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Admins, this might be too much for 1 post, but they're all related so if it needs broken up, just let me know. Also anyone reading this, please feel free to speak to just one part because it's a lot.

My house is wrapped in cedar siding, built in the mid 80s. Someone painted the front in latex paint (cracked, split, cupped, name it) and needs replaced, but the rest was stained rather well -- a lovely green I might add and looks fantastic, outside of a board or two that has split for who knows why. I'll be replacing those soon.

Anyway, I'm considering replacing all the siding on the front of the house myself (I have a miter saw, circular saw, a good ladder ... plenty of tools to do this) and had a few questions about doing it in a way that means business and I REALLY don't like doing things twice, so I want to do it right. I also hate paying 3-4x more for someone else to do it.

My first set of questions is regarding the siding. My house is facing south, so it gets baked in the Georgia sun. Bad. I have some really large trees that protect the rest of the house, but the front gets sun for 8+ hours and for this reason I've considered concrete (hardy) siding. My questions -- 1, should I do it (hardy) or the cedar and 2, would it look stupid?

My next questions are around replacing the particle board panels and adding a layer of that house wrap stuff. I figure if I'm ripping off all the siding, I should replace the particle board with plywood and add house wrap. The way it's done now is with that thin, really crappy stuff and I have a feeling I'm going to find problems. I've watched a few videos on doing the wrap and it seems stupid easy. Any reason why I shouldn't do the house wrap? Other than cost, any reason not to do the plywood and how thick should the plywood be? Has to be exterior rated too right??

Final set of questions -- should I replace the windows while I do this? My current windows are 14 years old, some don't open real well, hazed up, etc so they're due but the framing of the windows I have is metal and there's no screws on the inside of it for removal. It makes me think there's no easy way to do replacement windows (vs new construction) but I'm not sure, so I ask :-)

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I REALLY don't like doing things twice ...

This might indicate it is not a DIY project for you. However, if you are willing to do a few bits and pieces twice, you might be able to master the work well enough for a permanent result.

I also hate paying 3-4x more for someone else to do it.

This is often the best motivator, and hopefully provides some perspective. If you end up spending 20% more than a perfectly executed DIY, you are still way ahead.

1, should I do it (hardy) or the cedar

Dunno without seeing it. My house is brick on one face (the north side, oddly) and cedar shingles on the other sides. As long as the finished product looks like it is supposed to be that way, it should be fine. Have you thought about planting shade trees on the south side?

As far as redoing the siding's cladding/sheathing, you probably won't know until after tearing off the siding. It could be that part was well done. I don't think it needs exterior rating because it should be well protected and never in contact with moisture. 1/2 inch plywood or chipboard is standard, but thicker won't hurt and will help a bit with sound insulation and overall durability.

As far as house wrap, brace yourself: it is surprisingly expensive (maybe $100 for one side). If airflow through the wall is a significant factor, like all the other walls are tight and this wall is the big leaker, then it is worth it. If all the other walls and windows leak significantly, then don't bother unless you plan to eventually seal them all.

You might also consider adding additional insulation while that is open, both inside the wall cavity and perhaps as another layer on the outside. This might cost thousands, but given the high price of electricity there and typical air conditioning use, it probably will pay for itself in 8–15 years, as well as being a big improvement in comfort.

If you are going to replace windows, it will be way easier with the siding off than at any other time. The flanges are screwed into the cladding from outside. 14 years isn't all that old of a window, and a straight replacement isn't likely to save much. However, an upgraded replacement could well save on energy costs. Again the pay-for-itself period is probably in the 8–15 year range. Get an energy audit from your local utility (usually free) to learn more.

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    when I said I really don't like doing things twice, I meant doing it half-way/thrown together and having to redo everything a year or two later. Learning curve doesn't bother me, but I like to do them right, preferably overkill, and never have to worry about it again. Or at least for 30+ years or so :-)
    – user884
    Jul 18, 2014 at 13:27
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    Good call on the insulation, I had completely forgot about. I'm not sure if there's any currently, so I'll have to add for that. And I've seen the price of the house wrap, I got a 300$ line item for that -- it's something around ~170 for the wrap alone.
    – user884
    Jul 18, 2014 at 13:30
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I'm a DIYer and I've just gone through a very similar project (refinish all cedar siding on a 2-story 60s cabin). I also replaced insulation, replaced house wrap, and did a variety of other things that were convenient while I had access to the walls.

