Fiber Cement Siding

Liz ODonnell
house_exterior

Consider fiber cement siding if you're looking for a durable, low maintenance solution for your home's exterior.

According to Renovators Place, a website that helps homeowners find contractors, replacing siding yields a very high return on investment (92.8 percent). Only kitchen remodeling earns a higher return. New siding will improve the curbside appeal of a house as well as reduce the long-term maintenance costs.

Choosing the Proper Siding

Given how important siding is to the value of your home, it is important to choose the right option. Vinyl siding has been on the market for years and is widely considered a good alternative to aluminum siding. Wood siding is a more traditional option and many homeowners prefer the natural beauty of wood to vinyl.

Fiber cement siding combines vinyl's ease of maintenance with wood's pleasing aesthetic. Unlike wood siding, fiber cement doesn't crack or rot and it is both water and fire resistant. It is also resistant to termites, a common problem with natural wood siding. One of the biggest challenges with wood is the periodic maintenance required. Most wood shingles need to be resanded and repainted approximately every nine years.

Fiber cement, like vinyl, is virtually maintenance-free. One of the main differences in the two products is the look. Fiber cement siding can be painted any color. Vinyl siding, on the other hand, usually has a limited color selection. In addition, vinyl does not integrate well into the look of an older home. Fiber cement is designed to look like wood, brick or stucco, so it blends well on any home and in any neighborhood.

Fiber cement is also:

  • Available in varying sizes and in both plank and sheets
  • Warranted for fifty years
  • Dimensionally stable
  • Resistant to expansion or contraction caused by extreme temperatures
  • Easily accessorized with trim boards to finish corners, windows and doors

Comparing Materials

Comparative Chart
Siding Type Maintenance Durability Weather Pests Look Price
Fiber Cement Low 50 years All Good Wood, Stucco, Brick High
Vinyl Low Lifetime Avoid extreme heat or cold Good Vinyl Moderate
Wood High Medium Elements will alter appearance Susceptible to termites Natural Highest

Fiber Cement Siding Manufacturers

The "Kleenex" of fiber siding is Hardiplank from the James Hardie company. It is available in planks, panels and shingles. Most Home Depot stores stock and install HardiPlank.

James Hardie products are made from 90 percent cement and 10 percent cellulose fiber. These products contain silica. Silica dust is known to the State of California to cause cancer. Silica dust is in many building products and remains intact when a product is installed properly. However, it may be released during installation. Therefore, it is important to read the manufacturers' MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheets) before installing any product so you can protect yourself properly.

Another leading brand of siding is CertainTeed. CertainTeed products are designed to have minimal impact on the environment. The company replaced silica with fly ash in its manufacturing process. Fly ash is a byproduct of coal production. By using fly ash, CertainTeed diverts this residue from landfills. Also, CertainTeed siding contains 30 percent pre-consumer recycled material. These products can contribute to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design buildings certified by the U.S. Green Building Council.

Installation

Homeowners can install their own fiber cement. However, it is a two-person job. If you have the budget, consider hiring a contractor to do the work.

Whether you do it yourself or hire a pro, here are some things to keep in mind regarding the installation:

  • Start with a foam insulation covered by a layer of roofing felt.
  • Planks should be "blind nailed" - meaning each piece of siding overlaps the piece below.
  • Drive nails deep but do not countersink.
  • Use handheld sheers for siding containing silica.
  • Use a circular saw if there is no risk of inhaling silica dust.

The proper siding will make a positive first impression and raise the value of your home. Consider climate, budget, lifestyle and looks when making a decision. If ease of maintenance, durability and design are considerations, fiber cement may be the best option.

Fiber Cement Siding