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What Is PVC Siding?

By Alex Newth
Updated May 16, 2024
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Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) siding, often found on houses and buildings, is known for being lightweight and easy to maintain. Also known as vinyl siding, PVC siding has been used since the 1950s to offer protection to houses in lieu of more expensive materials such as wood or steel. On the environmental side, PVC siding has both good and bad aspects to using it.

PVC is a petrochemical, a synthetic chemical made from petroleum, that was discovered in 1913 by Friedrich Heinrich August Klatte. It wasn’t used widely until the 1950s, when companies producing PVC found new uses for it. The refining process was also changed, which led to more durable PVC and the use of PVC as siding.

PVC siding is lightweight and easy to produce. It is also water-resistant and requires little maintenance, unlike materials such as wood that have to be sealed and repainted after several years. Vinyl siding also has a high impact strength, which means it is durable and able to withstand wind and other forces that might directly strike the PVC. It also improves the thermal resistance of a house, which is helpful during the summer months.

Perhaps the biggest related worry for a homeowner will be whether the PVC siding was installed correctly. If the installation company did a poor job, the PVC can slide right off the sides of the house. Even if it does not fall off, the protective features of PVC will be lessened if the PVC was improperly installed.

Along with offering protection, PVC siding is often looked at as a way to decorate the exterior of a home. Dyes can be added to the PVC to make it virtually any color, allowing homeowners a way to color their house without paint. Designs such as wood grain are often imprinted on PVC siding during the molding process. This gives a homeowner a way to distinguish his or her home without having substantial remodeling work done.

The environmental aspects of PVC are both good and bad. On the good side, PVC takes less energy to create than materials such as aluminum. PVC also can be synthesized from petroleum.

On the bad side, PVC cannot be totally recycled. Some PVC can be partially recycled, but most will remain in a landfill until it finally deteriorates. As a petrochemical, PVC synthesis requires oil drilling to get the necessary chemicals, and the synthesis itself creates byproducts that cannot be recycled.

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