Renewing aging buildings
By Anita Blumenthal
A homeowner finds a faded photograph of her Victorian house and wants to restore its original look. Unfortunately, the original materials—if available at all—would be far too expensive and hard to maintain. Across town, an old church operating on a limited budget cannot afford the extensive paint job it needs every few years.
In both cases, the solution can be vinyl siding. Thanks to advances and innovations in look and feel, design, and durability, vinyl siding is being used more and more in historic restoration.
“Products are looking much more like real wood,” says architect Tom Manion of the Bethesda, Maryland, firm, Manion and Coratola.
However, there are a few steps necessary for achieving the quality needed for an authentic-looking restoration. In other words, while it might be your grandfather’s house, it cannot be your grandfather’s vinyl siding. One past difficulty with the vinyl siding material was fading—a problem for all colors, but particularly the deep reds, blues, greens, and browns of the Victorian palette. However, thanks to additives offering increased ultraviolet (UV) ray protection, weather resistance, and durability, things are changing. Many vinyl siding manufacturers are confident enough in their product to offer extensive no-fade vinyl-siding protection, such as a lifetime guarantee to the original property owner.
Color palettes for horizontal vinyl siding have been widening gradually, with most manufacturers offering about 30 hues. Recently, one company announced a ramp-up to more than 700 vinyl siding colors, promising that new proprietary technology also allows the reproduction of virtually any custom color. Currently in regional testing, this new spectrum could be available nationwide later this year.
Another challenge to successful historic restoration is rigidity. Vinyl alone may not be rigid enough for some historic board sizes. However, by laminating expanded polystyrene foam (also known as EPS foam) to the back of the vinyl, the siding is strengthened enough to be made into 152- and 178-mm (6- and 7-in.) boards for the authentic look of old clapboard. This backing performs many other key functions not limited to restoration. Manufacturers are making constant improvements in backing to increase impact resistance, improve R-value, lower moisture absorption, and help prevent warping.
Warping of old boards is one authentic characteristic most homeowners do not want to replicate with their new vinyl siding. Thankfully, there are unique and innovative ways to fix the product to the wall, such as the flexible nail hem, which absorbs bows or dips in the old wall, allowing the vinyl siding to lie flat.
Vinyl-siding manufacturers strive for a genuine look by working to replicate the hand-sanded, sealed, and painted cedar boards that buildings used to be made of. They have increased the number and design of profiles, bearing in mind regional differences, such as the narrower shingle face common in New England.
The architect, Le Corbusier, said, “God is in the details.” For historical restorations, authenticity is in the details. Vinyl-siding manufacturers are offering more and more parts and pieces of historical detailing, including beaded and fluted corners and many sizes of fish-scale scallops that fit around turrets—vinyl carpentry for providing architects and specifiers with a full toolbox.
Greg Bednarski, whose firm, Siding Group Division of Professional Remodeling Ltd., has won numerous awards for historic renovations in the Chicago, Illinois, area, stressed the biggest challenge to using vinyl siding can be helping owners over their initial bias against the material.
“The most important thing to make the house look ‘right’ is to pay attention to details. No one manufacturer makes all [sizes and shapes]—you must choose the right ones to put together for the final look,” he explains. “A lot of people don’t like vinyl siding. The trick is to use the right siding for the right house.”
To date, use of vinyl siding in actual historic preservation work is limited to small districts that work under local ordinances. For example, the Greece, New York, Historical Society has used the material for its own building. While vinyl siding will not appear on buildings on the National Register of Historic Properties, it could be a candidate for new buildings constructed within historic districts, where they must fit in with the spirit of the area. However, the historical renovation market is still broad and growing, based on individual homeowners who want to restore their houses to their original, unique looks.
