Eco-Experts: Hazards of Vinyl Siding, Finding Lamp Oil Alternatives, Smoothtop Range Cleaners and Natural Fibers

Answers to your questions about house siding, oil lamps, smoothtop range cleaners and natural fibers.

| May/June 2001

  • Decorative olive oil lamps are paraffin alternatives that have lit homes for more than 2,000 years. Eco Choices
  • Tencel, a cellulosic fiber made from wood, is an environmentally friendly alternative to natural fibers.
  • Exterior siding made of river-recovered cypress is a beautiful, earth friendly option. Goodwin Heart Pine Company

House siding

I’m contemplating vinyl siding for the exterior of my home. It has a sleek, new look—the neighborhood standard for home exteriors (and return on my remodeling dollar)—and it never needs painting. What are the hazards of vinyl siding, and do you think they outweigh practical reasons for choosing it?

Gary L. McClelland, Fort Wayne, IN 

We need to do something with the exterior walls of our hundred-year-old house. We don’t know which is the best environmental alternative. Should we paint, which means an annual event, or install siding? Our choices for siding seem to be vinyl plastic or aluminum that is coated in enamel or PVC paint. Are there other alternatives?

Sharon Zayac, Riverton, IL

There are more types of siding than most of us know. Here is a summary from the Better Business Bureau, augmented with a few discoveries of my own.

Vinyl siding is made from 100 percent polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a toxic plastic. The color is uniform through­out, so scratches are not a problem, and it will last forever because it is not biodegradable.

Wood siding is the most widely used residential siding. Wood is renewable and biodegradable, but it must be maintained with paints or finishes that are generally toxic. Look for plant-based paints, which are safer than most (see page 60). I used natural paint on exterior wood siding in 1990, and it still looks good. Because wood is a porous, organic material that absorbs and gives off moisture, it may deteriorate over time if not properly maintained.

Wood siding comes in many forms. For information on siding made from old barn wood, visit Aged Woods or Singing Saw Woodworks. For salvaged wood try Goodwin Heart Pine.

12/19/2013 8:53:29 AM

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