Vinyl Siding

How NOT To Do Vinyl Siding, originally uploaded by hoff_john.

As foreign as vinyl siding seems here in San Francisco (almost everything is wood or stucco), vinyl is the leading exterior finish material for homes in the United States (according to The Vinyl Siding Institute). While I didn’t have a great opinion of vinyl to begin with, watching Daniel Gold and Judith Helfand’s 2002 documentary “Blue Vinyl.”

While the movie dragged at times, its indictment of the vinyl industry is hard to argue with. Creating a product that can’t be safely disposed of is a huge problem. While other siding materials, like fiber cement board, may not be easily recyclable either, vinyl siding is often burned either deliberately or by accident in landfill fires, releasing dioxin into the atmosphere. How bad is dioxin? The Environmental Protection Agency points out that there is “no safe level” for dioxin exposure (read more at http://www.ejnet.org/dioxin/). Well, at least you don’t have to paint vinyl siding…

The Vinyl Siding Institute  has tried to claim that vinyl siding can be a green material, even going as far as instructing people how to get LEED points by using it on new buildings. While the movie portrays it as a difficult choice finding an alternate material to re-clad the filmmaker’s parents’ house, for new construction there are a variety of competitive materials including fiber cement siding and stucco that may cost slightly more up front but don’t carry the tremendous externalities of using a product as toxic as vinyl.

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Mark

Mark is an architect in San Francisco.

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