A Buyer’s Guide to Home Siding

A Buyer’s Guide to Home Siding

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Puzzling over one of the best siding possibility on your house? The most environmentally pleasant possibility could also be a house with out siding. Sustainable constructing strategies like earth-sheltered homes or structural supplies like adobe and rammed earth get rid of the necessity for cladding. However, when you already personal a wood-framed home, you’ll have to select a cladding materials. And probably the most environmentally pleasant alternative on your particular house will rely upon various elements.

The majority of life cycle analyses (LCA) for siding merchandise have been carried out by producers and unsurprisingly favor their very own merchandise. But a life cycle analysis conducted at Kent State University checked out six frequent siding supplies for each local weather change impacts and total environmental impacts together with results on air and water high quality. Let’s have a look at these supplies, plus another we added to the record.



Wood is probably the most variable sort of siding. The value, aesthetics, and environmental affect rely upon many elements. These embody tree species, harvesting technique, therapies, set up, and upkeep. T1-11 is a sort of plywood made to seem like pure wooden. Because it’s extra processed, it has the next carbon footprint than pure wooden boards and will include poisonous preservatives, resins, and binders. When choosing stable wooden siding, redwood and cedar are the popular species. In the Kent State LCA, cedar had the bottom carbon footprint in addition to the bottom total environmental impacts. For probably the most sustainable wooden siding, contemplate reclaimed lumber when you’ve got the choice. Avoid old-growth lumber and tropical species in favor of FSC-certified species grown in your area. And contemplate your treatment decisions rigorously.


Vinyl siding might even outstrip wooden for reputation. It is cheap, light-weight, and simple to put in. Some vinyl siding comes with insulation connected, which improves a house’s vitality effectivity. Vinyl is commonly promoted as an environmental alternative. It did place second for sustainability within the Kent State LCA. However, vinyl siding is produced from polyvinyl chloride, or PVC, which is on the red list of constructing supplies to keep away from. Although safe for homeowners, PVC manufacturing releases dioxins into the air and water, creating well being hazards to staff and close by residents. Although PVC is technically recyclable, PVC is the least recycled plastic, and continuously results in incinerators, even if burning it releases vinyl chloride. Vinyl siding is finest averted when you can afford another alternative.

worker installing home siding
Both vinyl and steel siding have their professionals and cons. But in case your steel siding isn’t coated with vinyl, it has the additional benefit of being recyclable at its finish of life.


Although steel siding might evoke photos of tin shacks to older generations, steel has develop into a well-liked siding materials lately. Metal siding could also be produced from metal or aluminum, each of that are 100% recyclable and embody recycled content material as a matter after all. An oft-repeated, uncited statistic claims that siding for a 2,000-square-foot home makes use of the equal of six scrapped vehicles. The Kent State LCA didn’t contemplate metal, however positioned aluminum roughly within the center, with uncooked supplies extraction and manufacturing vitality the first contributors to its environmental affect. Older steel siding choices have been liable to fading and discoloration, which has led to some newer sorts which can be coated in vinyl. While this will likely enhance colorfastness, it makes the siding unrecyclable.

Fiber Cement

Fiber cement is a comparatively new possibility in house siding, however it’s already one of the vital frequent decisions. Less costly than however resembling pure wooden, fiber cement offers a stage of fireplace resistance with out the usage of asbestos that’s valued in areas topic to wildfires. In the Kent State LCA, fiber cement had the second-highest environmental affect of the six supplies studied. It additionally doesn’t have a lot potential for recycling on the finish of its life.


Bricks have a excessive potential for recycling on the finish of their life as siding, and outdated bricks are continuously reused somewhat than recycled (which makes use of much less vitality). Brick is also made from a pure materials – clay – however that materials is nonrenewable. In the Kent State LCA, brick had the best environmental affect and created probably the most emissions of the six supplies studied. The energy-intensive manufacturing course of seems to be the first cause for its low environmental rating. Bricks are heavy, so transportation impacts are additionally excessive, despite the fact that most brick is used inside 500 miles of manufacture.


Because stucco doesn’t carry out as effectively in humid climates, it’s hottest within the West and Southwest of the nation. Stucco is used on about a quarter of latest properties. Falling in the course of the pack within the Kent State LCA, stucco is commonly utilized over foam insulation, making a weather-proof seal that may dramatically scale back your indoor vitality use. But foam insulation typically incorporates red list supplies like halogenated flame retardants and may negatively affect indoor air quality. While most stuccos are made with Portland cement, there are eco-stuccos choices that use a mix of sand, lime, straw, and bentonite.


Stone is a nonrenewable useful resource extracted from energy-intensive quarries that additionally destroy habitat. Because it’s heavy, emissions from transportation are additionally very excessive. However, stone is fire-resistant and can outlast the home it encases. For a good looking and eco-friendly possibility, attempt to supply recycled stone from close by or see if adequate stone will be discovered on the constructing website. Stone can also be very costly, which can account for its use as siding on only 1% of latest properties within the U.S.

Worker applies stone siding to a house
Stone is fire-resistant and can outlast the home it encases. But attempt to supply recycled stone from close by to attenuate your siding’s environmental impacts.

