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The Counterintuitive Cladding

Every major green building certification program allows the use of vinyl siding

Posted on Mar 10 2015 by Fernando Pages Ruiz

Justly or unjustly, we in the green building movement are often viewed as self-righteous. Most often we are on the forefront of the truth, introducing new building methods and specifying materials that not only protect the environment, but improve building quality. Other times we get it wrong. For example, in pursuit of energy efficiency we wrapped interior walls in plastic sheathingMaterial, usually plywood or oriented strand board (OSB), but sometimes wooden boards, installed on the exterior of wall studs, rafters, or roof trusses; siding or roofing installed on the sheathing—sometimes over strapping to create a rainscreen. to prevent air infiltration. This unwittingly trapped moisture in the walls, promoting mold and causing "sick building syndrome." But we learned, and we fixed it.

It's harder when we're wrong about something that contradicts our favorite beliefs. We remain staunchly unwilling to look askance at finishes we love, such as brick and bamboo, and even less likely to reconsider those we love to hate, such as vinylCommon term for polyvinyl chloride (PVC). In chemistry, vinyl refers to a carbon-and-hydrogen group (H2C=CH–) that attaches to another functional group, such as chlorine (vinyl chloride) or acetate (vinyl acetate). siding, even when our beliefs are proven wrong.

Some in the green building community reflexively reject vinyl siding because it's a plastic finish. They believe it's made of petroleum, releases dioxin during manufacture, and that it is flimsy – none of which is true. And what's worst, it's, well… you know, made of plastic and, well...

Yes, it is plastic, but that does not constitute environmental sin. Every major green building certification program allows vinyl siding, and some award points for its use.

Why the contradiction between popular lore and the most stringent certification programs? Because intuition can be wrong, and how we feel about a product – like it or not – does not always reflect the truth.

Green by all credible definitions

One description of a sustainable claddingMaterials used on the roof and walls to enclose a house, providing protection against weather. involves materials or prefinished assemblies that do not require chemical finishing products, such as paints and stains, to be applied on-site. This reduces a building's environmental impact over both the short and long term by effectively remaining maintenance-free, at least in relative terms.

Much stricter criteria to judge green building products are based on a life cycle assessment. Here it's hard to argue against vinyl siding because tests using Building for Environmental and Economic Sustainability (BEES) software – the green industry gold standard for life cycle impact assessment – shows that vinyl siding outshines most other popular claddings, including fiber-cement and brick, falling short only to cedar siding. Fiber-cement products like HardiePlank are among the worst environmental options, yet many in the green building movement reflexively embrace them.

Whenever an architect or green building advocate is tasked with looking into green bona fides of vinyl siding, they almost always come out with a moderate view – if not embracing the material, concluding with something along the lines of "…it's okay sometimes, and if you have to."

For example, this weekend I read a blog post by a prominent green building guru who had just remodeled his shop and finished off the exterior with vinyl siding. The blog was a confession of sorts, and an explanation of his choice – the material is durable, requires no ongoing maintenance other than the occasional wash with mild detergent, was safe to homeowners, etc. Unfortunately, he concluded that he felt sorry for those living near the vinyl plant that made his siding. His sympathies are unwarranted and misguided.

Vinyl siding plants are not the same as old vinyl manufacturing plants, and they do not spew dioxin into the air as portrayed in the movie Blue Velvet that triggered the anti-vinyl siding movement in the first place. [Editor's note: See Comment #29 by Bruce Palmer, below.]

But, even if the toxic argument were true, why don't I hear the same green gurus 'fessing up to the damage caused by the expanded polystyrene in their structural insulated panels, or the PVC in their housewrap and drain pipes, or the horrors of the foam sheathing we are now required to use?

Why you should not hate me for using vinyl siding

In Colorado, where I live and work, a movement to ban vinyl siding has taken root in at least two communities, Fort Collins and Erie, and this may spread. As a builder of environmentally responsible affordable housing, this limitation means I cannot avail myself of a legitimate green building option that helps me to keep costs in line for my low to moderate income buyers.

When push comes to shove – and I've had to push and shove to get vinyl siding into some of my projects – the objections come down to aesthetics. You might think you don't like the look, but I do, and once you've seen one of my houses, you will, too. That's because I know how to use the material tastefully. To wit, my vinyl-sided homes have won green building awards and graced the pages of magazines such as Fine Homebuilding and Dwell.

