Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A Short History of Siding

Most of the siding being installed on homes today is vinyl, but
that has not always been the case. Wood, asbestos, aluminum,
and asphalt have all had their heyday. Consequently, much
of the vinyl re-siding that is done today replaces one of these
older materials.
Once the leading siding material in the nation, wood was, of
course, the material of choice for early settlers. Wood is still a
popular siding in new home construction, but the high cost of
repainting and wood’s tendency to deteriorate over time have
caused nearly all the re-siding market to convert to non-wood
products. As wood prices have risen due to environmental
protection harvest restrictions, wood is being used less
frequently as a siding material in new construction.
Asbestos siding was the first practical alternative to wood siding.
Made from the fibers of minerals, asbestos won’t burn or be
eaten by termites, and, when it is combined with cement and
formed into rigid sheets, is a practical, hardy alternative to wood.
Unlike treated wood, asbestos siding absorbs moisture, fades
quickly, and is a poor insulator, but it remained popular until
aluminum siding was introduced. When aluminum siding was
introduced in the ‘50s, homeowners abandoned asbestos siding
in droves.
Asphalt Siding
Asphalt siding was a heavy felt-like material coated with thick
asphalt and crushed mineral granules. Much like asphalt
roofing shingles, it did not shatter, it resisted weathering, and it
was widely available in imitation brick and stone. Because it was
less expensive than brick or stone, asphalt siding was used
extensively during the 1940s and early ’50s in low-cost
development homes.
Aluminum siding is manufactured from aluminum coil. It is
chemically coated to protect the metal, then painted to further
protect the metal and give it color. Finally, it is baked so the
outer coating remains bright and durable. Aluminum was
introduced in the 1940s and quickly caught the attention of
homeowners and re-siders alike because it is lightweight, easy
to handle, and can be applied over existing siding.
Homeowners favored aluminum over the alternatives because it
is “permanent.” It will not rust, is available in many popular
colors and styles, and generally does not require repainting.
However, because aluminum siding is painted, the paint will
often chalk, leaving a white residue that can stain brick and
masonry foundations. The painted surface can also be
scratched, exposing the raw aluminum below. Aluminum siding
dents easily and does not “bounce back.” Aluminum production
is energy-intensive; thus, aluminum siding became increasingly
expensive as energy costs escalated in the 1970s.
Steel siding has many of the same advantages as aluminum: a
wide range of colors and easy maintenance. On the downside,
steel siding is heavy and difficult for installers to work with.
Also, it is expensive to ship, conducts electricity, and is
susceptible to rusting if the paint is scratched and the steel
exposed. Like aluminum, when energy prices rose, so did the
price of steel siding.
CertainTeed Vinyl Siding Master Craftsman Education & Development Program
3. A Short History of Siding
This chapter discusses the history of the siding market:
• Siding prior to the 1970s
• Alternate siding materials
• Growth of vinyl siding
An engineered product generally made of wood chips and epoxy
resin, hardboard is sold primed and is painted on site. Many
hardboard products have had problems with moisture
absorption, causing them to swell, peel, crumble, and grow
fungus. For these very reasons, hardboard manufacturers have
been the subject of several class action lawsuits.
Fiber Cement
Although fiber cement has been used as a building material in
Europe for nearly 100 years, fiber cement siding is a relative
newcomer to the United States. Composed of Portland cement,
pulp fiber, sand, and special additives, fiber cement is
manufactured as a smooth sheet and then embossed with a
wood grain or stucco finish. Fiber cement looks like real wood,
but it is impervious to wood-boring insects and it won’t rot,
swell, or warp. Like wood, fiber cement siding must be painted.
PVC was first used as a siding material in the late ’50s and early
’60s. During these early years, vinyl suffered setbacks from
expansion and contraction problems, discoloration, and
brittleness. Once the leading manufacturers, including
CertainTeed, overcame these problems, vinyl became the
dominant siding material.
By the ’70s vinyl siding began to compete directly with
aluminum. Vinyl siding had all the low maintenance and easy
installation benefits of aluminum and none of the drawbacks.
For example:
• Vinyl siding color goes clear through the panel, so scratches
don’t show.
• Vinyl siding is tough and resists denting from everyday
occurrences such as falling branches, hail, stones thrown up
by lawn mowers, etc.
• Vinyl does not conduct heat or cold and does not “pop” with
temperature changes.
• Vinyl siding does not conduct electricity and does not require
• Vinyl siding does not magnify the sound of rain or hail.
• Vinyl won’t pit, rust, peel, corrode or flake away.
• Vinyl incurs less damage on the jobsite, so there is
less waste.
Besides vinyl’s obvious advantages, a key to its popularity was
the rising price of aluminum in the late ’70s and early ’80s. By
the early 1980s, vinyl had the price advantage and became the
siding of choice for remodeling.
As vinyl’s popularity grew in re-siding, it drew the attention of
new-home builders, gaining share from aluminum, hardboard
and wood siding. By 1995, vinyl had passed wood and
hardboard sidings and became the dominant siding material.
Vinyl siding now accounts for over 32 percent of the new
construction cladding market and 60 percent of the re-siding
CertainTeed Vinyl Siding Master Craftsman Education & Development Program
• Wood was once the most popular siding material. Wood is
still used today, but its high materials and maintenance
costs have driven many homeowners to less expensive and
more durable materials for re-siding.
• Asbestos and asphalt siding are no longer used.
• Aluminum is still a popular siding material, but the energyintensive
process used to manufacture aluminum siding
makes it costly. Also, aluminum siding is painted, so bare
metal shows through scratches and dents.
• Hardboard and fiber cement are used in siding
applications. Many hardwood products absorb moisture
and, thus, are prone to swell, peel, crumble, and grow
fungus. Fiber cement looks like wood, but it doesn’t rot,
swell, or warp. Fiber cement is also impervious to woodboring
insects, but it must be painted.
• Since 1995, vinyl has been the dominant siding material. It
accounts for over 32% of the new construction market and
60% of re-siding applications. Homeowners prefer vinyl
siding because it’s tough: scratches don’t show and it resists
denting. Also, vinyl siding never needs scraping or painting.

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