1, should I do it (hardy) or the cedar and 2, would it look stupid?

This depends on your budget. Hardy siding is great, looks nice, and lasts a long time. But, it can be expensive. Get a couple quotes for the materials and decide if it's appropriate for your financial situation.

As for the siding you already have, cedar siding can hold up pretty well for a long period of time. But, keep in mind that you'll have to attack it pretty hard to get it down to a surface that's ready to accept paint/stain. Expect to damage some to a point where you'll have to replace them. On the same note, there's a chance you may progress through the project only to find that it's more work than you planned for initially.

If you do decide to try and re-use your existing siding, don't waste time with palm sanders. Get an angle grinder and a couple bulk boxes of sanding discs (40 or 60 grit). You'll need more than you expect. It will leave swirl marks that you'll address with the palm sander after. But, don't use a palm or disc sander to start. It's a huge waste of time and a mistake that I made in my own project. Learn from the pros and use an angle grinder.

I figure if I'm ripping off all the siding, I should replace the particle board with plywood and add house wrap. The way it's done now is with that thin, really crappy stuff and I have a feeling I'm going to find problems

The wrap you already have is likely #15 tar/felt paper. And yes, you will find problems. This would be true with most houses anyway, so don't get too discouraged when they come up.

Some building codes differ on the house wrap requirements. Double check those before you buy anything.

House wrap is very easy to apply with a helper. It's very annoying to apply solo.

Other than cost, any reason not to do the plywood and how thick should the plywood be? Has to be exterior rated too right??

Thickness depends on many factors, one of which is wind load. Plywood for sheathing is commonly 3/8 or 7/16. The grade of plywood depends on your application. For sheathing, CDX seems to be common. Always check building codes for your area. Just because something might be common doesn't mean it's allowable in your situation.

As an alternative, you may want to consider WRB Sheathing instead of plywood. A popular option is Zip System. There are lots of conflicting opinions on plywood + Tyvek vs Zip System. Just be sure to consider your own situation and don't get too caught up in the discussion itself.

A word of advice - be careful that you don't get too ambitious with the project and end up with a house that lacks siding and weather barrier. The steps can be simple, but the work takes time. So, plan accordingly.

should I replace the windows while I do this? My current windows are 14 years old, some don't open real well, hazed up, etc so they're due but the framing of the windows I have is metal and there's no screws on the inside of it for removal.

There could be a reason why they don't open well such as changes in the opening caused by swelling wood, house settling, etc. Otherwise, does your budget allow for it? If so, and if you aren't happy with what's already there, then use the opportunity to install windows that are more to your liking and design preference. It will be much easier with the siding out of the way.

You didn't ask, but if you are exposing the framing, it would be a good time to replace insulation. Buy the insulation that's made for the cavity size. Don't try to stuff as much as you possibly can in there since doing so actually has a negative impact on the performance of the insulation. There are many types of insulation, too. Rockwool performs well in my experience. But, the regular fiberglass insulation is still adequate. There are higher performing solutions, but those come at a significant cost more by comparison.

On another note, if you expose framing, it may be a good time to consider any other improvements you may make in the future:

  • running some conduit for low voltage wiring (ethernet, security camera wires, etc)
  • run some conduit or other electrical runs (interior/exterior lights, plugs, switches, etc) - be extremely cautious when doing anything with electricity
  • any plumbing considerations (installing another sink, bathroom, shower, etc; inspect/replace existing damaged plumbing)
  • inspect/replace any damaged studs

Whatever you decide:

  • double check your local codes
  • make a project plan before you start each project
  • keep your budget in mind
  • just because you can DIY doesn't mean you have to
  • don't be afraid to hire someone to help and/or contractors to tackle certain projects
  • don't bite off more than you can chew at one time
  • expect that things almost never go perfectly
  • check the weather before you tear off siding

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Best of luck with your project. I'm sure it will turn out great.

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