Popularity and accountability
The rise in use of vinyl siding for restoration reflects its overall popularity as a cladding material. The product occupies nearly double the market share of the closest competitive materials, brick and stucco. According to the Vinyl Siding Institute (VSI), manufacturers reported record U.S. shipments of vinyl siding and soffit totaling more than 41.2 million squares in 2004.1
According to 2003 information from the U.S. Census Bureau, vinyl siding is by far the most popular choice for new single-family homes in the Northeast (80 percent of market share) and Midwest (nearly 70 percent). In the South, it is second only to brick. The census also suggests vinyl siding is the first choice for new homes with sales prices up to $300,000, and behind only stucco for homes priced above $300,000.
With so much visibility, the vinyl siding industry understands the need to certify the quality of its products. The Vinyl Siding Institute’s siding certification program is based on ASTM International D 3679, Standard Specification for Rigid Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) Siding, a widely accepted quality standard. As many design professionals know, ASTM standards are not static, but dynamic, with products reviewed at least every five years.
Certification through the Vinyl Siding Institute program means the product has been tested for weatherability, wind load, heat shrinkage, linear expansion, surface distortion, camber, and impact resistance. The program also verifies products meet the specifications that manufacturers publicize in their product literature regarding length, thickness, color, and gloss.
Vinyl Siding Institute’s certification program has teeth—unannounced inspections, third-party verification, and constant technical clarification. A third-party administrator makes unannounced inspections twice a year at each plant producing the certified
vinyl-siding products. The administrator can retrieve vinyl-siding product as it comes off the line, evaluate the plant quality control program, and conduct tests on the products in its laboratory. Vinyl Siding Institute has established specific guidelines for disqualifying products from the program.2
1 One square equals 9.29 m2 (100 sf) of vinyl siding, or enough to cover a 3.1 x 3.1-m (10 x 10-ft) area. For more information, see www.vinylsiding.org.
2 Certified products are listed at www.vinylsiding.org.
About the Author
Anita Blumenthal is a freelance writer based in Potomac, Maryland. She has written on topics ranging from public safety, housing, and healthcare to waste management, transportation, and energy.
[CAPTION] Confident technology would sooner or later come up with the materials he wanted, a homeowner in Grinnell, Iowa, waited 10 years until he was satisfied the right vinyl-siding products were available to restore his boyhood home to the way he remembered it growing up. Midwest Construction (based in Mason City and Des Moines, Iowa) restored the century-old house using vinyl siding by Owens Corning/Norandex/Reynolds. For a one-of-a-kind restoration, the contractor mixed and matched material, providing the dentelle and fascia of a paintable composite so the homeowner could hand-paint them before installation.
[FILES] WayneChicagoBefore AND WayneChicagoAfter
[CREDIT] Photo courtesy Custom Remodeling Ltd.
[CAPTION] To restore this turn-of-the-century house in Chicago, Illinois, Custom Remodeling Ltd. used vinyl siding of exactly the same size and proportion as the original wood. The project included adding a porch and, for the most authentic look, custom designing some of the decorative elements.
New life for vinyl
By Marion Axmith and Cathy Cirko
A popular building material used extensively in today’s construction industry is finding new life as recycled product, thanks to a couple of innovative pilot projects and an industry commitment to environmental sustainability. In North America, vinyl siding is employed as the exterior cladding material in about half of residential and light commercial buildings currently being built today. Up until recently, it was considered primarily on its merits as a building material. Now, a Canadian pilot project has spotlighted the material’s position in a more sustainable world. Bringing the Canadian vinyl-siding industry’s environmental stewardship initiatives to the fore, it demonstrates the plastics community’s commitment to environmental responsibility.
Spearheaded by the Vinyl Council of Canada (VCC) and the Environment and Plastics Industry Council (EPIC)—both councils of the Canadian Plastics Industry Association (CPIA)—the project was divided into two parts. The first element involved the recovery and recycling of vinyl siding, windows, and rigid-foamed plastic insulation board from the demolition of 11 residential houses, while the second focused on the collection and recycling of vinyl-siding off-cuts from a new residential construction project involving the building of 32 homes.