Any material has its place, and design and construction quality always trumps material specifications for aesthetic and environmental performance. Like vinyl siding, plastic laminates were once considered inadequate environmental and architectural products – that is, until popular architects such as Sarah Susanka began specifying plastic laminate surfaces that featured beautiful prints. Now plastic laminates have become an accepted material in high-end architectural and green building projects.

The same is happening with vinyl siding, albeit more slowly. Last year I attended the Congress for the New Urbanism in Buffalo, New York, and toured boutique, high-end subdivisions that featured vinyl siding. I say "featured" because when I asked one builder why he chose this cladding, he said that his affluent buyers were mostly senior citizens who had owned a number of homes during their lives, and would not consider any other product due to vinyl siding's longevity and relatively low maintenance requirements in the harsh climate of upstate New York.

One architect commented they had experienced the same thing in Wisconsin, where after researching many siding options, he opted for vinyl siding for long-term durability.

I have seen the results of vinyl siding bans at work in low-income neighborhoods in Omaha and New York. The city invests tax dollars in revitalization, misguidedly specifies fiber-cement to appease environmental and architectural misconceptions, and five years later the new neighborhood looks as bad as the distressed neighborhoods surrounding it. There's no money for ongoing maintenance, and apparently no willpower for exterior upkeep, even among the well-heeled.

My neighborhoods, 20 years later, still look like new. Just the way I like it – and so would you.

Fernando Pagés Ruiz is a builder and author. He has developed, built, and remodeled homes in California, Nebraska, and Wyoming, and has won a number of awards, including recognition from the National Association of Home Builders.


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Image Credits:

  1. Fine Homebuilding

1.
Mar 10, 2015 7:11 AM ET

Data?
by Charlie Sullivan

Thanks for starting the conversation and questioning beliefs held without good reasons. To move beyond that, it would be good to provide some credible sources to refute the toxicity claims about vinyl siding. Taking a quick look around myself, I found a LEED Technical and Scientific Advisory Committee report on the USGBC web site

https://www.usgbc.org/ShowFile.aspx?DocumentID=2372

It concludes (p. 7), regarding siding, that, with or without including end-of-life impacts, PVC is worst for cancer impacts, and PVC and aluminum are tied for worst for total human health impacts.

I agree that no choice is free of impacts, and that we should be willing to discard our preconceptions. I also think we should look at the most careful, thorough analysis available, so I hope you will point us to some more sources.


2.
Mar 10, 2015 10:17 AM ET

Edited Mar 10, 2015 10:20 AM ET.

Vinyl can look very nice, so
by aj builder, Upstate NY Zone 6a

Higher end vinyl with higher end trim can look very nice, so can another lower cost option in my rural area, T1-11.


3.
Mar 10, 2015 12:30 PM ET

Edited Mar 10, 2015 12:35 PM ET.

inherent toxicity
by Brent Eubanks

The production of vinyl (for any purpose) is inherently toxic. Vinyl chloride monomer is nasty, nasty stuff and there is no way around this fact. To the extent that the production process is not creating a large toxic footprint, it is because the manufacturers have invested money and effort in processes, procedures, and equipment to control their effluents.

In the US, the regulation and control of industrial effluents operates on a proof-of-harm basis. To regulate an industry's activities one must prove that they are dangerous - there is no acceptance of the precautionary principle. To prosecute a particular violation, again, someone must provide proof - and that someone had better have the deep pockets required to hire a stable of lawyers. Government regulatory agencies are increasingly ineffective, largely due to a policy of intentional resource starvation inflicted by "neo-liberal" political theory.

Industry in the US has a very long history of doing everything it can to avoid taking responsibility for its messes. And this should be no surprise - as a society, we prioritize profit and production over all other concerns, and it costs money to do business it a responsible fashion. It is far cheaper and more profitable to do business without regards to the mess that one is making, forcing that burden to be carried by the environment, the taxpayers, and future generations. This is an externality, and externalities are good for the bottom line. Internalizing the cost of a dirty process reduces profit.

It is also very important to note that the toxic burden of industry usually falls dis-proportionally upon the poor. Factories are located in communities of people who do not have the money, means, or social capital necessary to effectively protest them. So the absence of obvious complaint is not evidence of absence of a problem. One must look at the context of the production environment and ask whether there is any way for the concerns of local populations to be heard and addressed. Most often, there is not. And this is not a coincidence. This is by design.

