CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Last month the NewsChannel 36 I-Team alerted homeowners to an increasing problem: melting vinyl siding.
It turns out some double-paned, energy efficient "Low E" windows act like a big magnifying glass and focus the reflected sunlight to actually melt the vinyl siding on adjacent exterior walls.
At the time, industry representatives called the problem "rare," "isolated," even "unique." But dozens of homeowners in the Charlotte area e-mailed to say they have had similar problems with melting siding.
Lisa Forlenza, a homeowner in Auburn Place off Rea Road in south Charlotte, tipped us to the story.
"I feel like a relatively new homeowner should not have melting siding," she said. And she found some of her neighbors were in the same boat. "I'm sure it's widespread," she said.
But industry representatives all insisted it was rare. A spokeswoman for the Vinyl Siding Institute, a trade group, called melting siding "infrequent...a perfect storm situation." The American Architectural Manufacturers Association, which represents window makers, called reports of melting siding "rare and isolated." And a spokesman for Pulte Homes, which built Lisa's home and which has since offered to replace her siding for a second time, said the melting siding was a "unique and rare occurrence."
Then, at least two dozen homeowners e-mailed the I-Team -- some attaching photos of melting vinyl siding and even a melted plastic trash can lid -- to say they, too, had experienced the phenomena and it was by no means unique.
The e-mails came from a wide variety of neighborhoods all around Charlotte -- from Huntersville, Mooresville and Concord to the north and from Waxhaw, Matthews and the upstate of South Carolina to the south. One real estate agent e-mailed to alert a homeowners' association that he had seen melted siding "over and over" in a neighborhood near Ballantyne.
"I had heard stories about it but hadn't really seen anybody else really experience it," said David Worrell of Huntington Forest off of Steele Creek.
A strip of siding running vertically up his chimney is melted. He says he asked the builder, D.R. Horton, to fix it before giving up and hiring a contractor himself.
"I made some noise about it during the warranty," said Worrell. "They just said it's what happens and I didn't really pursue it."
But some builders, including Pulte Homes, have offered to replace melted siding for some homeowners after the I-Team's first report.
Jack Wittwer in the Clairemont Neighborhood in Indian Land, S.C., says one strip of his home's vinyl siding has melted repeatedly.
He says the builder, Ryland Homes, at first refused to replace the siding. But after the I-Team's first report, he says the company checked it out and said it would pay for new siding and offer him a $25 credit to buy a shrub to block the sunlight.
"We know that if it hadn't been for your television story we would not be at this point," said Wittwer.
Driving through neighborhoods with vinyl siding and double-paned "Low E" windows, you can see patterns of bright sunlight focused on the siding in adjacent houses, some reflected on chimneys or walls at the same house.
So far, home builders and vinyl siding manufacturers and window makers have focused on fixing the problem rather than preventing it. Those fixes include:
- convincing neighbors to put screens over the offending window,
- planting trees of shrubs to block the sunlight,
- and replacing the siding with higher quality replacement siding with a higher melting point.
Without a new design for tract homes that changes the type of windows or the grade of siding or both, homeowners will continue to be stuck filing claims with builders or manufacturers to pay for those fixes.
Do you have melting vinyl siding? E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.