Nothing boosts curb appeal like a house decked out in high quality siding. Much like the right outfit or hairdo for a person, the right siding can make or break a new home or remodel, adding or detracting from property value and determining long-term maintenance needs and energy costs.
While wood alternatives like vinyl and cement fiber are not new technologies, they have, and continue to, evolve over time.
While siding, in and of itself, is a resource-demanding product, choices can be made to reduce the carbon footprint of a home siding job.
Whether vinyl, fiber cement or new age siding technology, proper installation and purchase from reputable siding dealers are crucial, says Active Window and Siding vice-president Joel Jessee.
"I always recommend to buy the best quality they can afford," says Jessee.
"The research it out and the high R-value and thicker products are the best way to go."
Ways to lean towards green when adding or changing siding include leaving old siding, if no dry rot is present, in tact.
A home inspection prior to adding new siding can determine if old siding can be left in place. Advantages include not having to pay for disposal (or fill up landfills) and further insulation value for the home.
During installation of any siding type, be sure to insulate areas previously left without insulation and where drafts are present, such as around exterior doors, windows and power outlets.
If siding must be removed, contact a site where scrap wood is accepted. "As long as the nails are out, they'll usually recycle it," says Jessee. "It's good to try and do what little bit you can to lessen the impact."
Favored for their ease of installation and reduced maintenance over traditional wood, brick and stucco, siding products work best when weather-resistant, beautiful and reasonably affordable.
In addition to being lower maintenance than wood, non-wood alternatives like vinyl and cement fiber help homeowners avoid pest issues, dry rot and excessive maintenance needs.
Perhaps most common, vinyl is the go-to material for remodels since it easily fits over the top of existing siding, says Chris Snyder of Selig Construction in Medford.
While wood siding products, around for years and common on older homes, are notorious for the need to sand, prime and paint every few years, newer technology vinyl offers benefits far beyond the fade proof properties of non-wood.
Insulated vinyl boasts durable foam backing, providing four times the level of insulation and energy savings as traditional vinyl siding and more realistic wood grain than ever before.
Where other siding materials leave an empty space between the siding material and the exterior wall of your home, thermal vinyl siding, a plastic made from polyvinyl chloride, is backed with special insulating foam that fills that gap with a permanent insulation backing attached to the siding panels themselves.
An advantage aside from saved energy, Snyder says, "That space between the house and the siding used to draw pests like wasps and hornets that would burrow into the insulation, but built-in insecticides are laminated right to the vinyl and insulation in the new stuff."
Boasting 30 percent better insulation than traditional vinyl, and 20 percent or better savings on annual energy bills, the Energy Star product, when applied over existing siding, even saves old siding from winding up in a landfill.
Looking for a non-vinyl option? Fiber cement, composed of wood pulp, cement, sand and water, feels more wood-like to the touch and comes in raw material, primer coated or pre-painted.
Popular for newly built homes, and appealing due to its lighter carbon footprint than plastic-based products, fiber cement is also a hit for rural homeowners due to its fire and heat-resistant properties, says Active Window and Siding vice-president Joel Jessee.
While vinyl is an easy siding replacement for remodels, Snyder recommends fiber cement for new construction, when it's easiest to install.
"Some of the vinyl can have a plastic look that most people won't like, even though vinyl aesthetics are getting better and better," he says. "The fiber cement is really nice and it's pretty big in new construction. It's just a nice look."
A new category in residential siding, due to be out by late 2008, "microposite" is constructed of lightweight micro spheres made of perlite (a mineral widely used in drywall paste, roofing insulation and other products) and a proprietary polyurethane resin binder. Made into standard size construction boards, thicker than fiber cement but half as heavy, microposite earns extra points in the "green" department for being pest-resistant and non-toxic.
With an R-value allegedly 3.5 times higher than fiber cement, microposite is slated to cost around the same as high quality vinyl siding.
Though not as widely used in the region just yet, but beautiful and unique for their rustic charm, stone and brick offer a custom look with natural insulating and pest-resistant properties when properly installed.
Regardless of the chosen material, the addition of high quality siding is a guaranteed facelift for any home. Whether choosing vinyl, fiber cement or an up and coming alternative, newer siding products provide homeowners with lower energy bills, better curb appeal and a growing range of custom patterns, colors and textures to duplicate everything from clap board and stucco to Victorian and Craftsman.