Business Articles - Specialty and Trade

Going Green: Wood or Fiber-Cement Siding Green

Green homes strive to be healthy, energy efficient, durable, long lasting, and environmentally responsible, and the siding you put on your home plays a large role in achieving all of those ends. If you're thinking about greening your new siding installation, here's a guide drawn from the wisdom and knowledge of green remodeling expert David Johnston, to help ensure your siding installation is as green as they come (or at least as green as you want it to be).

Wood and Fiber-Cement Siding: Different Shades of Green
Wood and fiber-cement siding cover two ends of the green siding spectrum. If harvested irresponsibly, wood siding contributes to deforestation and global warming, making it about as un-green as siding gets (though wood siding that qualifies as green is on the market for homeowners who know what to look for). On the other hand, fiber-cement siding is an excellent green building material because of its durability, longevity, and composition. Either way, it helps to know what you're looking for when you hit the showroom floor, which is exactly what this green siding guide is all about.

Going Green with David Johnston
David Johnston is the founder of the green consulting firm What's Working, Inc., the author of the Nautilus Award winning book Green Remodeling: Changing the World One Room at a Time, and HomeAdvisor's most trusted adviser on green remodeling. He's also agreed to help us put together some helpful guides for our homeowners containing the most reliable, up-to-date green advice in the industry. With no further adieu, here are Johnston's thoughts on what you need to know when it comes to going green with wood or fiber-cement siding products.

The True Cost of Going Green with Your Siding
If you're wondering what going green is going to cost you in the siding department, the simple answer is that it will likely cost you a little bit more than a standard installation (though the long life spans and increased energy efficiency of a green siding project will offset some of those higher initial costs in the long run). Regardless of how much your siding project costs you, Johnston warns homeowners against getting caught up in the "payback trap" of green remodeling. According to Johnston, the true value of going green is far higher than dollars and cents can reflect. Green siding projects place an emphasis on increased energy efficiency, longer lasting materials, and healthier homes. Once you start assigning value to things like health, your time, and quality workmanship (not to mention passing a better world on to future generations), you'll inevitably find that even if you do have to spend a little more to green your siding project, the real value of going green is worth every penny, and then some.

Wood and Fiber-Cement Siding: Dollars and Sense
When it comes to going green with your siding, there are two things that homeowners should keep in mind. The first is that green remodeling places a premium on building philosophies that make sense, especially when it comes to matters like health, quality, and energy conservation. The second thing is that those same philosophies result in homes that are longer lasting, require less maintenance, and reduce energy consumption. In other words, they're homes that save you money. Here's Johnston's best advice on how you can cut costs and increase the value of your home by going green in the siding department.

  • Install Fiber-Cement Siding—Fiber-cement siding, made from a mix of cement, sand, and cellulose fibers, is water resistant, virtually fire-proof, insect proof, inhibits fungal growth, and usually comes with a warranty in the 50-year range. By reducing maintenance calls, eliminating the need to re-side your house for about 50 years, and taking advantage of insurance breaks offered to fiber-cement sided homes in fire-prone areas, you stand a lot to gain in the financial department.
  • Install Rigid Foam Insulation—After you tear down the old siding, and before you put up the new, consider wrapping your home in a layer of rigid foam insulation. It will increase the overall R-value of your home, which will reduce your monthly heating and cooling costs.
  • Install Drainage Planes—One of the biggest concerns with siding from both a quality and health standpoint is moisture penetration. All siding leaks at some point. It can ultimately lead to rot, water damage, and mold and fungal growth, which can lead to poor indoor air quality and potentially serious health concerns. A drainage plane is a felt paper or other general house wrap that is applied over the sheathing and under the siding, and diverts any water that may get under the siding down the wall and away from the home where it can do no harm.
  • Install Window and Door Flashing—The seams at windows and doors are places where moisture can penetrate your walls and cause water damage, rot, and eventually mold growth. By installing window and door flashing as part of your siding installation, you'll help to eliminate these common entry points all together.

Wood and Fiber-Cement Siding, and the Environment
While high-quality work, healthy homes, and sound investments are all cornerstones of green remodeling, environmental considerations are still at the heart of going green. Here are some additional thoughts from Johnston about how you can paint your siding as green as possible from an environmental standpoint.

  • Energy Efficiency = Environmental Responsibility—Taking steps to reduce your energy bills helps the environment as well. Whether you choose to install the rigid foam insulation mentioned above, take the time to check and improve the sealing and weatherproofing around windows and doors while you're poking around the house, or opt for a lighter colored siding to reduce solar heat gain in your home, any steps you take to reduce fossil fuel consumption in your home is a plus from an environmental standpoint.
  • Use Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Certified Wood—Wood siding continues to be a major source of irresponsible lumber harvesting, especially in relation to old growth species like redwood, cedar, and cypress, which are preferred for outdoor applications. By using only FSC-certified wood, you'll know that the lumber used to side your home was harvested in an environmentally friendly fashion.
  • Use Alternatives to Wood for Trim and Accents—Recycled plastic lumber trim, natural stucco, brick, and local stone are all environmentally friendly trim materials that will reduce demands placed on the world's forests. As an added bonus, they'll also last a lot longer than wood alternatives.
  • Minimize Waste & Recycle Materials—Measure and order siding materials carefully to help minimize waste, and remember that 85 to 90 percent of construction waste is recyclable, either by reusing it yourself (i.e.: saving old window and door trim), or disposing of "waste" at facilities that recycle old construction materials.
  • Use Indigenous Materials—If you're siding in wood, or using stone or brick for trim and accents, ask your contractor to use local materials if at all possible. Transporting building materials over long distances unnecessarily burns more fossil fuels (at an added cost to you!), so the less distance your new siding has to travel, the better.

If you think green is the right choice for you, talk to your contractor about adopting a green building philosophy, find a contractor who specializes in green building and remodeling, or seek out the services of a green consulting firm to help you plan and design the best, and greenest, siding project you possibly can.

David Johnston
We are proud to partner with David Johnston, internationally recognized green building expert, to provide our homeowners and service professionals with the information necessary to "green" their projects.
• To learn more about David Johnston, click here.
• To learn more about Green Certification training, click here.

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