I have exterior wood siding that is starting to rot in places (it isn't
siding for the entire house, just around the windows). I don't want to
replace it with more wood and have just begun researching alternatives.
I've heard there are vinyl products available, but vinyl makes me
think it may be cheap looking. Any thoughts on possible alternatives?
You are talking about exterior trim work.
Just replace it with new wood. BUT do stuff like prime the wood on all
sides before nailing it into place. The odds are that the replacemnet wood
will last indefinitely if you paint it as needed.
Even if you don't go to the trouble of priming the new work, if you keep
water from getting to bare wood, it should last a LONG time.
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