The industry has heard it before: a local newspaper will report on a case of melted vinyl siding and fingers are often pointed at low-E windows. The news will then die down until another case arises. However, some in the industry believe the issue of vinyl siding melting due to low-E windows is truly an isolated one. Yet the topic continues to draw interest. In fact, a discussion thread in the Linkedin group for the Insulating Glass Manufacturers Alliance (IGMA) posed the question: “We are hearing a lot more about melted vinyl siding from the window industry. Do you believe this is something that IGMA and other fenestration associations should look into further?” The thread generated a fair amount of response but some of that was misinformation, so DWM went to the sources in a few cases to set the record straight and to explore the issue further.

First, representatives of the Window and Door Manufacturers Association (WDMA) and the American Architectural Manufacturers Association (AAMA) tell DWM they do not have a task group looking into these issues. IGMA’s executive director Marg Webb says the discussion was posted to gauge how many in the industry deem this to be a real issue and there are no plans at the present time to research the matter—either alone or in conjunction with other industry associations.

Research has been performed on the topic, however. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) published a white paper on the subject in July 2011.  Titled “Research Needs: Glass Solar Reflectance and Vinyl Siding,” the research showed that, “The spectral reflectance, angle of incidence to the sun, and surface distortion properties of insulating window glass will determine the shape and concentration of reflected solar radiation from the glass. Recent media reports have pointed to these concentrated solar reflections as the primary contributor to vinyl siding distortion; however, all the factors involved in vinyl siding distortion are not yet fully understood.

Investigation directly into the causes of vinyl siding distortion has been limited, and a majority of test results from those investigations have been kept confidential by their sponsors. Further studies are needed to fully characterize the conditions associated with siding distortion, the scope of the problem, and possible mitigation or prevention strategies.”

“The intervention methods now are to put a screen on the window—anything that block the rays of the sun,” adds Webb. “But the reality is it can happen when sun is reflecting off roofs, driveways and even by direct sunlight with no adjacent buildings. You have to have the right parameters for this to occur. It doesn’t happen a lot but it can be dramatic when it does.”

Phil Lewin, vice president, technical marketing at Vinyl Window Designs in Ontario, says he has never personally seen a case of melted siding beyond those documented in magazines.

“So, one would have to assume that it is the exception and not the rule unless there is more documentation to the contrary,” he says. “However, it is clearly a real phenomenon and, if it does occur, needs to be treated seriously by the contractor.”

But that leaves a question: who is liable?

“The vinyl siding industry is being aggressive and pointing fingers without taking responsibility for their product,” says Webb.

“Should it be the siding company that is liable for making a product that might melt?” asks Lewin. “Maybe it’s the window company for not disclosing the possibility that a reflection could create excessive heat? How about the contractor for not checking every window for all possible angles of the sun?”

He adds that no one should be blamed.

“It should be treated as an ‘act of god’. One would hope that all parties, including the customer, would resolve the issue in a professional and intelligent manner and move on,” says Lewin.

So where does the industry go from here? When the LBNL white paper was published, Table 6 listed proposed research topics and actions to further understand and characterize this issue. “Collaboration with industry would be required to develop research protocols and methodologies to address the proposed research topics,” reads the report.

LBNL’s Stephen Selkowitz was not available for comment at press time so no word yet on whether that further research is in the works.

“I’ve never had one question about this issue,” adds Webb.

Email your thoughts on the topic to ttaffera@glass.com or post a comment here.

16 Comments

  1. RE: https://dwmmag.com/index.php/how-prevalent-is-melted-vinyl-siding-and-are-windows-and-glass-to-blame/

    Hi, I just found this article and wanted to pass along that not only is vinyl siding being melted but my patio furniture was destroyed by the “magnifying glass” affect of our windows.

    What has been the industry’s response?

    I am emailing some photos to ttaffera@glass.com

    Sincerely,
    Dennis

  2. The siding on our four year old home is seriously warped. Both the builder and the vinyl manufacturer have denied our request for help, stating solar distortion was caused by reflection from our neighbor’s windows. This distortion occurred after three years in our home and while we were still under warranty from the manufacturer. We are trying to get information regarding the type of screening that could be applied to the neighbor’s window and have gotten an estimate for landscaping that might help the situation; however, we cannot proceed until the damaged siding is replaced. We feel that the responsibility for the “act of God” should be shared by everyone involved and not just by the unsuspecting buyer who bought a home in a 55 and over community built by a very reputable builder.

    Any help or suggestions you can provide will be greatly appreciated. We are a retired couple on a limited income and cannot afford to replace an entire wall of the home we thought would be our last.

  3. I don’t think there is any way that you can hold the vinyl siding manufacturer liable for sun glare warping, melting or burning the siding. That would be like holding them liable because the siding caught on fire because a kid was playing with matches and started the siding on fire.

    If it was a big enough issue some member of congress would have poked there noses in the issue and started a witch hunt against siding manufacturers.

  4. I am a realtor and have run into this in more than one community in our service area. Several homes have severely warped sections of vinylin the last one I saw. The vinyl is medium weight, which may be less resistant than the heavier weights, but that is a guess.