So in this context, the claim that "Vinyl siding plants are not the same as old vinyl manufacturing plants, and they do not spew dioxin into the air" is quite extraordinary. And extraordinary claims require extraordinary levels of evidence to support them. But instead, we get one throw-away line with no support whatsoever.

This piece reads like an apologia for the vinyl industry written by a shill. I am not saying that's actually the case. But that is how it reads. The only way to avoid that is to muster the evidence, which this author has not done in any way.

And on the topic of self righteousness: damn right. If someone is making a profit by poisoning their neighbors, then they are a bad person doing bad things. They are victimizing innocent people. If you purchase their product, you are part of that process. If you actively promote that product, then doubly so.


4.
Mar 10, 2015 2:35 PM ET

Edited Mar 10, 2015 2:35 PM ET.

Brent
by Malcolm Taylor

I live in the PNW where we are surrounded by mills for wood products, and my best friend is an environmental stack tester. All the mills operate under government licences that limit their emissions, but the levels are not entirely science based, they also take into account the cost to the owners of implementing the technological fixes necessary to reduce pollutants.
When the mills schedule their tests they spend some time before hand and during the procedures, running their operations as cleanly as they can - and yet most fail to meet their licences about a quarter of the time. Between tests they are no where near meeting their limits. Environmental protections on manufacturing offer hollow comfort.


5.
Mar 10, 2015 4:15 PM ET

Edited Mar 11, 2015 9:02 AM ET.

Response to Brent Eubanks
by Martin Holladay

Brent,
Environmental assessments and life-cycle assessments are complicated, and even when approached with scientific rigor, involve almost as much art as science.

Forestry practices and wood processing exact an environmental toll, and loggers face one of the highest rates of injury and death of any worker in the U.S.

The manufacture of fiber-cement siding is notoriously energy-intensive.

Many wood siding products require the application of coatings and paints that have their own environmental cost.

In short, these types of analysis are not for amateurs. For more information, see my article, Vinyl Windows and Vinyl Siding.


6.
Mar 10, 2015 5:16 PM ET

response to Martin
by Malcolm Taylor

Mr. Ruiz may be right on his two main points, that "modern" vinyl is more environmentally benign and better looking than we give it credit for, but we are forced to take them on faith, as the article does not include any proof of either.


7.
Mar 10, 2015 7:13 PM ET

Edited Mar 10, 2015 7:15 PM ET.

OK, tell me how green you are
by aj builder, Upstate NY Zone 6a

Vinyl bad? How about every aspect of your life people. Cars, PVC plumbing and romex, PVC lined dishwashers, internet connections via routers that are in plastic cases, solder boards cleaned with MEK or some other nasty such and such.... hooked up to the grid right, and your grid is green? The repair trucks that put the wires up that are covered in plastics and PVCs and the transformers full of PCBs and... and ... and....

How is your cedar clap cut and transported and coated and maintained and installed.....How, magic?


8.
Mar 10, 2015 11:00 PM ET

Edited Mar 10, 2015 11:26 PM ET.

Confirmation bias gets the best of us
by Heroic Artisan

The 2007 USGBC report to which Charlie Sullivan referred (linked in comment #1) is a bit more nuanced than his single-sentence summary of its conclusions. As you would expect, the findings were a mixed bag. Sometimes PVC-based materials fared worse than the alternatives (wood, aluminum, and fiber-cement) and sometimes better. The impacts depended on the set of conditions under which each material was comparatively assessed. As the report states in its Summary of Findings, "No single material shows up as the best across all the human health and environmental impact categories, nor as the worst."

But don't take my word for it. Read the Executive Summary yourself. It's only 12 pages long and surprisingly lucid. Better yet, read Martin's article "Vinyl Windows and Vinyl Siding" (linked in comment #5).


9.
Mar 11, 2015 12:53 AM ET

to clarify my position...
by Brent Eubanks

I apologize. I came off too strong.

And I absolutely agree that there are no perfect choices. In many cases, there are no good choices - just degrees of harm. And there are many worse uses for vinyl than siding. (At least hard vinyl doesn't have phthalates.)

