protection.

This is an impressive exterior. I brought the Edco representative into town for this video to ask him a couple of nerdy questions. I want to get into cost, what maintenance we need to do on this house, and what longevity we can expect from this product.

Before we jump over to Niles, let me say a quick comment about the installation of these Edco siding products. One of my project managers, Luke, built his family home using a bunch of Edco products. We shot a video about his Edco metal roof, which looks fantastic. He also did Edco metal siding, and he did the install himself.

This is a pretty standard install. You’ve got a nailing flange on the vertical or horizontal, and it’s what they call a Pittsburgh lock for those seams to lock together. So, it’s a really strong, durable lock; you’re not going to have this blow off your house. This is not like vinyl siding, even though it does have some real similar install characteristics.

Now, the other thing I want to mention about Edco is the sustainability of this product. Not only is their steel manufactured with a minimum content of 25% recycled material, but it’s also 100% recyclable at the end of its life.

One of the things that makes Edco metal siding systems outperform standard siding materials is the limited need for caulking as a weather barrier. Caulking is only recommended at the tops and sides of penetrations such as windows, doors, and hose bibs. This limited use of caulking reduces the overall lifetime maintenance and provides greater peace of mind to the effective performance year after year.

The new product launched in 2023 is the iron gray as a siding soffit, fascia, and gutter color. It has a 12-inch vertical board and batten profile, consisting of a 10-inch board with a 2-inch batten.

Now, let’s jump back to Niles on-site.

Niles, from Edco, made it all the way down here to Florence, Alabama, from Minnesota. So, Niles, the first thing I got to ask you is about maintenance. Is it really true that this could be a zero-maintenance exterior?

Everyone hates to say zero because there’s always something. Internally we refer back to our website when customers call. Maintenance comes down to aesthetics. How vibrant do you want your siding or roofing to look going into the future? What kind of stuff is in your area? Do you have cottonwood trees or stuff coming off that maybe, over time, you just get dust and stuff? So, it’s a soft wash; there’s really no caulking or anything like that required.

We don’t recommend pressure washing because we can’t control the pressure they’re putting and how close they’re going to get a nozzle. We recommend a soft wash, a very mild detergent mix in a 5-gallon bucket of water. You’re just trying to knock the dust off.

The other thing I want to ask you, Niles, is about longevity. I’ve made literally tons of videos about metal roofing because I love metal on the roof. What is the longevity on the siding and the roofing for Edco?

Ultimately, this is a lifetime product. We sell it with a lifetime warranty for no chips, cracks, or manufacturing defects to the coating itself. It is a galvanized 28 gauge steel. We’ve got it tested to a class four impact rating, which means it can withstand pretty sizable hail or debris flying through the air before you have to worry about any damage.

We have a lot of repeat customers that’ll come back to Edco with their same contractor. Now they want to build that exterior building on their property, and they want it to match their home. The beauty of that fade protection over the 35 years is that they’re probably doing that project before they start seeing any of those signs.

So, Will, did we actually do it? Is this house that you built a zero-maintenance house? I don’t know that I’m going to say zero maintenance. I think it’s very low maintenance. I think zero is a stretch. However, it is close to a zero-maintenance house as possible.

In terms of cost, surprisingly, no. The huge advantage to this is sustainability. When the product does hit its life cycle, it’s totally recyclable and valuable. The price of scrap materials keeps climbing as resources dwindle, so you have that side of it. The other side is the paint. With a 35-year fade protection on the siding and 30 or 40 years on the roofing, you’re not painting this for decades.

So there you have it. An in-depth look at a near zero-maintenance home, sponsored by Edco. If you’re not following Will, go check him out on the Build Show. He’s shooting videos every week down here in Alabama. You can also follow him at Will King Builds on Instagram. Otherwise, hit that subscribe button. We’ve got new content here every Tuesday and Friday. Follow us on Tik Tok or Instagram. We’ll see you next time on the Build Show.”