Before choosing a siding replacement product, homeowners have many factors to think about—from durability and maintenance to appearance and longevity. However, another critical factor for many homeowners to consider is the environmental impact of each siding material.
Each siding product has several sustainability pros and cons, making it difficult to determine a “clear winner” in terms of environmental friendliness. However, with the following information, you should be able to sort through the sustainability features of popular exterior cladding options to choose the perfect eco-friendly siding product for your home!
What Makes Siding Sustainable?
What makes a siding product eco-friendly, anyway? These are the common factors that are analyzed to determine whether a siding material is sustainable:
- Material — Siding makeups that are non-toxic, biodegradable, and sourced responsibly from nature are more sustainable than other materials.
- Recyclability — Materials that can be recycled easily are more eco-friendly than materials that require more complex processing at the recycling plant.
- Labor — Heavy, complex, and cumbersome products require more energy to install, making them less sustainable than lightweight materials that require less work.
- Efficiency — Siding boards that are well-insulated and can keep your home warm in the winter and cool in the summer are generally considered more environmentally friendly than less efficient materials.
Some siding products listed below have one or two of these aspects, while others have more. The truth is—only you can decide what level of sustainability suits you!
The Sustainability of Different Siding Materials
Wood is a non-toxic, biodegradable, and naturally occurring material. However, that doesn’t automatically make it sustainable. Siding made from responsibly sourced timber harvested here, in North America, and panels made from reclaimed wood salvaged from previous projects are the most eco-friendly options for wood siding.
Wood is an energy-efficient and insulating material, a critical factor in determining a siding’s sustainability. Still, it is also prone to damage from the elements, making it less eco-friendly than other longer-lasting materials. However, wood can be recycled at the end of its lifespan, which significantly boosts its overall sustainability score.
Vinyl siding has several “pros” and “cons” when it comes to sustainability. In some categories, this material is one of the most sustainable ones available—but in others, different siding materials have the upper hand.
Vinyl siding is one of the most low-maintenance, energy-efficient, and lightweight products on the market. It is easy to install, requires less labor, and lasts decades. On the other hand, vinyl siding is made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC)—a manufactured material that is not good for humans or the environment. When exposed to heat, it can release toxic components into the atmosphere, like chlorine gas, and it’s challenging to recycle.
Metal siding offers a lot of benefits when it comes to sustainability. Many metal siding boards are made from recycled metals, like aluminum and steel, that can be recycled at the end of their lifespan. Metal is also a long-lasting material that requires minimal maintenance.
However, during manufacturing, metal siding production requires nonrenewable energy sources and a significant amount of labor. Additionally, metal siding is not as energy efficient as other materials, requiring your home’s heating and cooling systems to work harder.
Fiber Cement Siding
Fiber cement siding is one of the most eco-friendly products available to homeowners. These boards are made from several natural materials, like sand and wood fibers, and are highly durable, low-maintenance, and long-lasting. Fiber cement siding can also be recycled and reused at the end of its (very long) lifespan, which is a plus for eco-friendly homeowners.
Fiber cement siding is challenging to install, but since it’s such a popular product, many manufacturers are well-versed in installing this material properly. Additionally, while fiber cement siding won’t release harmful chemicals in the air, it does release silica dust when it’s cut, so installers should wear protective gear.
Finally, not all fiber cement siding is efficient, so look for an energy-efficient fiber cement siding brand—like James Hardie installed by JD Hostetter & Associates—to guarantee these boards will keep your home well insulated.
Composite siding, also known as engineered wood siding, is made from sustainable, biodegradable scrap wood bound together with polymer resins often sourced from recycled plastics. While composite siding might not be as sustainable as siding made from 100% wood, it’s also more sustainable than boards made from 100% plastic.
Composite siding is durable, long-lasting, and easy to install, but only some composite siding materials are recyclable. Be sure to choose a composite siding that is fully recyclable at the end of its life for the most sustainable option.
How Can I Choose the Most Sustainable Siding Material for My Home?
As you can see, finding completely sustainable siding is nearly impossible. Each material has its own benefits and drawbacks regarding its environmental impact.
Rather than striving to find a 100% eco-friendly siding material, it’s best to decide which sustainability features are most important to you and choose a siding product that embodies as many of these features as possible. For example, homeowners who value energy efficiency and minimal labor may lean toward vinyl siding, while those who prioritize natural, biodegradable materials may prefer natural wood or fiber cement siding.
Invest in Siding Installation with JD Hostetter & Associates
Only you can decide which sustainable siding material is best for your home. But when you’re ready to complete your installation with a reliable, local installer—we would love to help you!
Learn more about the siding services we offer at JD Hostetter & Associates to contribute to your home’s energy efficiency, longevity, and, therefore, sustainability!