That said... I think everyone here would agree that our processes for manufacturing, and for cultivation and harvest, need to be dramatically improved. Many of these alternatives have a great potential for improvement - as does PVC manufacture, I'm sure. But personally I would rather invest our efforts in improving, for example, forest stewardship and harvest practices. PVC is literally made out of poison - that's always going to be problematic and hard to control.

And in terms of impact, with PVC it's really a matter of volume. The more we make, the more hazard we run. There is a place for almost any material - but it's not clear that a bulk volume application like siding (as opposed to windows, where the benefit/mass ratio is better) is a good one.


10.
Mar 11, 2015 2:05 AM ET

Edited Mar 11, 2015 2:09 AM ET.

Brent Eubanks
by Peter L

You need to turn it down a few notches because it comes off as if you are a religious environmentalist. Every material pollutes to some degree. The only way to not pollute is to stop building and stop reproducing. Hopefully you are not part of that fringe crowd that sees humans that way.

These types of articles always brings the strange crowd out and the conspiracy theories begin flying as do the judgements on who and what is green.

Before you forget, the computer you are typing on is made of PVC/plastic. I don't see you condemning yourself for buying and using a product that you so vehemently hate. It's called hypocrisy.


11.
Mar 11, 2015 7:38 AM ET

Edited Mar 11, 2015 8:15 AM ET.

I'm w/ Brent
by Dan Kolbert

Most choices to consume involve, consciously or not, a decision to do some damage to something. At this point, almost every stage of consumption involves petroleum products.


12.
Mar 11, 2015 8:00 AM ET

Phthalates
by Lloyd Alter

There are loads of credible, recent research linking phthalates, the softener used in most vinyls, to "asthma, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, breast cancer, obesity and type II diabetes, low IQ, neurodevelopmental issues, behavioral issues, autism spectrum disorders, altered reproductive development and male fertility issues." How anyone could ignore this and call the stuff green is beyond me.

http://www.cpsc.gov/PageFiles/169902/CHAP-REPORT-With-Appendices.pdf


13.
Mar 11, 2015 8:11 AM ET

Response to Lloyd Alter
by Martin Holladay

Lloyd,
I don't think anyone is ignoring the phthalate issue. You are mistaken. There are no phthalates in vinyl siding.

Phthalates are added to vinyl flooring to make the flooring flexible. There are no phthalates in vinyl siding or vinyl window frames.

When I wrote an article on vinyl siding and vinyl windows back in 2013, you also brought up phthalates. In spite of the fact that I set you straight back then, you're still bringing up the same red herring, two years later.

For more information, see "Summary of the USGBC TSAC Report: Assessment of the Technical Basis for a PVC-Related Materials Credit for LEED" . The report notes, "Phthalates are used to make vinyl flexible, and are found in sheet vinyl and vinyl composition tile. They are not found in rigid materials such as PVC pipe, window profiles or vinyl siding."


14.
Mar 11, 2015 8:52 AM ET

"Hypocrisy is the beginning of change"
by Bruce Fergusson, CIH, PE

Found on the bathroom wall of Emory School of Law Library - I appreciate the mea culpa, Brent.
There is no perfect answer and almost anything can be shot down with a focused, limited perspective. If this article illustrated anything to me, it refuted such a perspective with respect to vinyl siding. I encounter that "limited, focused pe5rspective" often as an industrial hygienist when I have to deal with the "what about the one time in a thousand..." that is often embellished with a reference to children's health when it comes to indoor air quality testing (our methods are inherently unreliable). Then I know that the scientific method has been abandoned...


15.
Mar 11, 2015 9:46 AM ET

Vinyl Siding is a dangerous product and an unnecessary choice
by John Dalzell

This is hardly a binary choice. As green builders we strive to reduce the adverse impacts of our built environment and our practices and, perhaps in the not so distant future, even achieve restorative performance. While our path includes errors and detours, it also includes corrections and the emergence of new ideals. The 2007 USGBC assessment of PVC risks is an early application of LCA and, although an excellent assessment for its time, is greatly limited by "insufficient data" especially in the key areas of Human Health Impacts. Consider toxins released before and when PVC burns, this includes highly poisonous hydrochloric acid and phosgene gas; the assessment suggests firefighter air masks and a higher ignition temperature mitigate the risk and even might reduce injuries. Really, REALLY!

