Just as products for home interiors have been getting greener, there's a growing variety of exterior treatments for creating an ecologically sound home shell. Roofing and siding are both tall orders for new formulations as they require durability, good looks and reasonable maintenance. However, there are already some smart offerings joining the traditional materials that have been green all along. Here's a tour of current options for an earth-friendly update of your home's exterior.
As you consider various roofing products, remember that their green attributes extend beyond ingredients and composition to the interior energy savings they can generate. EnergyStar evaluates roofing products on this basis, testing them when new and again three years after installation on a home, so be sure to look for the EnergyStar label to ensure your favorite roofing has made the cut.
CLAY -- One of the oldest and greenest roofing materials, clay is a durable option offering good looks that mellow beautifully with exposure to the elements. It works well with both contemporary and traditional home styles, and can be made to replicate vintage fabrications for renovations of classic homes.
SLATE - Though difficult to install, slate is another highly durable and great-looking roofing material. Environmental cost in terms of transport fuel is its one non-green aspect, but you can offset this by ordering from a local quarry or working with a supplier dealing in just-as-strong salvaged slate.
METAL - This material's reflective properties cut down on the heat transmitted to the inside of your home for energy savings of up to 40%. Weather conditions can affect a metal roof's lifespan, but it's still got significant potential for impressive longevity of 50 to 100 years.
RUBBER - Tile made from recycled tires is a newer development in the roof realm, offering ease of installation, strength with lighter weight, and a profile that resembles slate roofing.
SOLAR SHINGLES - The next step up from installing large solar panels over existing roofing, solar shingles contribute to both energy generation and savings for a home. Solar shingles can be integrated with existing roofing or cover an entire roof, and though current options tend to be on the pricey side, demand is bringing those numbers down for a great value in combination with the tax breaks you can receive.
Sustainability in siding means not only green ingredients but a product that will stand the test of time as both it and your home age. When considering if a siding is truly green, also consider the inclusion of resins and adhesives that may have an off-gassing effect.
SOLID WOOD - This popular, renewable material has drawbacks of frequent maintenance and the tendency of the most durable varieties to come from old-growth trees; however, you can avoid the latter by selecting only FSC-certified or repurposed wood products.
FIBER CEMENT - Products such as HardiePlank from James Hardie are comprised of cement and wood fibers for a durable and affordable solution with the look of natural wood.
METAL - Aluminum and steel compositions are usually made of recyclable materials, which offsets their high embodied energy (green speak for the combination of manufacturing, transportation and labor costs they involve).
ENGINEERED WOOD - Stay green by looking for FSC-certified and urea-formaldehyde-free engineered wood to get strength and resilience without harmful off-gassing.
STUCCO - This classic cement-based treatment is durable and low-maintenance. Earth- and lime-plaster varieties are among the green varieties making a comeback around the U.S.
Note: Tom Kraeutler is the Home Improvement Editor for AOL and host of The Money Pit, a nationally syndicated home improvement radio program. To find a local radio station, download the shows podcast or sign-up for Toms free weekly e-newsletter, visit the programs website.