Fiber Cement Siding: Pros & Cons, Cost, Styles
Fiber cement is a popular siding material just like vinyl siding, however there are some differences you should know about. We’ll also walk you through the pros and cons of the material, but first off, we’ll start by taking a closer look at what it actually is so that you get a good understanding of the basics.
If you’re still in the decision phase, we hope that this article can hopefully help shed some light on those topics that you haven’t had a chance to learn about yet.
Factors to Consider When Choosing the Right Type of Siding
No matter if you’re interested in Corten steel siding or some other type, there are some general factors that you will need to consider for all options that we will walk you through right here.
The first thing worth mentioning on this list is of course the fact that the material you choose needs to live up to the aesthetical requirements you have, so that it can provide the desired visual appeal and ambiance. It’s a decision that will greatly affect the curb appeal. Want a wooden look? Well, then it’s obvious that your choices are limited to wood siding, and other types that mimic its appearance.
Different types of siding last for different amounts of time, and it’s good to also consider the durability of the material when you choose which option to go with. Even if the durability is affected by the maintenance some types are just superior in terms of durability, especially when installed by professional siding contractors.
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Warranty Provided by the Installer and Manufacturer
While not only being a matter of finding the right material, it is a combination of choosing the right contractor and the right material. The better the warranty is on the material that you choose combined with a warranty on the installation, the longer you can feel safe that you won’t have to pay for anything in case of flaws. A lot of manufacturers are now offering 25 year manufacturing warranties protecting you against manufacturing defects. When you can combine that with a warranty from a contractor on the installation, you’re starting out well with your project.
Some siding materials are naturally more fire-retardant than others, and if you live in areas that are very dry, this may be especially important. You’re protecting your home and your investment by taking this into consideration.
Some types of siding require almost no maintenance, while some require significant amounts of maintenance to stay beautiful. If the necessary maintenance isn’t done, you will see the material visually declining fast if you don’t do the work. Most types of siding will at least require some level of maintenance, the most common type of maintenance includes house painting. However, for wood, checking for termites, pests and other things is also part of the work that you need to do. Other types of siding, such as Everlast, require virtually no maintenance.
Cost of Material and Maintenance
You might have a budget that you need to stick to, but in that budget you don’t just need to consider the initial cost of installing the siding but you should also consider what it costs to maintain it. Simply looking at the cost of the material itself will give you an inaccurate view of the cost.
Resale Value of the Material
When you choose the type of material wisely, it will also help increase the value of your home. One of the easiest ways to make sure that you’ll be able to recoup as much of your investment as possible is by giving serious consideration to the factors that affect resale value. In homes with lower than average house prices in general, it doesn’t make sense to start adding extremely premium material on the house there since potential buyers won’t be paying the premium for the material.
Not all types of siding will be equally good investments and a good starting point is to consider what types are put on the neighboring houses since that will give an impression of what is common in your area. What is common in your area is typically also what the typical potential home buyer is looking for.
Their Insulating Properties
The R-value will help you in finding out just how insulating the material, which will also help make sure that you lower your energy bill. While you can get a contractor to add additional insulation, some types of siding material are naturally more insulating than others.
Weather and Water-Resistance
When you live in an are with either a lot of moisture or an area that gets a lot of rain, it’s better to choose a type of material that is able to withstand these things too.
What is Fiber Cement Siding and How is it Made?
Now that we’ve covered exactly what it’s good for you to be considering when you’re choosing your type of siding, it’s time to look at what exactly fiber cement siding is and how it’s made.
To start off with, it can be made to look like both wood, masonry and a bunch of other styles but it has the advantage that it doesn’t age like these materials. Instead it’s said to age like the much more durable material, concrete. You have so many other types of material to choose between that include vinyl, stone, stucco and more but yet a lot of people use fiber cement.
It is said that as much as 15% of new home construction come equipped with this type of material because of its many different features, and that being despite the fact that it’s a relatively new product in the mass market space.
The material itself consists of actually nothing more than just 4 basic ingredients. Portland cement, a filler (often fly ash or silica sand), wood pulp and water.
It also often comes with a 25 year warranty against manufacturing defects, although finishes to the material carry a shorter warranty against flaking and fading. Make sure to check the different products that you’re in between.
See this video on how it’s made
Pros and Cons of Fiber Cement
All different siding options come with their own pros and cons and fiber cement siding is no different. We’ll walk you through the different aspects you need to know about in your selection process so that you end up making an educated decision in the end.
The material has come along way since its mass introduction in the 1970ies. Here are the advantage you need to be aware of.
- It lasts a long time – with the improvement in the production processes, this has truly become a type of material that can last a long time. Combined with the solid manufacturing warranty, it’s no surprise that it is popular.
