Actually, we chose both. Where we live, we're exposed to times of extreme rain, wind and sun -- especially from the south and west sides. As we thought about what siding products for our new home, we found ourselves weighing the durability of man-made products (like a fiber-cement board) vs. the natural beauty of wood.
The first thing we decided was that we would employ rain screen technology. I've looked for good diagrams on the Web, and while there are many, there aren't many that are good and clear. Essentially, rain screens are where your siding sits off of the framed/sheathed wall so that there is a gap behind the siding where air can circulate and moisture won't be trapped. The allows for a healthier home with less problems like mold and rot down the road. Here's a rain screen
installation guide that gives you more information -- though not a crystal clear picture. This video
, while not short, give you a sense of why rain screen technology is a worthwhile pursuit.
Next we chose to use a product to be used on the south and west sides of our house (primarily) as well as the higher portions of our house. We used a product called Ceraclad
that is warrantied to last 50 years and not color fade for 20 years. To do this they use a ceramic coating on top of the color coat so that there is not need to redo it --
and, as opposed to acrylic paint that can leave a "dust" after prolonged exposure to UV rays, this product should stay consistent.
We also chose Ceraclad because it's supposed to be green
. It uses 50% recycled content to manufacture the product and waste/scrap is 100% recyclable.
But here's the rub: When we were doing the research into the product, we obviously didn't
do enough. It was our belief that the product was developed in Japan but manufactured in Canada or California. Well, when the pallet's showed up, there were the tell-tale signs that it had been shipped from Japan. Regardless of recycled content, that didn't bode well from a carbon footprint perspective.
Ironically, on the other side of the house, we went in just about the opposite direction. We chose Northwest-grown red cedar because of it's reputation for being extremely weather resistant, as well as it's beauty. We had a lot of discussions about whether we should leave the product completely untreated (as we had with the ipe decking) or whether we should put a wood preservative on it. I was of the mind to let it
age naturally but became convinced that given the nature of weather patterns and overhangs, the cedar wouldn't age evenly -- giving a very tight, designed house a disorderly appearance. In the end, we decided to limit the cedar to areas that were lower and weather protected -- making the need to reapply wood preservative less often and easier to get to.
In the end we are very happy with the look of the house -- the use of the contrasting materials gives the house much of it's character. We also made decisions that will make the house easier and less expensive to maintain over time -- and lessening the impact on the environment for years to come.
But as I've said before, these decisions are a thousand shades of gray. There is no absolute "right" answer. It's weighing the many things you need to consider -- aesthetics, sustainability in manufacturing, durability and longevity of the product, and where it's coming from. Great products shipped a long ways may not be so great. Nor are "eco" products that don't last or need a lot of upkeep.
It's all a great balancing act.