As I mentioned in my previous post, as a result of our energy audit, we learned that replacing wood siding with vinyl and a thin layer of foam insulation would not make a significant improvement in our energy usage, which helped Dan and I make the decision to repair/replace the siding on the front of our old house, rather than go the vinyl route.
One question we did not have an answer on is which choice is greener in the long run? Yes, vinyl is awful to produce, and many of the siding/vinyl chloride industry leaders will probably have a toasty spot in hell for their environmental transgressions (along with the lead industry), but really, is paint much better. Anyone recall all the problems with lead paint, and how the paint industry fought tooth and nail to prevent laws which would remove lead from paint (and other products). As my dad owned a hardware store and sold a lot of paint, I well remember the battles of the early-mid 70s over lead. And is paint today any better? Yes, manufacturers are now making “greener” low VOC paint, but even still, what is the paint manufacturing process like? How toxic is it, what is the safety record of the industry? What about the production of the chemicals up the food chain that go into paint? I just don’t know, but will be asking my environmental toxicologist colleague when I get the chance.
And then there’s the short life span of paint. We completely painted our house 8 years ago, and have been painting a side or two at a time –weather permitting!– in the summers since then. Driving to buy the paint and materials needed, which is shipped from who knows where, painting, washing the brushes, and doing it again. Again and again and again. Evil vinyl siding has a much longer lifespan. Aesthetically, vinyl is infinitely less appealing, but on the other hand, I ain’t getting any younger, and one of these days I’m not going to be able to paint the place myself. And which is really the greener choice? As far as I’m concerned the jury is still out on the low VOC paints, at least for exterior usage.
OK — looong preamble there to the work of the day, and yes, it was WORK. We won’t be removing all the siding on the 2 front walls of the house, but the bottom 4 courses on the ell wall, and all the siding on the main house wall. The main house wall is the outside wall of the primary bath, so this is a great time to get all the siding off, add a layer of moisture barrier, and make a nice new hole for the fan vent. We’ll be adding a vent hole on the ell wall for a kitchen vent (hallelujah!).
Amazingly, considering the age of the siding, the large (now gone) rhododendron that kept it wet, and the cold, sunless northeast exposure, we had only a little rot on the bottom few rows of siding, and the lowermost course of sheathing. The sheathing was original to the house, a big wide board of rough cut lumber. We’ll repair the sheathing, add insulation, typar wrap, spray foam sealer, and flashing, then cover it all back up with wooden siding that is painted on both sides for added protection.
Once all that is done, we’ll remove more plant material (sob) to about 3 feet out, and the plants there will all be herbaceous perennials that will die back in the fall and winter to give plenty of air space. In the area between the garden and the house, we will lay down industrial strength weed block and cover that with gravel to improve the draining and prevent splashing onto the siding. Given what we feared, this turned out to be a project well within our capabilities. We were lucky.