Vinyl Siding: A flammable material

A few weeks ago a friend called me to say he had some pictures I should take a look at. He told me that a relative of his living in Vaudreuil, (west of Montreal) was hosting a few friends on his back deck one evening when a cigarette was apparently stubbed out in a planter around 9pm, (there were no ashtrays as the hosts did not smoke).

The planter contained peat moss which smoldered slowly until midnight, when it burst into flame and ignited the vinyl siding, breaking a window and setting off the burglar alarm. Within just 10 minutes, the house was totally engulfed in flame, the occupants escaping with nothing much more than their underwear.

Looking at these photos, the interesting – and I think more frightening – aspect, is the effect on the house next door. This house is about 20 feet away. Note the condition of its vinyl siding.

Other fires involving homes with vinyl siding have been more serious. A Virginia fire in 2004 was described by the Washington Post this way: “A tiny flame from a candle touched papers that melted vinyl siding and set off a fire that raced unnoticed up three floors. The blaze torched 18 condominiums, left three people dead and forced a man on fire to leap from a third-floor balcony.”

The safety of vinyl siding now being food for thought, I decided to do some research on the web to see what I could come up with. (Surprisingly little!)

Although its application as house siding is fairly recent, the synthetic material known as PVC (or Polyvinyl chloride) has been around since the 19th century. It is used to make everything from credit cards and electrical cable, to clothing and of course, building materials.

Here are some other interesting points I found in that Washington Post article:
“Building suburban-style houses at an urban density could cause conflagrations that could devastate whole neighborhoods, fire officials warn. A 1988 Canadian study of two similar structures 5.9 feet apart showed that it took 4 minutes and 50 seconds for the second house to ignite. Thirty seconds later, the second house was fully engulfed.

“Reliance on newer materials and technology is resulting in buildings that some say are less sturdy than houses of the past. Using vinyl siding instead of stucco or masonry, smaller and drier timber, and home furnishings made of plastics and chemicals that create a toxic smoke when burned make newer houses more dangerous, some experts say.

“It is not unusual, fire fighters say, for people trapped in building fires to die from inhaling chemically toxic fumes before the flames actually reach them.”

When I do a building inspection and I see exposed foam insulation in the garage or basement, I recommend it be removed or covered with drywall because of the fire risks and the toxic fumes produced. According to a 1999 Greenpeace article, “…acid smoke and the carcinogen dioxin are released when vinyl siding burns or melts in a house fire. It is not unusual, fire fighters say, for people trapped in building fires to die of chemically toxic fumes before the flames actually reach them.” I would not normally think of warning my client that the vinyl siding on the outside of the house he is thinking of buying may kill him.

Back to the original question. I am not sure of the right answer, but if you are planning to install vinyl siding, take care with BBQ’s and peat filled flower pots, and consider how close you are to your neighbour …who may not be so careful.

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Lay Chan Wee
Lay Chan Wee
01:19 31 Aug 21
I was impressed with the service provided by Rui Su. He was organized, explained in detail area that I am not familiar... with. He provided a good report. I will recommend him if you need home inspection.read more
Mary Jane Caro
Mary Jane Caro
14:25 27 Aug 21
I am always pleased to recommend Carol Mose from Mose Home Inspection Services to my clients who have had offers... accepted on residential real estate properties. She is knowledgeable, thorough, provides clear explanations, and delivers comprehensive reports.read more
Massimo Pannunzio
Massimo Pannunzio
22:05 25 Aug 21
Michael has got to be on of the best home inspectors in all of Quebec. It was amazing working with him and he had my... best interest at heart when making a life changing decision. He made sure I had all the answers and made it easy to work with him. I will be using Mose inspection for any moment that I need an inspection done that's for sure!read more
Amanda Lee
Amanda Lee
19:14 16 Jun 21
Amazing experience with Carol Mose who helped me with a pre-purchase inspection! She was very approachable and... observant, and informed me of all her first impressions on-site. This gave me greater understanding of any conditions as I was able to ask any quick questions on the spot. Her reports are the most thorough that I've seen and include diagrams to help explain what any physical signs mean and potential consequences. Could not have asked for a better inspector!read more
Maeghan Banks
Maeghan Banks
15:38 14 Jun 21
Carol was wonderful to work with for our pre-purchase inspection. She was professional, thorough and communicative,... taking the time to explain her findings as we went through the house. After the inspection, we felt we had clear knowledge of the condition of the house (both pros and cons), allowing us to move forward with the purchase with confidence. Highly recommend!read more
Ryan Chalupovitsch
Ryan Chalupovitsch
13:43 01 Jun 21
Carol Mose is the best home inspector in the business. Approachable and extremely knowledgeable. She did an... inspection for me and really took the time to explain her findings and help me understand the home I was looking to purchase. Cannot recommend her enough. Don’t hesitate.read more
Elisabeth Faure
Elisabeth Faure
21:16 29 Apr 21
This is the second time I have used MOSE, and they are always really amazing. Very nice, very professional. they came... to have a look at my roof and let me know if we were due for a repair - I was very satisfied with everything and would recommend them to anybody!read more
Hannah S
Hannah S
22:05 16 Apr 21
I had a great experience with Mose home inspection. My husband and I are first time homebuyers and so had a ton of... questions about the process. Everyone we talked with was really informative and helpful. Michael was our inspector and was phenomenal. The inspection was very thorough and he explained everything in detail with realistic next steps for us to take. We came out of the inspection feeling really informed. Plus, he is just an absolute delight! He had very contagious enthusiasm and made the inspection a really positive experience. Would highly recommend!read more
Gabriel Lukuc
Gabriel Lukuc
03:05 16 Apr 21
Michael was amazing. He took the time to explain to us what’s really important and the reasoning behind it. We’re not... very handy nor savvy when it comes to home construction so we really appreciate him taking the time to explain to us all aspects of the inspection. Also, Michael was friendly, professional and timely; he provided the report over a holiday and a weekend.read more
Stephanie Ballard
Stephanie Ballard
14:24 19 Mar 21
MOSE is the best in the business. Once again we were happy with their inspection services - they are professional,... friendly and knowledgeable. Would not hesitate to recommend to friends and family (and have)!read more
Rodrigo Morales
Rodrigo Morales
18:27 10 Sep 20
Home inspection
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