Vegan is all the rage these days along with gluten-free everything. I remember as a kid, the strangest diet I every heard of was a vegetarian which I could understand, but knew wasn’t for me. Today things are very different.
The complexities with which people decide which food they will eat is baffling to me, especially in the vegan world. I don’t have the energy or time to scrutinize all the details of where it was sourced from and if it was made in a factory that at one time had a glass of cow’s milk in it.
So, what on earth does any of this have to do with old houses? Well, I was recently talking with a friend who built a new house and we were discussing different building materials. Their house used fiber cement siding, which is a good long-lasting option today, but that brought us to the topic of what materials are better than others.
He likes old buildings just like I do and as the conversation went longer we both, almost simultaneously, came to the conclusion that his siding is vegan. What?!
Here’s how we came to it, most vegan foods that I see (yes there are plenty of exceptions!) are modeled after some other kind of non-vegan food. Vegan cheese, vegan burger, vegan meatballs, vegan chicken nuggets…the list goes on and on.
The thing that really got to me is that this vegan food is masquerading as something it isn’t!
Why not create something new and vegan that will make meat-eating people want it so badly that they will grind up a ribeye and make it look like steak taboule (or something)? If vegan food is so much better, then why work so hard to turn it into the appearance of the very food you are trying to avoid?
The same goes for building materials. Why are we so obsessed with making new products that look like the old stuff we loved so much? These products are pretending to be wood and I hate pretenders. Be proud of what you are. Loudly shout “I am vinyl siding!” Unless, of course, you are ashamed of what you are. And to me, that must be the case with all these pretenders
If you want the natural texture and look of wood siding, then buy wood siding, not molded vinyl or fiber cement siding that looks like wood.
If you want wood floors, then buy wood floors and not tile planks that look like wood floors.
If you want true divided light windows, then buy (or keep) your divided light original windows and don’t get the peel and stick muntins.
We spend so much money to fool ourselves and our neighbors that our homes are the real thing when us old house owners often have the real stuff but choose to replace it with the pretender materials.
Authenticity matters, and just because something looks somewhat close from the street and touts low or no maintenance doesn’t make it the best choice. We have been fooled by the big box stores that these products are better.
The No Maintenance Myth
Most of these materials are quick to let you know that they are low or no-maintenance, which sounds great, but without reading the details, you may miss some important information.
As my friend Jo-Anne says, “No maintenance usually means it can’t be maintained.”
Everything has a lifespan, everything.
Some things, like wood windows, wood siding, and wood floors, have a maintenance cycle built into their lifespan. That means that if you build using wood and you maintain it regularly, that wood will last indefinitely. Read my maintenance checklist below
Paint, for example, is a sacrificial layer meant to protect wood and other surfaces from weather and the elements. When the paint wears out, you put another coat on and repeat the process of keeping the wood protected.
In brickwork, the same applies. Mortar is the sacrificial element that as it wears out, should be replaced so that the brick will be protected and last indefinitely.
“But Scott, I don’t have the time or money to maintain my (fill in the blank).”
Maybe you don’t, but that’s what companies like mine and the thousands of others across the country are here for. Regular maintenance is always cheaper than wholesale replacement and leaves you with a better final product. When you neglect regular maintenance, you begin to need restoration to get things back to where they should be. That’s when expenses start to mount again.
So, what can you do? Get your house on a regular maintenance plan (use a local craftsman if you don’t have the time or inclination). We offer maintenance plans for our clients if you want to see what these look like.
Keep that old wood siding beautiful, keep those wood windows proudly shining, and keep those character rich floors safe for the next hundred years.
You bought that old house, so the torch has been passed to you to care for its history. It’s lasted for almost 100 years or more, don’t let it down now and settle for vegan siding.