Vinyl Siding, once ignited, is highly flammable, it burns intensively hot, spreads rapidly, and releases poisons and toxins in the process. See "The Wall of Fire: Training Firefighters to Survive Fires in Vinyl Clad Houses" http://www.usfa.fema.gov/pdf/efop/efo44076.pdf Or "Toxic Hot Seat" http://www.toxichotseatmovie.com/

Much has changed since 2007; more and new information make clear that the human and resulting financial costs of our use of products like Vinyl Siding are astronomical.

Are these necessary risks? Even if one finds the information suspect, with so much "potential" risk in play and a "no regrets" mind set, the only answer is a resounding NO! PVC in general, but especially Vinyl Siding, due to the volumes involved, absolutely reside at the excessive adverse impact end of the scale. When necessary, less of a bad thing might be right or only choice; Vinyl Siding is not necessary and not right.


16.
Mar 11, 2015 10:12 AM ET

Toxicity or Carbon?
by Andrew Michler

Can the author please detail more specifically what he means by green? Durability is fine but certainly not the only or necessarily the best yardstick. "(BEES) software – the green industry gold standard for life cycle impact assessment – shows that vinyl siding outshines most other popular claddings, including fiber-cement and brick, falling short only to cedar siding. Fiber-cement products like HardiePlank are among the worst environmental options."

PVC is considered the top in terms of toxicity in manufacture and disposal. Fiber cement is near the top in carbon emissions but has similar or better durability where I live (also Colorado). Is the author equating the two as fungible in their impact?


17.
Mar 11, 2015 10:57 AM ET

"plastic" != PVC
by Brent Eubanks

I find it curious the number of comments which refer to "PVC/plastic" as if all plastic was PVC. While there are plenty of duck squeezers (hat tip to Neal Stephenson) who make that equation, we here should all know better. There are many types of plastic, and they each have very different characteristics, impacts, and toxicity footprints. As plastics go, PVC is one of the worst, and so should be used only when nothing else will do. That position is a far cry from rejecting all plastics, which is not what I was suggesting.


18.
Mar 11, 2015 11:56 AM ET

Choices in Perspective
by Stephen Colley

This topic proves once again that one can learn just as much from the commentary (if not more), than one can learn from the article the comments inspire. I also avoid PVC wherever possible even though I know PVC does not include phthalates. I avoid it due to the manufacturing and danger in a fire reasons. I also know I'm surrounded by PVC and plastics, but having those in my home/office/specifications are primarily because options are few, out of reach, or non-existent. No one makes a toxic-free computer or car. It has nothing to do with hypocrisy.
I agree with Brent's impression that the article sounded much like it was written by someone beholden to the vinyl industry. It was full of one-line conclusions with very little in the way of references to independent sources. Does anyone else remember the Vinyl Institute promotional booths that were at the early Green Build Conventions? Talk about green-washing! I have been convinced in and out of support for green materials systems, but I require and appreciate adequate documentation and practice in order to make decisions that could change my mind.
All materials tend to have shortcomings of one kind or another. I tend in my practice to rate durability as a much more valuable yardstick than whether a material contains plastic, but I also try to determine whether the material is a factor in indoor air quality. It's quite a challenge.


19.
Mar 11, 2015 1:16 PM ET

John Dalzell stated: "Much
by Heroic Artisan

John Dalzell stated: "Much has changed since 2007; more and new information make clear that the human and resulting financial costs of our use of products like Vinyl Siding are astronomical."

Could you point to the peer-reviewed, scientific studies that refute or otherwise raise doubts about the 2007 USGBC report? The two linked sources you provide don't do that. Or perhaps you could reference some of the new/clear information (since 2007) concerning the *astronomical* (negative) impact of vinyl siding on human/environmental health. Again, the two linked sources you provide don't do that.


20.
Mar 11, 2015 2:39 PM ET

Edited Mar 11, 2015 2:42 PM ET.

Products ("green" or not) should be used well, and with THOUGHT.
by Jodi Smits Anderson

First,
Mr. Ruiz - what rating systems give points for using vinyl siding? And the Living Building Challenge is a prevalent guidance system if not yet a common rating system. I believe vinyl would not be allowed in that system.

Second,
Once again an article and comments attached have devolved into finger pointing and into assessing a product all by itself. If we are to be working toward "systems thinking" and "integration" we need to not only assess vinyl siding, but consider its use in the broader system of building envelop and in a broader process including manufacturing and disposal (intended or accidental).