- Variety of style that is close to unmatched in other materials – similar to vinyl, fiber cement is available in a lot of different styles and colors as well as textures that you can choose between.
- The ability to look like wood – while vinyl and aluminum siding do a good job at trying to look like wood, they’re not quite able to do as good of a job as fiber cement, where one of the main ingredients is in fact wood pulp that adds to those naturally occurring irregularities found in wood.
- Wide availability in terms of style – whether you want lap siding, shingles or a different style, you can get it.
- Its fire-resistance – it provides a lot better fire-resistance than is the case with vinyl, for instance. Vinyl can easily melt if you’re not careful where you put the grill.
- Weather-resistance – the material composition that it has makes it able to withstand the many natural elements, including hail.
- It beats wood in a lot of ways – if you look at wooden siding vs fiber cement, you’ll see the obvious advantage of the latter in that it can be made to look like wood but without the same requirement for maintenance. Wood swells, warps and rots and fiber cement just doesn’t have those same types of problems.
- Moisture-resistant – It’s great in terms of moisture-resistance which makes it a good material to go with if tornadoes and hurricanes are concerns.
- Competitive cost – the cost of the vinyl material may be slightly lower but fiber cement can help improve your home’s curb appeal more.
- Minimal maintenance – homeowners have gotten used to the convenience of getting materials that don’t require a lot of maintenance, and that’s also very much the case with fiber cement.
- Sustainable production practices – the material is often made from recycled wood, which means it ends up being a very sustainable material too, and while often being compared to vinyl with a lot of regards, it’s considerably more sustainable too.
- A lot of building codes allow this on historical architecture – vinyl is usually not allowed on historical buildings, while fiber cement is increasingly being allowed for restoration purposes.
- Fairly easy installation for a skilled pro – skilled professionals won’t have a hard time installing this type of material. It is not a project for one individual but siding installation rarely is.
- Great warranty options – with fiber cement you’ll likely only ever need to put siding on your home once, and when done correctly, the manufacturing warranty should handle any potential problems too.
- Big, wide panels are available – when you want to get a contemporary look, access to big wide panels may be just what you have been looking for.
- Less expansion and contraction than other materials – enough space will need to be allowed for expansion but the necessary amount of space needed is definitely less than what is needed for a material like wood.
- Replacing a panel is not that difficult – if something causes the material to crack, it’s possible to have it repaired or replaced relatively easily.
- Cracks in the material may be covered by the warranty – if the cracks arrive there as a consequence of the building settling, the warranty will sometimes cover the cracks.
- Smaller cracks can be fixed with cement patch – instead of having to replace an entire panel, you may simply be able to use patching material.
The pros definitely outweigh the cons, but you’ll still be equipped with both to make a more educated decision.
- Installation needs to be done professionally – you can’t simply install the material yourself, and you likely don’t have the tools available to get the job done. Hiring a professional is definitely recommended.
- Higher initial material cost – while we also added this as an advantage, the initial investment you will have to do with this material will be slightly higher.
- It’s better to install if you’re not planning on selling the house right now – it might be a slightly big investment if you plan on selling your house soon anyway and in that case, vinyl may be a better option.
- Can crack if not handled properly – you’re dealing with a material that will crack if you don’t know what you’re doing.
- Dust can be a problem during the cutting process – there are different ways that this can be cut and a good fiber cement contractor will know how to make sure the spread of the dust isn’t an issue.
- Asbestos could be a concern – if you have older fiber cement installed on your home, it’s not unlikely that the ingredient that went into the process of making it included asbestos. Asbestos dust is a serious health concern, and removing the siding would therefore need to be done professionally.
Reported Problems With Fiber Cement Siding
There are some problems that have previously been reported with James Hardie siding who is the biggest manufacturer of fiber cement, although they do seem to be becoming less and less. As with any type of material, improper installation is more likely to lead to problems and this material acts no different.
They’re constantly improving the quality of the product to lessen the risk of these problems persisting, and the information we found was published in 2009. It’s probably not unfair to assume that a lot of these things are less likely today.
What you should be aware of is that the warranty provided by the manufacturer is often voided by improper installation. This is likely also the case with other manufacturers than James Hardie. The good thing is that it honestly shouldn’t be too hard to have it properly installed, at least if you use good siding contractors that follow the installation guidances.
Wrong nails, insufficient clearance, overdriven nails and angled nails are all things that could be causing problems with the fiber cement siding.
Maintenance of Fiber Cement
While it doesn’t require a lot of maintenance, some is still required. What that means is that you should bee hosing it down every now and then, especially if you notice that it is getting dirty, but the general advice is to hose it down once or twice per year. The caulking should also be inspected to ensure it keeps providing an air and weather-tight seal, lowering the risk of damaging water leaks.