    It is consistently true that suppliers, architects, developers and builders throw up a product then walk away saying, “Not my problem” after their obligatory year or so is over for warranty on their structures. It is truly disgusting to see the industry blaming one another and saying it “isn’t a big enough problem to warrant MY attention” or “I will wait until someone MAKES me do something about it”. Sadly, no one has pride in their work. It’s all get the quick buck and run.

  5. I have a feeling this is happening to my neighbors house from my low-e double-paned windows. It’s been a process within the last year or so and it has gotten worse. It started off with about 4 feet, then spread to about 12-15 feet. He does not believe this can happen, because it hasn’t happened to anyone else’s home in the neighborhood. Nobody else’s home has the thinner vinyl siding, paired with neighboring low-e windows. There are many articles out there on this and I really wish he would read them! It’s very frustrating knowing we have not placed a heat source near his home, but he thinks that we did. Now, as time goes on, I plan on taking many photos of where the sun reflects for proof. I just hope he doesn’t replace the 5 or 6 planks of siding before I prove my point!

  6. This happened to me. We had newer windows installed and a year later in the summer I noticed warping starting to happen. I came to the conclusion that it depends on so many variable. The manufacturing process, type of window, amount of sunlight etc… I replaced the affected areas and it hasn’t happened again. I wasn’t happy about it but it’s fixed now so my wife is happy.

  7. Vinyl manufactures have the option of using infared reflecting pigments for coloring of their siding that can reflect over 40% of damaging IR wavelengths if they wanted to.
    Most likely they do not want to absorb the additional costs.

  8. Ive seen melted siding many times. Sometimes no window reflection is involved, just reflection from an adjacent wall. Im thinking cheap siding used in developements.
    Jim Feig 7/26/2015 NJ home inspectors license # 24GI00081500.

  9. My parents have lived in the same home for 35 years and there was never a problem with the siding until the house next door was purchased by new owners who changed the windows. Now the siding has melted on that side of the home, and we are left holding the bag. We called the insurance company and they said it is not covered, the neighbors are not responsible, but we have to pay out a lot of money to have it fixed.

    I think this is more common than we thing, but no one knows where to turn to for help and there isn’t a place to collect all the information to assess just how big of a problem it is.

    Any suggestions?

  10. Vinyl siding warping in the sun, usually happens, after the siding is installed to tight, weather it be to snug to wall, or to tight in the corners.
    When this happens, the slight buckling, will get worse in the heat of the summer, and will not go back to its original shape, because it is now warped, and will not flatten out again.
    My suggestion, is to catch it early, remove bad pieces, right away, because 1piece can cause a whole wall to go bad.

    Some times house will settle and cause buckling.
    Some times a 2 X 4 bowing can start the problem.

    All of these problems, addressed right away, can save lots of money, and arguing with builder or installer.
    We have installed 1000s of homes, very seldom do we see this, if we do we fix right away. No arguing with builder or homeowner.

    Most time installing improperly will cause the problem.

    I

    That is why you read above, that they replaced siding and it did not happen again, better installer

  11. Interesting Post!

  12. We had triple pane low e windows and a patio door installed in the fall of 2015. The spring of 2016 we noticed the siding on our house on a wall that is a 90 degree angle from the patio door was buckled and badly distorted. In the fall of 2016 we installed new really high quality heavy weight vinyl siding and after only a few nice days here in the early spring of 2017 the new siding is distorting in the exact same place.

  13. Apparently, Mr. Phil Lewin has not investigated this issue at all if he states he has only read about the damage e windows can do. I , however, will gladly invite him to my home in Lansing, IL where he can see and feel for himself the damage to my home. Two years ago I found my new siding had been melted. The contractor came and replaced my siding because we thought it was defective material. This spring it is burned again only worse.
    My neighbor finally informed me he had purchased e windows two years ago. He was not informed about what damage these windows can do. This issue has to be addressed. I am now looking into filing a class action suit against the windows manufactures.

    1. Or he can see mine in SC. When we bought the house in 2008 – the warped siding was replaced. The previous owner advised that it would happened again – and it did.

  14. Our whole community (built by one nationally known developer) has had the melting siding/low E window catastrophe. Every block has 4 or 5 homes affected. Builder says act og God. Yet knowing the problem exists and has in multiple states..same builder..they continue to construct houses same way. Houses are built too close together and they know this. Nor do they ever try to make any type of effort to solve the issue. It is a giant financial headache for all of us homeowners. And it is NOT an uncommon problem as stated by above article. Why doesn’t the housing industry do something to police their own incompetent construction companies?

  15. I had vinyl siding replaced in 2018 because of a “bubbling”look. The same look is back. It occurs on our 4 seasons wall that is perpendicular to our main structure that has a window which is not even a low-e window but faces southwest. Recently we noticed slight damage coming from the sunroom low-e window glass that faces south. On a sunny day you can observe a bright sunspot gradually move over the ground until it hits the vinyl siding and moves up the siding in the exact place that is showing the damage. We are now having full screens with sun shade material on the windows causing the damage. We will observe over the next couple years and just hope the damage stops so we can confidently replace the bad siding. This I real issue, folks.

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