AT On... Vinyl

AT On... Vinyl

Jonathan B.
Apr 10, 2008
A post at the Fine Homebuilding Blog's features a letter from a long-time reader cancelling a subscription because of that magazine's increasing coverage of "fake" and "common" materials, including vinyl siding. We've seen Blue Vinyl, so we're sympathetic to the former subscriber's position. But it's worth considering a more nuanced view towards vinyl as a green material.

Whether or not you think vinyl is ugly, it does have a few things in its favor, especially its durability, and the parallel fact that it doesn't ever have to be painted. That alone saves a tremendous amount of air pollution. It also saves money, which is one of the reasons many people are perfectly happy to live in a house that's covered top to bottom in vinyl.

Even the US Green Building Council, the authority behind the LEED standard, decided not to give a credit for avoiding vinyl products, figuring the events, such as illegal burning of construction waste, that can make vinyl so hazardous to human health, are rare enough to make them a non-issue.

We're not about to run out and buy vinyl siding, but we did use vinyl windows in our own remodel, largely because they cost less than half of other alternatives, which let us invest money in more insulation and higher quality materials elsewhere in the house.

So, while we don't think vinyl is great, we don't think it's fair to denigrate it as "fake" or "common" simply because some of us happen to think it's not terribly attractive. Are there better choices? As the USGBC found, it's all in how you measure it.

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