Perhaps the only thing worse than having no national standard for vinyl siding would be to have two standards.
But that seems to be the direction in which we're heading, the result of an unfortunate dispute over the Vinyl Siding Institute's new certification effort.
Setting a uniform product standard is one of the best, most positive steps that a trade association can take. Standards assure consumers that they're getting a product that will perform at least to a set of minimum criteria. Standards raise the credibility of an industry, especially when the criteria are judged by an independent third party, and the rules are enforced vigorously.
VSI's effort allows manufacturers to use a special label certifying that their products meet the American Society of Testing and Materials D-3679 standard for vinyl siding. Profile extruders that want the certification must submit to inspections by Architectural Testing Inc., a York, Pa., independent laboratory. ATI tests the manufacturing process and products, and also does two unannounced inspections annually.
Crane Plastics Co. doesn't have a problem with meeting ASTM D-3679. In fact, the company uses another independent tester to make sure that its product meets the standard.
But the Columbus, Ohio, company asserts that meeting ASTM D-3679 isn't the best way of measuring the effectiveness of siding. The standard, among other things, includes specifications on the thickness of siding. In the world of siding, some manufacturers, but not all, contend thicker is better.
Crane argues instead for performance-based standards, possibly from the American Architectural Manufacturers Association, a Schaumburg, Ill., group that already certifies vinyl windows.
Crane is right on one point: Performance-based standards would be superior to judging siding based primarily on traditional, perhaps outmoded, nominal dimensions.
Still, Crane's decision to drop out of VSI and pursue alternative certification could be divisive. Competing certification efforts would cause confusion in the marketplace. The confusion could turn into apathy, or worse, develop into skepticism about both sets of standards.
We hope all the verbal sparring over VSI eventually will result in enough debate and discussion to unify any competing standards into one format that everybody can understand and agree on.