Disclaimer - I stand with Lloyd and John at my core - there are better alternatives available and we should do everything we can to avoid the toxins that are part of the greater vinyl picture. Yes, my computer is plastic, and contains fire retardants and retrievable heavy metals. But we are not discussing computers, here. We are talking about siding.

Yes it has gotten better and yes, there are uses that may make more sense. Even the USGBC document in 2007 didn't say flat out that vinyl is bad because there is no way to guarantee the available alternative choice would be any better. They did mention vinyl in flooring as the riskiest due to phthalates and abrasion, and vinyl in underground piping on the safer end. Luckily the market is moving and that includes the vinyl industry. I want to see the HPD, dammit! And the EPD (actually, that first, please). If the vinyl siding manufacturers spent as much time innovating new product without toxic burden, or re-planning processes for recycling and disposal as they do defending vinyl in it's current state, we could all stop arguing.

That being said, I can understand when there is a choice made for vinyl siding. I don't agree with that choice, but I understand it. A project being built now for market rate apartments at ZNE energy performance spent its budget in optimizing energy systems and envelop, which is the goal of the work, and they achieved that level of performance in part by selecting vinyl siding as the exterior finish for its durability and low cost.

They were also, however, smart enough to make sure air intakes were not placed on the south side to limit off-gassing from the vinyl being sucked into the building on sunny and hot days! They also have no control over fire, disposal of waste, or disposal at end of life. All dangerous aspects of the use of vinyl siding. Let's just hope the building lasts forever.


21.
Mar 11, 2015 8:01 PM ET

Edited Mar 11, 2015 8:11 PM ET.

Vinyl in fires.
by aj builder, Upstate NY Zone 6a

Vinyl in fires. Ridiculous !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

In my very very very very long life, I know of no fires where toxins from a burning vinyl sided home killed one person, one dog, one cat, one squirrel (in my news area.)

Years ago, nuts wanted seat belts on school buses.. because 13 kids died in a year on school buses of which millions of kids road and who knows if the belts would have killed more kids instead of less.

Toxic is the most overused word in the human language besides proactive and "I need to process...."

Bull poopers unite... vinyl siding may attack you in the night!

If you really feel like being green, get your tubes cut and have no offspring.

Around here fires burn homes down. Cigarette fires, wood stove fires, etc.. in poorly managed homes. Very few homes burn. Two or so a year. Never heard a word about the siding killing anyone. The fires killed a bunch. Furniture is full of plastics.. lots of bad fire fumes.

Green loving folks die as much driving Prius's into the deer they love hurrying to green meetings to work on banning toxic this and that.

Be green greenies, cut your tubes today.


22.
Mar 11, 2015 9:41 PM ET

Durability?
by Randall Thomas

I have friend who has vinyl siding on his house. In ten years he has had to have half of it resided twice, due to hail damage. I'm pretty sure that it has a huge impact on the life cycle impact of the vinyl siding even when compared to fiber cement.

Me, I'm staying with cedar, or even hardboard, which in the arid climate I'm in actually holds up really well.


23.
Mar 11, 2015 9:43 PM ET

Vinyl facts
by My Anteroom

Sorry folks but this article contains no facts at all. In reading it I was hoping to get some education, but instead wound up reading an extended opinion.


24.
Mar 11, 2015 10:01 PM ET

Edited Mar 11, 2015 10:28 PM ET.

I'm on the fence on this
by Peter Rogers

I'm on the fence on this issue, and the article itself wasn't actually very informative, so there I remain. It could be an interesting discussion, but some people are intent on making this comments section "toxic" (although I guess we're not supposed to use that word, ever, according to some folks. Ridiculous indeed.). This is not what I come to GBA for. Can we all just admit that no building material is completely "green" (except the building material you don't use) and that we're not going to change the world by arguing about what kind of siding we're using? Better to get the details right, and make sure that whatever material is used stays in place doing it's job for as long as possible.


25.
Mar 11, 2015 10:03 PM ET

Edited Mar 11, 2015 10:06 PM ET.

AJ Builder - Words of Wisdom
by Peter L

AJ hits it out of the park with his comments. His humor and telling it like it is approach speaks to common sense folk. Unfortunately people like Lloyd Alter, John Dalzell and others like to spread false information and the "sky is falling" hysteria in hopes of getting emotional responses to ban vinyl. Lloyd Alter made false statements a year ago, Martin brought it to his attention, yet Lloyd strikes again with the same exact false information. Lloyd hopes that if he repeats a lie enough times, people will believe it as truth.