Comparison Criteria

With just one unbiased life cycle evaluation evaluating a number of cladding supplies, it’s onerous to definitively rank the alternatives. Relative impacts are much more muddled when the alternatives inside every materials class are thought of. When there isn’t a clear winner for each scenario, householders should weigh the trade-offs in opposition to their very own private environmental priorities and sensible concerns equivalent to finances and product availability. Any of those supplies stands out as the proper alternative underneath sure circumstances. Whichever materials sort you select, make certain your contractor understands that you simply care about environmental impacts. Press for particulars concerning the particular merchandise they use; inside almost each siding sort some choices are extra sustainable than others.

Recycled Content

Look for a product made with recycled content material. Although they are often costly and onerous to search out, salvaged or reclaimed wooden, brick, and stone make lovely house siding. New brick can even embody pre-consumer recycled materials equivalent to overburden from mining, washings from mixture processing, grog, sawdust, and metallic oxides.

Engineered wooden merchandise like Eco-Side recycle pre-consumer FSC-certified hardwoods manufactured in a low-waste manufacturing facility. Fiber cement is made with recycled materials together with cellulose fibers, sand, and cement. Some manufacturers of stucco, like Merlex, use post-consumer recycled sand mixture from crushed concrete.

Although steel advocates claim, “Metal roofing and siding panels are made with the best recycled content material from probably the most recyclable supplies on earth,” one transparent company admits the recycled content material of metal is about 25%, whereas flat-rolled aluminum building merchandise embody roughly 80-85% recycled content material. Even vinyl siding will be made with recycled content material; for instance, some CertainTeed merchandise declare 60% recycled content with a mix of pre- and post-consumer sources.

Fiber cement siding on a house under construction
Made with recycled supplies, fiber cement siding is extra sturdy and fire-resistant — and cheaper — than wooden. But like wooden siding, it isn’t recyclable at finish of life.


According to the Kent State LCA, the manufacturing impacts of cedar and stucco siding are almost negligible. Aluminum and vinyl additionally rated fairly low, regardless of the recognized toxicity impacts of vinyl manufacturing in locations like Louisiana’s Cancer Alley. Fiber cement impacts have been considerably larger, in all probability because of the cement element. Impacts from the manufacturing of latest brick exceed the full impacts of most different supplies. That’s as a result of firing requires a lot vitality, which often comes from burning fossil fuels. Companies that use sustainable vitality to energy their kilns like Denmark’s Randers Tegl can scale back their environmental affect by half. Although quarrying pure stone – like mining metals – is inherently harmful, ANSI/NSC 373 Sustainable Production of Natural Dimension Stone certification ensures that the stone was extracted and processed in response to finest practices.


Where potential, decrease the gap your siding materials should journey. This is very true for heavier supplies like brick and stone. In the Southeast U.S., regionally grown cypress could also be a better option than purple cedar grown within the Pacific Northwest. Because it’s so light-weight, transportation impacts are decrease for vinyl. Stucco have to be utilized moist, so it’s often combined on website, however contemplate the supply when choosing supplies.


Although pure wooden performs finest on most measures of sustainability, it isn’t recyclable and may hardly ever be salvaged. Wood is biodegradable, however the coatings and preservatives that reach the lifetime of wooden siding are hardly ever innocent in decomposition. Many householders select to cowl stucco with a brand new materials somewhat than take away it. Removal is troublesome and requires an expert. Old stucco can’t be recycled. Fiber cement can also be not recyclable. Both brick and stone will be salvaged and bought if correctly disassembled somewhat than demolished. Metal is 100% recyclable. Surprisingly, vinyl is also recyclable though discovering a recycler could also be tougher.

Energy Efficiency

By themselves, most cladding supplies have very low insulation value. Perhaps surprisingly, pure wooden performs finest with an R-value round 0.8. However, you will discover siding merchandise with an connected layer of froth insulation. Vinyl is the most typical insulated siding alternative, however insulated steel and fiber cement siding can also be obtainable. Foam insulation presents its personal environmental drawbacks, however these could also be outweighed by vitality effectivity concerns, relying on the local weather the place you reside.


The much less typically it is advisable exchange the siding on your private home, the decrease its affect. For sturdiness, stone is the clear winner as it could final for hundreds of years. Brick can even outlast the home, with a lifespan of more than 100 years if correctly put in and maintained. Stucco might require patching and repairs over time, however will be anticipated to last 50-80 years, particularly in a dry local weather. Metal siding will be anticipated to final more than 50 years, and infrequently comes with a guaranty of as much as 45 years. However, some steel siding merchandise include a coating that can start to fade a lot earlier.

Fiber cement as we all know it right this moment was popularized in the 1990s. It is warrantied for 30 years, which implies that there’s not a lot historical past of siding alternative for this materials but. Vinyl siding, though requiring much less upkeep than different supplies, lasts between 20-40 years.

Although wooden performs finest on almost each different measure, wooden requires extra upkeep than different kinds of house siding. This creates much more variability in its anticipated lifespan. Depending on weather conditions and upkeep practices, wooden can final as little as 20 years, though cedar siding has been recognized to final for greater than 70 years.

Comparison Chart

Click the picture under for a bigger model of the house siding comparability chart.

Earth911 Home Siding Comparison Chart