Siding replacement is always a hot topic when Eichler owners discuss home maintenance. While siding life can be extended with regular repainting or re-staining, and by keeping vegetation clear of the walls, nothing lasts forever. What's more, new owners often have to contend with the poor maintenance practices of previous owners. Fortunately, businesses like Eichler Siding (online at www.eichlersiding.com) offer siding panels that duplicate three of the most common Eichler styles: 'thin line' with 1/8-inch-wide grooves set 1-5/8 inches apart, 'wide line' with 3/8-inch-wide grooves set two inches apart, and 'plank tex' with 3/16-inch-wide grooves set eight inches apart and features a swirl texture cut into the face. They will also mill custom siding in other patterns.
To maximize the life of the siding, before installation the company recommends putting a primer coat on the back side and also priming or sealing the edges in some way. The next decision is: paint or stain? Eichler Homes stained their siding, and while some sources believe that was done principally because it was cheaper than painting, others point out that it also looks better, since stain allows the grain of the wood to show through and keeps the grooves nice and sharp.
Eichler Siding offers their siding styles in different materials, some of which are specifically designed to take paint only, and others that can be painted or stained. Let them know how you intend to finish your new siding and they'll advise you on which materials are best.
While many homeowners choose paint in the belief that the time between recoats is longer, Dave Salas of California Paint and Wallpaper in Sunnyvale points out that a solid stain can last nine to 12 years, comparable to paint (semi-transparent stains will last three to five years, semi-solid stains five to seven years). Salas says staining gives a more natural, rustic look as well as ensuring that the siding grooves stay sharp and clear, even after multiple recoats.
When siding is made of cedar or redwood, Salas recommends using a primer under a solid stain because those woods are more absorbent. However, priming is not recommended for semi-solid or semi-transparent stains on new siding, making that option a real time-saver. When painting, new wood always requires priming first.
This leads to the topic of house colors, and the important role they play in giving the house facade (and the neighborhood, for that matter) its personality. Joe Eichler favored earth tones, though he certainly did not always restrict himself to them. Catherine Munson, an Eichler Homes veteran who now specializes in selling Eichlers in Marin through her Lucas Valley Properties, recalls that the "trim color was sometimes orange or turquoise, colors which now are often considered brash and too intense. Over time people started changing to lighter colors. But now many people prefer more subdued, less 'contrasty' colors." She also favors not going overboard with using the trim color on window moldings and other details, but sticking to a simpler look.
For those seeking to renew their home in an authentic Eichler color, visit California Paint, where Salas keeps a file box of original Eichler colors that he has amassed over the years. He can guide the homeowner to currently available colors that match the old colors, or even create a custom color, if necessary.
Eichler homes typically were accented with several exterior lights, usually finished in anodized aluminum. Invariably these lights have corroded over the decades, and many homeowners have discarded them, perhaps not realizing that they can be restored. One restoration technique is to have the light sandblasted to remove dirt and corrosion and then powder-coated, giving an extremely durable finish. Re-anodizing is also possible, though results can be mixed, especially if the level of corrosion is heavy. Motion detectors can also be wired into old lights so that they can be turned on automatically as needed.
Eichler owners may seek to restore original fixtures because currently available lights are pretty far afield from mid-century modern. However, there are lighting manufacturers producing contemporary styles that blend well with the Eichler aesthetic. Stonco Lighting makes an 'Architectural Bullet' series in aluminum that echoes mid-century bullet lights. UltraLights offers their 'Classic' line in a number of designs that incorporate heavy gauge copper, brass, or stainless steel; and translucent acrylic panels in a simple, timeless style. Check out their 'Luz Azul' line of striking metal wall sconces as well.