Get your aluminum foil hats out folks because vinyl was actually made by space aliens in an attempt to take over our planet.

PVC is everywhere and it is safe for the most part. Logging wood carries with it a lot of embodied energy and pollution also. From the forests to the mills to the manufacturing plants. Processing wood is not carbon free. In the end, ALL materials make some type of impact on the environment. Let us not get all wacky and condemn products like PVC because in the end, we need it and it serves a purpose. I for one don't want wood or iron pipes. Wood rots and iron rusts. I like m PVC plumbing pipes and my PVC windows, doors, computer, etc.


26.
Mar 11, 2015 10:36 PM ET

I have read nothing "funny"
by Peter Rogers

I have read nothing "funny" in this comments section, or at least nothing that made me laugh. And this is getting way too personal. I love GBA because it is usually full of informative, respectful, interesting articles and commentary. This thread is one of the few exceptions, and it probably needs to die now.


27.
Mar 12, 2015 12:42 PM ET

My 2 cents, and what it's worth
by Dan N

About 2 years ago I posted in the Q& A section about the insulation they put under vinyl siding and is it worth the extra cost. I never got an answer, everyone decided to tell me all the reasons I shouldn’t use vinyl siding and the alternatives. I understand why people have demonized vinyl, but I don't believe in it. I have to say it was done really well, I got the insulation that I was told equals about an r5 and the house looks amazing. Was it worth paying for the insulation, it seems to help, so I think it does, but I just went on my instinct because no one here would ever consider the crime of recommending vinyl even if it makes sense.

If I had to continue to paint the house every 5 years or so, I think about the plastic tarps, the brushes, the plastic paint trays, washing out all those paint chemicals out of the brushes every time I stopped, all those paint cans (we’re talking about a 3 story house with all sorts of trim) the trim/ porch alone were over 10 buckets, not counting the sides of the house. All that material with the idea that the job will have to be done again and again and again, it’s hard for me to believe that the carbon footprint, or the amount of industrial pollution to create all that and shipping it all over the place, year after year doesn’t exceed the 1 time manufacturing of the vinyl – I just don’t buy it.

Not to mention the cost, and every dollar I save on the house goes back into the house to improve on it and make it more efficient. I’ve read here many times that you can spend too much on over insulating and you’re better off putting an array on your house instead (if the numbers work out) well doesn’t that concept apply when you’re looking at the long term ownership of a house for everything , including siding? Long term it’s much cheaper to go with vinyl siding, especially since there will come a time I won’t be able to paint the house anymore, and I’ll have to hire someone to do it, and labor prices only go up.

I think people really need to look at the big picture and look outside of their wheel house. The rules change all the time, and I don't think there is one set of answers that will always be the correct ones.


28.
Mar 12, 2015 1:14 PM ET

Response to Dan N
by Martin Holladay

Dan,
I'm sorry to hear of your less-than-acceptable experience with our Q&A forum. I try to address every question, but some questions slip through the cracks.

I don't remember your question, but I don't doubt your story. Hopefully, the next time you post a question, you'll get better answers.


29.
Mar 13, 2015 8:51 AM ET

Edited Mar 13, 2015 8:52 AM ET.

Small Correction
by Bruce Palmer

I believe the author meant to refer to the movie Blue Vinyl, not Blue Velvet.

But, thank you to Fernando Pages Ruiz for the thoughtful article. I look forward to perusing the comments.


30.
Mar 23, 2015 3:52 PM ET

Fiber Cement
by jon starr

I am generally a trusting reader, but it was hard not to raise a skeptical eye about someone overselling his point when the author mentioned how shabby the cement plank homes looked in a short period of time. I appreciate the environmental shortcomings of the material, bit I have applied it to several homes, including my own, and all look great after more than a decade, with no sign of needing painting. The only problem on any of them (my own house, in keeping with my luck) is some mildew on a north side where water runs on the wall, something that can be fixed a) with a washing, as with vinyl, or b) by getting around to properly flashing the porch roof so that the water does run down the wall. If vinyl can look good by applying it correctly in sensible applications, perhaps the same can be said of fiber cement and many other materials.


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