THE TOUGH CUSTOMER- Heartland fear: Some siding can't stand the heat
Maryellen Learmonth purchased a new house in Charlottesville approximately eight years ago. After about a year, the vinyl siding on the house was buckling, so she called her building contractor who brought in the local supplier, Mid-South Building Supply, to replace the damaged siding.
Learmonth's siding apparently wasn't handling the heat.
In "about 2005," Learmonth says, she noticed the problem again. This time, her contractor apparently called in the manufacturer of the siding, Heartland Building Products of Booneville, MS.
The response was quite different.
"I was not there," Learmonth says, "but was told the [Heartland representative] said, ‘She should plant a tree in front of the window to stop the reflection of the sun.'"
Learmonth noticed more buckling, so she called Mid-South again, hoping for a remedy to stave off future damage.
According to Learmonth, the Mid-South employee who came to her house said he "had never seen siding melt like this," but he believed that Heartland had a provision in its warranty that excluded damage from reflected sunlight. He also noticed areas of "fading and chalking" and suggested Learmonth contact Heartland.
Learmonth says she filled out the warranty claim paperwork and sent it to Heartland with 30 photographs of the damage and a three-foot piece of the faded, chalked siding.
Learmonth tracked the package, she says, "so I know that they received it on June 4.... They sent out a form letter on June 5 telling me I had no claim."
On its website, Heartland boasts its vinyl siding includes an "infusion of special thermo-plastic polymers to provide enhanced resistance to impacts, UV damage, and heat distortion and to achieve superior color retention."
Heartland provides a lifetime warranty, but the Mid-South employee who came to Learmonth's home knew what he was talking about, because the warranty's fine print says that Heartland will not cover "distortion or warping due to unusual heat sources (including outdoor grills and reflection from windows or foil sheathing)."
Learmonth says that an older area of damage on the second floor of her house "is adjacent to a window on each place," but she adds, "In the new areas the windows are not being hit by the sun directly. I also see it now on the trims and on flat surfaces."
Learmonth's story raises several issues, especially for an area like ours that, until recently, has seen a lot of new construction.
First is understanding that vinyl siding has a relatively lower heat tolerance compared to other building materials, such as brick, wood, and even aluminum. As a result, it can warp and buckle if it's heated by even a common occurrence like reflected sunlight.
When shopping for a house, particularly new construction, buyers should know the strengths and weaknesses of the materials used in the structure.
Second, based on Learmonth's description of her damage, it seems that while some of her problems may not be covered by her warranty, others may. Given Heartland's dismissive responses to her to date, Learmonth may want to consider hiring a home inspector or other expert who can pinpoint the exact cause of each instance of damage before she proceeds.
Finally, Heartland's responses to Learmonth are puzzling. While Heartland appears to have made good on its warranty the first time, subsequently the company has apparently claimed it is no longer responsible for the siding. A Heartland corporate executive did not return my phone calls, and although a local Heartland sales representative did, he refused to comment on the record and instead threatened that he would contact the company's attorney if I wrote about this matter at all.
Heartland's vinyl siding may buckle under the heat of Charlottesville, but its corporate stone wall, apparently, does not.
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