His exterior wall melted and a neighbor’s windows are the culprit 

  • One of the melted vinyl shutters on Glen Evans’ Howard Street home in Pembroke on Saturday, April 13, 2109. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Glen Evans looks over the melted vinyl siding on his Howard Street home in Pembroke on Saturday. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Glen Evans looks up at the sun angle that was coming down on his neighbor’s windows and causing the vinyl siding on his Pembroke home to melt. Evans and his neighbor built a two-foot taller fence to keep the sun from hitting the siding. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 4/14/2019 7:27:28 PM

As any homeowner knows, there are plenty of things that can go wrong with a house. Melting walls, though, is not usually among them.

“I was standing there, watching the wall melt,” said Glen Evans, recalling when he first noticed that his new vinyl siding was being harmed by sunlight reflected from windows on a neighboring house. “It was weird.”

Weird but not unique.

“It’s just a rare occasion that it happens. It takes a perfect setting. … In the 20 years I’ve been doing this, I think I know of three cases,” said Brett Young, owner of Energy Improvements on Route 106 in Pembroke, which installed the siding.

As told by Evans and his neighbor, Steve Andrewchuk, until last year there was nothing particularly noticeable about the space between the two adjacent houses on Howard Street, just north of Suncook village.

Evans cut down a maple tree in front of the house out of concern for the carpenter ants it was attracting and Andrewchuk said he noticed “two X’s on the side of his house which was coming from my house, just a reflection from the windows” but didn’t think much of it.

Then a year ago, Evans put up vinyl siding, covering what had been the wooden clapboard siding of his house, which was built 90 years ago. It melted and warped, so he had the contractor replace it, but the problem returned, and he discussed it with Andrewchuk.

“When it first happened I was dumbfounded,” said Andrewchuk, who is a subcontractor himself. “I called a buddy about it and he said, ‘Steve, don’t you remember?’ ”

Andrewchuk says his friend reminded him a development in Merrimack had this problem when it opened a decade or so ago.

“There was one section of a house, one particular house, where the vinyl siding was melting. They couldn’t figure out where it was coming from. Eventually they found out it was a window reflecting the sun – exactly the way it’s happening in my neighbor’s house,” he said.

Happily, this isn’t a story of warring neighbors blaming each other but of friends cooperating to deal with a problem.

Andrewchuk tried putting film on the windows to reduce the reflection but that made the room interior too dark, so he finally built an eight-foot wooden fence between their houses to block the light. Then he made it taller, because it didn’t block reflections from the upstairs windows.

“I left a section of the 4-by-4’s sticking up high, just in case the eight-foot wouldn’t cut it,” he said.

A 10-foot fence between two neighboring houses isn’t an ideal solution – “it looks ridiculous,” Evans says – but at least the melting has stopped.

The issue of reflected light from windows overheating vinyl siding has cropped up all around the country. It has been the subject of lawsuits in Oregon and Ohio and produced a long battle over building codes in North Carolina.

There are plenty of theories about causes and proposed solutions, ranging from the type of glass being used in windows to the color of siding, but there doesn’t seem to be any straightforward way to anticipate the issue or solve it.

“It’s an oddity. If you don’t have any trees around your house, the sun hits it in a certain way, maybe new windows, one house is higher than the other, they’re oriented the right way,” said Young. “It’s really hard to tell if there would be an issue.”

In fact, he says, it’s possible for a house to overheat its own siding. If it has an L-shape that faces the sun, light can reflect off windows on one arm of the L and hit the wall on the other arm.

As for Evans, he is dealing with some health issues and is happy that his house isn’t melting further. And he suggests that anybody who’s planning to put vinyl siding on their house should spend some time checking what the walls look like on sunny days.

“This isn’t something you expect,” he said.

(David Brooks can be reached at 369-3313 or dbrooks@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @GraniteGeek.)


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