Vinyl Siding Drawbacks
Vinyl has become the most popular siding material in the United States and is quickly gaining momentum around the world. Install vinyl siding, they say, and you will never have to paint your house again. Unlike wood or cedar, this durable plastic will not rot or flake. But what are the drawbacks that vinyl siding sales people don’t tell you?
1. Health Concerns
Vinyl is made from a PVC (polyvinyl chloride) plastic resin, a material suspected to cause cancer (see ‘Environmental Aspects’ section in Vinyl Siding in Wikipedia). Although vinyl may be safe while it is on your home, some scientists believe that manufacturing and disposing vinyl is hazardous to our health and to the environment. Accidental fires in vinyl-sided buildings are more dangerous because vinyl produces toxic fumes when heated. In addition, doctors are reporting a high incidence of neurological damage, respiratory problems, liver and kidney failure, birth defects, and cancer among people who work in or live near factories where vinyl is produced.
To learn more about the ways vinyl siding impacts our health and the environment, watch the award-winning documentary film Blue Vinyl, available on DVD. Or, read what the environmental group Greenpeace has to say about vinyl. For an opposing viewpoint, read the arguments written by the Vinyl Institute.
In extreme weather, vinyl siding is less durable than wood and masonry. Violent wind can get underneath the thin sheets of vinyl siding and lift a panel from the wall. Windblown debris and strong hail can puncture vinyl. Damage to a vinyl siding panel cannot be patched; you will need to replace the panel, and replacement color matching can be difficult.
Liquid vinyl coatings, which are sprayed on like paint, may prove to be more durable than vinyl panels. However, liquid vinyl coatings are difficult to apply correctly. Numerous problems have been reported. (See “Miracle Liquid Siding Products” on Ask the Builder.)
Unlike wood and masonry, vinyl siding presents its own breed of maintenance worries. Moisture trapped beneath the vinyl siding accelerates rot, promote mold and mildew, and invite insect infestations. Roof leaks, faulty gutters, or other sources of moisture should be repaired without delay. Vinyl siding may not be a wise option for an older home with a chronically damp cellar.
4. Energy Conservation
Vinyl siding doesn’t insulate your walls as well as wood, so it won’t significantly lower your utility bill, even when used in conjunction with foam behind the panel. The shape of the vinyl panel itself will not allow a uniform fit of the foam insulation.
5. Historic Preservation
No matter how closely vinyl resembles wood, any artificial siding will diminish the historic authenticity of an older home. In many cases, the original trim and ornamental details are covered or removed. In some installations, the original clapboard is completely removed or seriously damaged. Vinyl siding will always alter the overall texture and proportions of the house, changing the depth of moldings and replacing natural wood grain with factory-made embossed patterns.
6. Property Values
For new construction in the United States, vinyl is becoming increasingly common. On the other hand, many home shoppers still perceive vinyl as a tacky shortcut or a cover-up for possible problems. Homes built before 1940 lose their historic appeal when their authentic siding is covered. Before you install vinyl over wood clapboard or cedar shingles, look closely at other homes in your neighborhood. In a neighborhood of historic homes or upscale houses constructed primarily of wood and masonry, adding vinyl siding can diminish a home’s appeal to potential buyers.