Siding: Richard Dreyfuss, Where Are You When We Need You?


It used to be so easy; the tin men would show up and sell you wonderful long-lasting aluminum siding and your problems would be over. Then life got complicated when we wanted something that didn't dent or look like, well, aluminum siding.

This month's Dwell magazine has a look at some of the sidings that are available for your home and alas, none of them is perfect; there are so many trade-offs that have to be made. Is there an affordable, sustainable, long-lasting truly green siding?

Dwell's choices:


from Collins, which is made from 40% recycled and recovered wood fiber, and FSC certification. It is moulded into boards to look like wood siding and some of it does. However the Material Safety Data Sheet indicates that the glues and finishes contain formaldehyde. Since this is an exterior product with a vented gap behind it, this probably is not a problem but we prefer to be formaldehyde free.


Developed for California as a fireproof substitute for wood siding, it is a fiber cement product that is heavy and has a lot of embodied energy in its production, but a lot less than brick or stone. Lots of modernist architects use it in panels rather than traditional siding, but then it does not come with a baked-on paint finish and must be painted on site. Beloved of New Urbanists for its combination of low maintenance and traditional appearance.


Zappone metal panels

Yikes! Sheets of pure copper ! Dwell likes them because they are recycled but soon people will be coming under the cover of darkness and stealing the siding off your house for the metal. This stuff must cost a fortune.


Terramai reclaimed wood

What could be better? It is all reclaimed. "Over the years we have developed an international network of suppliers for our raw materials. These raw materials range from cedar cider tanks from Pennsylvania, Douglas fir timbers from Washington apartments, gymnasium seats from Oregon, tropical hardwood railway sleepers from Southeast Asia, industrial warehouses from South America or redwood beams and wine tanks from California."

I have complained that perhaps some of these tropical buildings deserved to be preserved, and perhaps those Washington apartments could have been saved; Renovation is the greenest form of construction. Everyone thought I was nuts.


Paperstone Rainscreen
TreeHugger loves Paperstone; it is made from recycled paper bonded together with a water based resin. The colour goes right through it rather than being painted on, and it is FSC certified They have developed a rainscreen exterior system that looks interesting; our only concern is how it stands up to ultraviolet. Andy Thomson used a similar product (Richlite) for the MiniHome prototype and after a year it is splotchy and faded; he won't use it again. We looked at the Paperstone XP rainscreen product warranty and it does not cover "exposure to the elements, excessive heat, humidity, fading, discoloration over time."- how can a company that makes siding not cover exposure to the elements? We will wait and see.

Stay tuned for our own look at green sidings; if you have suggestions please let us know in the comments.