Among the lessons learned during these projects was the need to remove the vinyl siding in a separate and distinct step in the demolition process, as well as the necessity for discarding the vinyl siding in a 30.6-m3 (40-cy) bin, which is then locked and labeled. Additional time was required to deconstruct for recycling purposes rather than the standard demolition process. Although this deconstruction amounts to additional labor hours, the cost of the recovery can be offset through the revenue generated from the recovered vinyl and through the sale of other materials, such as vinyl windows and foam insulation.
The project involving the recovery of vinyl siding off-cuts from residential new construction proved on-site, collection logistics could be handled easily at the same time as other materials being separated for collection at source. Between five and 10 percent of the vinyl siding used in the residential new construction project ended up as off-cuts. Again, best practices demonstrated the need for vinyl siding to be collected separately and placed in a locked and labeled bin.
Emphasis on the environment and recycling
As a building material, vinyl can make many positive contributions to the environment. It is significantly lighter in weight than most other building materials, which can save energy and fuel during transportation, and possibly generate fewer greenhouse gas emissions. Vinyl’s ease of maintenance also eliminates the need for paints, stains, or cleaners, which can affect air quality. Additionally, vinyl offers resource conservation benefits through its long life span.
Vinyl also is making great strides in recycling. A 1999 study, Post-Industrial and Post-Consumer Vinyl Reclaim: Material Flow and Uses in North America, commissioned by the Vinyl Institute and the Chlorine Chemistry Division of American Chemistry Council (ACC), found more than 453.6 million kg (1 billion lb) of the material were recovered and recycled into useful products in North America in 1997.1 Of this amount, approximately 8.2 million kg (18 million lb) was post-consumer vinyl diverted from landfills and recycled into second-generation products. Windows and siding represented approximately 16 percent of the tally—they were recycled into new products, such as vinyl pipe.
Other products made from recycled vinyl include:
- outdoor parking stops ( i.e. bumpers);
- industrial flooring; and
- recycled floorcovering with recycled-content vinyl backing.
Additionally, recycled vinyl has been used to manufacture checkbook covers, notebook covers, plastic binders, and traffic pylons.
Part of a larger picture
These recent recycling projects reflect the spirit of the VCC’s Environmental Management Program (EMP), a voluntary stewardship initiative launched in 2000. To date, 80 percent of VCC has embraced the program, which translates to approximately 70 percent of the output of the total Canadian vinyl industry. The multi-faceted EMP is an industry commitment to manufacture and distribute vinyl products safely and in an environmentally responsible manner. It calls for protection of the environment and personal health during the manufacture, use, recycling, and disposal of vinyl products, while setting parameters for continuous improvement of performance and reduction of environmental footprints.
The program provides the framework and formalizes a cultural shift on the part of the industry, from compliance with environmental health and environmental safety laws to being more accountable and responsive to society’s evolving concerns. It is designed so this concern for the environment becomes inextricably interwoven into business strategy and decisions.
Based on the vinyl industry’s positive response, EMP is now being launched as a Sustainability Management Program (SMP) across the entire Canadian plastics industry in the form of P3: Preserve, Prevent, and Protect. Developed from the EMP, the P3 SMP is designed to modify corporate and industry culture so the Canadian plastics industry becomes recognized as a willing partner in the quest towards environmental and social sustainability. As with the EMP, the P3 SMP is a voluntary initiative. It will be presented across all segments of the Canadian plastics industry—from the designers through to mold-makers, equipment suppliers, resin suppliers, processors, manufacturers, and recyclers.
“This is a plastics-wide initiative,” explains CPIA president Serge Lavoie. “We are taking a proactive approach to environmental sustainability and are anticipating buy-in from all industry segments. The P3 SMP program has the depth and credibility to stand as an example, not just within the Canadian plastics industry, but to other industries as well.”
1 Recycling may not be available in all areas.
About the Authors
Marion Axmith is the director general of the Vinyl Council of Canada (VCC). Cathy Cirko is the vice president of environment and health for the Canadian Plastics Industry Association (CPIA) and the director general of the Environment and Plastics Industry Council (EPIC). They can be contacted via e-mail at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org respectively.