Winter's rigors test siding crews and materials, but contractors like Tom Harlow, general manager of Sterling Seamless Siding and Remodeling, Grand Forks, N.D., rarely let arctic cold stop them. They can't afford to. “[Winter] isn't about a huge amount of production,” he says. “It's about maintaining revenue. You're still running cash flow for the company and the installers can still make a living.”

Planning Makes it Happen Harlow's crews “run to about 20 below,” he says. The coils of steel for seamless siding and the machines that fabricate it both require a minimum operating temperature, so there's always a heated trailer on jobs. He plans for winter work with a clothing allowance for his installer employees. “We always fit them with the best equipment — sub-zero gear and boots rated to 100 below,” he says.

Vinyl siding is a lot less tolerant of the cold than steel. Installation halts at around 20 degrees above zero for Royalty Remodelers, Minneapolis, owner Mike Stuge says. Crews want to work when it's colder, but the properties of the vinyl rule it out. Depending on the gauge, “there's just not enough room for expansion and contraction in that vinyl panel,” he says, even with meticulous nail placement.

In Jackson, Wis., “we construct windbreaks, just to keep going,” and work on the lee side of the house when possible, says Doug Giffen, president of Kettle Moraine Exteriors. Crews work year-round, but “generally use zero degrees, either wind chill or actual temperature,” as the cutoff point for siding installation.

Product Challenges For fiber-cement siding, the caulk presents one of the biggest challenges “because it doesn't flow well in cold weather,” Giffen says. He's addressed the problem with small, DC-powered cooling/heating units that plug into a truck's 12-volt outlet. “The crews run caulk in there to keep the tubes going, and that works really well,” he says.

No matter what the siding material, contractors say they experience more service calls on cold-weather installations. “It isn't due to lack of quality control by the crews,” Giffen says, “but things that you just can't control because of the cold are eventually going to cause you to go back.”