Fiber Cement Siding 101

Of all the options available to homeowners today, fiber cement siding appeals to those seeking a long-lasting, low-maintenance material that performs well and looks good, too.

Fiber Cement Siding

Photo: certainteed.com

While it’s been around for years, fiber cement siding currently enjoys popularity with homeowners for a number of reasons. Some appreciate the sustainable aspects of its manufacture. Others favor the material for its architectural appeal. Although professional installation is recommended, ongoing maintenance costs are low. Once installed, fiber cement siding lasts a lifetime, and that more than anything may explain the high demand for it.

Maintenance and Longevity
Each of the major manufacturers offers a line of fiber cement siding that meets or exceeds standards set forth by the American Society for Testing and Materials. The siding stands up, not only to the elements, but also to hazards like insects and noise pollution. After 15 years, refinishing becomes necessary, but maintenance duties are light otherwise. Indeed, manufacturers’ warranties attest to the product’s durability with 30- to 50-year warranties the norm.

Sustainability
CertainTeed, one of the leading manufacturers of fiber cement siding, says it only sources wood fiber harvested from managed forests. Another maker of fiber cement siding, Nichiha, joins CertainTeed in using fly ash—a waste residue of coal combustion—rather than silica. Nichiha also boasts of observing a host of best practices in their production process, sourcing material locally, recapturing 95% of the water used in its facilities, and recycling 100% of the scrap material it creates.

James Hardie, the founder of fiber cement in the 1970s and world leader in the category, is equally committed to sustainability—sourcing 90% of their materials from regional suppliers, and employing waste minimization and solid waste recycling technologies to support Zero to Landfill initiatives.  While cement, water, sand and cellulose fibers are used for Hardie siding products, fly ash is not: the company believes that it adversely impacts the durability of fiber cement.

Related: Composite Shakes and Slates: The Great Pretenders

James Hardie fiber cement lap siding

HardiePlank Lap Siding from James Hardie

Architectural Appeal
Fiber cement siding comes in a variety of designs: Lap, plank, vertical, shake, curved-shake and geometric patterns are all available. A host of textures can be found as well, and the siding may be colored to virtually any hue the homeowner desires. Some fiber cement siding products are made to resemble wood, while others imitate the look of natural fieldstone, stacked flagstone, or brick.

Affordability
The upfront expenses associated with fiber cement siding are not inconsiderable, being that professional installation is a must. However, the ongoing maintenance costs are minimal. You can expect to pay out for refinishing work about every 15 years or so, but the lion’s share of the overall cost will come at the beginning of the product’s 50-plus-year lifespan.

Versus Wood or Vinyl Siding
Wood siding boasts a timeless beauty, and many homeowners value the way its appearance gradually changes in subtle ways. You can save on installation by doing the work yourself, but wood siding products are often expensive to buy, and over time, the material demands a high level of maintenance.

Though colorfast and resistant to insects and rot, vinyl siding is not maintenance free: It’s vulnerability to weather damage makes occasional repairs necessary. The price tag is low enough to have enticed many, and another big selling point is its relative ease of installation.

If your priority is good looks, then you can’t go wrong with wood. If budget is your main concern, look no further than vinyl. Consider fiber cement siding if you are looking for a long-lasting, low-maintenance material that performs well and doesn’t look half bad, either.