To keep it looking good, staining or painting is also important. It can either be done before it’s installed or after, although if you haven’t had it installed yet, it’s easier to get a higher quality paint job done. It’s also worth noting the length of the warranty on the paint or finish job.
Recaulking will become necessary at some point and needs to be done to keep all the good attributes, and it’s important that you’re aware of this. The caulk should be intact and not have holes in it or otherwise be broken. Make sure to check the caulk around all the different pieces, including the trim and garage door frame. You should check the caulk before and after you wash the house as the water pressure may have loosened it. If you’re washing the home, you also want to make sure that you in fact don’t do so if the caulking has gone missing, which would result in you pumping water in behind the walls in the house.
You will need to have a house painter come by and paint the home eventually even if you will likely be able to wait 10 to 15 years before it becomes necessary.
When you’re looking to clean the siding, it’s always important that you make sure to do it in accordance with the recommendations of the manufacturer. Check here for the 2016 recommendations on how to install HardiePlank.
Fiber Cement Cost
How much will fiber cement siding cost? The material cost can be less than a dollar per square foot for planks to ore than $5 per square foot, although more advanced designs such as shingles can cost upwards of $8 per square foot.
The style that you end up going for will be the determining factor how much you will end up spending on buying the actual material.
Fiber Cement Siding Options and Styles
There’s a broad range of styles and options available depending on the manufacturer that you choose to go with that include the following:
- Panels – not the most common for residential purposes but with panels, a great contemporary look is achievable.
- Lap – lap siding is the most traditional option you can go with.
- Beaded lap – very similar to traditional lap but the added bead ads a little extra.
- Scallop – this is a charming way of making your siding stand out also.
- Shingles and shakes – with shingles and shakes, you can get the traditional wooden look.
Fiber cement truly offers a great variety of styles and options that you ought to familiarize yourself with and the many options lets you put together different unique looks, perfectly suited for your special needs and desires.
Manufacturers You Need to Know About
There are different manufacturers that you should know about when it comes to fiber cement, and the most obvious one is James Hardie who is the most trusted player in the space, however not the only one at all. In fact, you will often hear customers talk about James Hardie as if it’s the only manufacturer which surely is not the case. It is also the only product that they make, unlike some of the other players that are doing a lot of different products. Sometimes, all you need is to focus on one single product, and that’s what they’re doing.
They’re a Houston, TX based company promising to stand by their customers creating products that can withstand winds up to 200 mph in a variety of colors that comes very close to looking like actual wood.
Nichiha has been around for well over 50 years, yet you may not ever have heard of them. Their product is installed on a range of different commercial structures with lots of great products available too. You can download their “lookbook” to get an inspiration in terms of what you make your home look like.
Allura Plycem (Which Used to be CertainTeed)
We’re personally not quite sure why CertainTeed chose to change name to Allura Plycem, yet they’re one of the other players in the market that you need to be aware of.
GAF is the last manufacturer of fiber cement that we have chosen to include on this list.
Fiber Cement Siding vs Vinyl (Including a Cost Comparison)
While vinyl has traditionally been chosen to replace wood siding, fiber cement has also become a valid contender over time, and we believe that a fiber cement vs vinyl siding comparison has its merits because of it.
Let’s start out by looking at a cost comparison of the two materials.
A normal home will cost somewhere between $8,000 and $20,000 to have vinyl siding installed, while the same cost for fiber cement siding can be expected to be somewhere between $14,000 and $28,000. We do encourage you to make sure that you get competing quotes for your project, and you can even get quotes for both materials. If you solely look at the cost of installing it, vinyl is cheaper, although more premium (and therefore more durable vinyl options) will also be more expensive.
The advantage with fiber cement is that it’s more durable than vinyl is.
You can generally expect to recoup 76.7% of the cost when you replace siding and either vinyl or fiber cement will generally yield the same ROI. There are other factors that are more important in making sure that you get the best return on your invested dollars for such a project. We already mentioned how fiber cement better mimics the wooden look.
While vinyl may currently be the most popular material according to this census data, it’s not sure that it will keep staying this way as fiber cement has really been making a push over the last 15 years. The grades of the material are also both very equal when compared. They each have roughly 4 different grades, economic through premium. As a homeowner, you’re likely to choose something kind of in the middle for your project.
Fiber cement is more heat-resistant and won’t warp, although in comparison to vinyl, it’s a disadvantage that it will need painting. If you’re desiring a higher-end look, there’s no question about it. Fiber cement is significantly better than vinyl is.