Fiber Cement Board Siding Basics

Fiber Cement Cladding

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You may have seen fiber cement board or siding and didn't even recognize it. This siding material, which can be made to resemble wood grain or even stucco, has actually been around for 100 years. This very durable siding material is quickly finding its way onto more homes, due to its good looks, fire resistance, and high resale value. If you have ever wanted a siding that is very low-maintenance, fiber cement siding might be the right choice for your home.

What Is Fiber Cement Siding?

Fiber cement siding is a durable and low-maintenance building material that is commonly used on residential homes and, in some cases, commercial buildings. Fiber cement siding is manufactured with cellulose fibers, along with cement and sand.

Fiber cement siding is sometimes confused with asbestos-cement siding, a shingle-format type of siding widely used in the first half of the 20th century and which has since been discontinued. Fiber cement siding does not contain asbestos.

Fiber Cement Siding Advantages

One of the most desirable qualities of fiber cement board is that it is so durable. Unlike wood siding, fiberboard siding does not rot or require frequent repainting. It is fireproof, insect resistant, and performs well in natural disasters.

Impressively, some fiber cement board manufacturers offer warranties that last for up to 50 years, a testament to the material's longevity. Aside from being low-maintenance, fiber cement board is also energy efficient and, to a small degree, contributes to insulating your home.

Fiber Cement Siding Sizes and Types

Fiber cement board is available in plank format that is similar in dimension to vinyl siding, ranging in profiles from 4 to 11 inches. Fiber cement siding is also finished with a variety of textures. Wood grain patterns mimic traditional wood siding, while smooth planks or stucco textures look clean and modern. Fiber cement board is also made into sheets, which can be installed as an insulating underlayment for tile.

Fiber Cement Siding Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Durable
  • Fire resistant
  • Insect resistant
  • Great appearance

Cons

  • Heavy
  • Brittle: may chip or crack
  • Dusty when cut
  • Higher cost

Vinyl Siding vs. Fiber Cement Siding

The greenhouse gas carbon dioxide is a byproduct of cement production. However, manufacturing vinyl siding, which contains polyvinyl chloride (PVC), produces twice as much carbon dioxide. In addition, vinyl siding off-gases throughout its lifetime, and continues to do so as it occupies space landfill. If fiber cement siding is not the most eco-friendly building material on the market, it is definitely proving a greener alternative to vinyl siding. Fiber cement board, on the other hand, is inert. The price points of vinyl and cement board siding are roughly comparable, although vinyl is usually the cheaper option.

In terms of composition, fiber cement siding is thicker and more solid than vinyl siding. Vinyl siding often feels hollow simply because it is hollow (in other applications, the vinyl siding may have insulation beneath it). If you were to rap on fiber cement siding with your knuckles, it would produce a dull sound, indicating that it is a homogeneous material, from front to back.

Fiber cement siding returns better resale value than does vinyl siding. The higher cost of materials and labor for the fiber cement siding are often proportionally returned at the time of sale.

Neither fiber cement siding nor vinyl siding are do-it-yourself installation materials. Both types of siding required skilled technicians for installation. Both types of siding can be found in stock to a limited degree at home improvement centers. Vinyl siding is less difficult for the do-it-yourselfer to repair because it is lightweight, easy to cut, and snaps into place onto pre-installed channels.

One frequent complaint about vinyl siding is that it can crack if impacted by common exterior household items such as lawnmowers or pressure washers. Fiber cement siding, too, is prone to cracking or breakage when subjected to the same forces.

While fiber cement siding is energy efficient, vinyl siding has the potential for this, too. When vinyl siding is optionally insulated, it can achieve R-2 values and even greater. Because vinyl siding is thinner than fiber cement siding, it can better accommodate insulation beneath its surface.

If price is the only objective, vinyl siding generally will be less expensive than fiber cement siding.

Tips for Selecting Fiber Cement Board

Choose fiber cement products that contain a large percentage of wood fiber from post-consumer or industrial waste. Also look for products that incorporate fly ash, which is more eco-friendly than Portland cement. Always choose low VOC paints, primers and other sealants for use with your fiber cement siding.