The latest high-end vinyl siding products have opened up a new market niche for replacement contractors: house makeovers in more upscale neighborhoods where owners want to escape the maintenance headaches of painted wood exteriors without the telltale plastic look associated with lower-end vinyl products ( see “A Step Up for Vinyl,” April 2006). But a rugged, authentic-looking siding material still leaves the problem of trim treatments. The common method of using site-bent metal coil to cover wood window trim, soffits, and fascia may fall short of the visual standard set by up-market siding products.

“The hardest part about the aluminum is that it is always wavy. Whenever you try to float aluminum beyond a straight line, you end up with waves or bubbles,” points out Smokey Saduk, a Jersey Shore contractor who specializes in high-end exteriors. Saduk has developed a trim approach for vinyl-sided homes that relies on bent metal more as a flashing than as a visual element. To dress up the trim, Saduk has turned to synthetic materials such as Azek cellular PVC and Fypon polyurethane — advanced plastics that can be detailed like wood but hold paint better than wood.

Smokey Saduk runs a router along the edge of 1-by-7-foot Azek board to produce beaded fascia not available with ordinary vinyl trim stock.
Smokey Saduk runs a router along the edge of 1-by-7-foot Azek board to produce beaded fascia not available with ordinary vinyl trim stock.

Soffit Detail Saduk recalls mixing vinyl siding, Azek, standard vinyl trim accessories, and aluminum soffit material for a recent makeover of a Philadelphia row house: “I used a ventilated vinyl soffit under the eaves, then cut and bent aluminum trim to hold the soffit up — kind of a reverse J,” he explains (see illustration, above right). “I then trimmed the fascias and rakes with Azek and applied shadow boards to the rakes to try to put some detail back into it.” Saduk now uses the same eaves and rake detail as part of his premium vinyl exteriors package on custom beach-front homes in Ocean City, N.J., often adding preformed polyurethane dentil blocks or corbels.

Jamb Solution That same Philadelphia house also presented a window trim puzzle. The lower part of the house was clad with brick and stucco, while the upper story had wood siding. “There were maybe 10 different kinds of windows,” Saduk says, “and by the time we lathed out the brick and stucco and applied foam sheets and vinyl siding, the replacement windows were all sitting at different depths in the wall.”

To achieve a consistent look, Saduk used Azek to extend the jambs for the replacement windows on the exterior, bringing them out flush with the plane of the newly applied foam. He set each extension jamb in a bead of caulk, and fastened them with through nails. “This makes a nice weather-tight joint with the window, and it gives you someplace to attach a two-piece snap-on vinyl window surround,” Saduk says.

Working With Plastic Azek and other cellular PVC products are made with the same polyvinyl chloride plastic used to make vinyl siding, but their structure is different: These products are extruded with thousands of tiny micro-bubble “cells” per cubic inch. Azek comes in pre-molded shapes as well as in large sheets of various thicknesses. It can be cut, shaped, and sanded with regular hand and power tools, and it fastens with ordinary nails. Special PVC adhesives, similar to PVC plumbing adhesives, can be used to fuse pieces together.

Working with pieces cut from sheet stock as well as with pre-manufactured moldings, Saduk now incorporates Azek details into all his high-end exterior trim packages. “We use the same equipment and tools for the exterior work as for our interior woodwork,” he says. “If it rains, we can just go inside and keep on working.”