You want to go green but with so many siding options – wood shingles, composite wood, vinyl, aluminum, cement fiber – there is such a wide range of siding materials to choose from it can be a little confusing. In order to be considered sustainable, green siding should meet four main criteria: is durable; can be recycled; contains and/or emits a minimal amount of toxins or chemicals; and is biodegradable when deposited in a landfill. Essentially, siding is made from wood, vinyl, aluminum and composite materials such as engineered wood and fiber cement, and in terms of being eco friendly, each one has its pluses and minuses.
Insulated Vinyl Siding – As a siding material, insulated vinyl siding is very cost-effective. While it resembles regular vinyl siding, it includes a layer of foam insulation that acts as an additional protective barrier between the wall of the house and the siding. Due to its thickness, insulated siding is easier to handle and install than regular vinyl siding. Because vinyl siding will last 30 plus years and requires a minimal amount of care, it does not have to be replaced or maintained as often as other kinds of siding. However, it is made from a highly toxic chemical compound (PVC) that is not biodegradable. But vinyl siding can be recycled. For many homeowners, insulated vinyl siding is not the best green choice even if it is the most cost-efficient.
Fiber Cement Siding – Made from natural materials like sand, cement and clay, then combined with wood fibers (a recycled material), fiber cement doesn’t rot and is fire-resistant. It is low maintenance and is extremely strong and very durable. Because it requires the use of kilns in its production, a lot of energy is consumed in the process, adding to its carbon footprint. Regarding sustainability, fiber cement uses recycled materials and is a very stable siding material, which means fewer cracks and the need for repairs using sealants, etc.
Wood Siding – In certain urban and rustic settings, nothing matches the beauty of real wood siding. Because it is made from a natural resource, the grain pattern of each piece of siding is unique. In terms of sustainability, trees are a renewable resource and the wood can be recycled and is biodegradable when added to landfills. But when purchasing wood siding, to ensure it is a truly sustainable product, make sure that is has been certified by the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) and/or the SFI (Sustainable Forest Initiative). Wood siding tends to be high maintenance, requiring frequent painting and staining. Treated wood siding that is less susceptible to the elements is also less sustainable.
Composite Wood Siding – While a much cheaper option than real wood siding, composite wood siding (also known as engineered wood siding) is not as durable, its typical lifespan being anywhere from 15 to 20 years. As far as sustainability goes, its value is negligible largely due to how it’s manufactured. While composite wood is created from recycled wood products, the manufacturing process uses resins and heat to bind the recycled elements together before being pressed to sheets. Composite wood siding typically includes an applied finish that can resemble real wood grain and reduces maintenance. It is biodegradable in landfills.