James Hardie Company, An Eco -Friendly Siding Choice
Vinyl Siding? Wood Siding? Help!
Whether you are building a new house or refurbishing a vintage one sooner or later you are going to have to make a decision about siding materials. There are many choices today and it can be difficult to sift through all of them to decide what is best for you.
Vinyl siding uses massive amounts of energy to manufacture, and creates hazardous toxins that are released throughout the life of the product. Even if the vinyl on your home is 20 years old (as if it would last that long) it is releasing toxins into your environment.
I was amazed when talking with the local fire chief when he told me that, as a firefighter, he dislikes vinyl because it holds the heat within the walls and can cause a fire to be much more devastating and burn more quickly than even regular wood. While most people believe it will end their painting woes it does not, it can start to look faded and unsightly after just 4 or 5 years. When it has to be replaced it is nearly impossible to recycle. Vinyl siding is definitely a foe to the environment!
Wood is not sustainable. 25% of the wood being cut goes into building materials. Here in the United States we are woefully short of old growth trees and we just don't have the amount of forests that we one did. Wood will not keep up with the demand for building materials. Wood is hard to maintain as well, needing to be painted regularly. This increases consumerism and overall cost, so it is not such an ecologically friendly choice either.
A Green Alternative : James Hardie Siding
Enter Hardiplank fiber cement siding. It is manufactured using about 45% cement, 45% silica sand, and 10% wood fibers. Because of it's ingredients it is noncombustible and does not release toxins when installed. It is grained to look like real wood siding and is an attractive alternative building material. After the initial staining it does not require upkeep and lasts for years. In fact, the company states that the color is guaranteed not to blister or peel for as long as you own your home! The product it's self carries a 50 year warranty.
Since Hardiplank is nonflammable many cities that have brick requirements (our town requires that buildings built after 1975 or so be 3/4 brick for example) are rewriting their codes to allow for hardiboard as well. There may be homeowners insurance breaks for it because of it's resistance to mold, termites, fire, hail damage, and freezing temperatures. Be sure and discuss this with your insurance agent. As more and more states, counties, and towns become aware of the need for eco friendly building there are more and more incentives and tax breaks for using these types of materials. Be sure and check with your local building inspector to see if there are programs to help you on your project.
What is the Cost?
Financial outlay is average.
Hardiplank is more expensive than vinyl, however it is less expensive than brick or hardboard. When you consider the cost over the life of the product the cost drops considerably.
There is something else to consider. With the heavy toxins in our environment, pollution in our water system, landfills that are over-flowing, counting the cost becomes more than financial. It becomes global.
Do It Yourself Installation of Hardiboard
There are several types of Hardiboard.
Hardiplank can be used horizontally, vertically, or diagonally. It is a single plank application that looks very much like board.
Hardipanel is particularly suited for vertical applications and great for dormers, gables or tudor style facades.
Harditrim adds the finishing trim touch to windows,doorways or anywhere you would use trim pieces. The trim pieces are available in several different widths.
Hardiflex is for use in soffits, eaves or upper story extensions.
You can install any of the Hardiboard sidings yourself with the proper tools. Generally you will need a Hardi-blade circular blade to cut the strait edges and a specially styled score and snap knife which is available at the dealer. You will need a special quad mastic sealant for the cut edges, touch up paint, a sliding gauge, and screws. Installation will be similar to the installation of any siding. Here is an excellent pictorial on how hardi siding was installed on a house.
Insurance Discounts for Siding
Is It an Ethical Company?
The James Hardie Company states that they are committed to supporting the principals of ecologically responsible building and business practices by implementing management strategies in seven areas:
* water and resource conservation
* energy consumption and management
* use of renewable and recyclable resources as raw materials
* avoidance of environmentally damaging raw materials
* waste minimisation by recycling of process materials
* pollution reduction, and
* protection of the natural environment.
The company is actively working to reduce greenhouse gasses and has emission abatement plans in place.
There does seem to be some question as to their workers compensation policies and ethical treatment of workers that have been harmed in the course of their work. Apparently there was an underfunding of the medical compensation fund for workers that had gotten respiratory problems while working with asbestos. This seems to be resolved at this point as the directors of the Hardie company paid the first installment of $184.3 million dollars to the Asbestos Injuries Compensation Fund in February of 2007.
There are other cement fiber siding companies in business, however the James Hardie Company is the forerunner in this technology and, from my research, has the longest guarantees on their products. As new technology is developed daily it is wise to do your own research before you make a decision.
Hardiplank seems to be an excellent choice in ecofriendly building materials.