Humans only invented vinyl siding a few decades ago, but tree bark has been protecting trees for quite a while longer. Bark shingles were often used on Craftsman style houses in the early 1900s, but they were made from chestnut, which was almost wiped out in a blight. A century later, they still look good. Chris and Marty McCurry started looking at bark shingles in the early nineties and reinvented them, reintroducing them as a product in 1996.
They even wrote a book about it, calling bark "Rustic, refined, natural, organic, unique, sophisticated, timeless, long lasting, and sustainable" via Highland Craftsmen
It wasn't easy; they had to figure out how to make it out of poplar instead of chestnut. How to dry them and install them. They then went after just about every green certification that means anything, including Cradle to Cradle (what could be better than bark for that?) CA Section 01350 for VOCs and FSC chain of custody.
Their sourcing is sustainable as well, since the trees are being cut for the furniture industry and the bark is usually just left to rot or is burned.
Photos via Highland Craftsmen
It is also completely maintenance free, without any treatment or finish at all. Vinyl lasts maybe 20 years; cedar needs staining every 10 years or so, but bark shingles installed on buildings in 1895 are still going strong.
More Materials Monday