HardiePlank Siding Overview and Basics

Fiber Cement Siding

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Imagine a type of house siding that hits all of the right notes. With deep embossing, it looks just like real wood siding. It is solid and substantial. Unlike some other types of siding, it can easily be painted. While a bit on the pricey side, this siding commands excellent resale value. To top it all off, this siding is highly fire resistant. This siding is called fiber-cement, and the originator of fiber-cement siding is a Canadian company, James Hardie Industries. Its product: HardiePlank.

What is HardiePlank Siding?

A combination of cellulose fibers and cementitious materials, HardiePlank is fiber-cement siding that comes in long, horizontal strips, just like wood lap siding. HardiePlank is partly wood, in the form of cellulose, and partly mineral. Break a piece of HardiePlank, and inside you will see a brittle core interlaced with wood fibers.

HardiePlank's wood content does not influence its distinctive wood grain appearance. That is the result of embossed texturing. HardiePlank's embossing serves two purposes. First, it does create a reasonable simulation of wood grain. Second and most importantly, the embossing visually breaks up the flat surfaces and gives each board a richer look. James Hardie Industries does offer a smooth texture, too.

HardiePlank is not to be confused with HardiePanel, also produced by James Hardie Industries. HardiePanel, also composed of fiber-cement, is the tall, vertical version of HardiePlank, at 48 inches wide by 96 inches to 120 inches long.

Fiber Cement Siding and Resale Value

With other types of siding, particularly vinyl siding, it is debatable whether you will be able to make back your initial investment when it comes time to sell the house. But fiber-cement siding, especially HardiePlank, does a remarkably good job of returning project cost upon sale.

According to Remodeling magazine's Cost vs. Value Report, installing fiber-cement is an upscale siding project and you can expect to recoup the majority of your initial outlay when you sell the home. Over the last decade, this project has consistently returned 78-percent or more of its initial cost upon resale.

Excellent Fire Resistance

HardiePlank is considered to be fire resistant, but not fireproof. The accurate definition iss that HardiePlank does not contribute combustibles towards a fire. By contrast, vinyl siding, derived from petroleum, significantly feeds flames. Wood, obviously, is highly combustible.

In terms of fire resistance, consider HardiePlank a type of neutral building material. While fiber-cement is not a flame feeder, it is still not as fireproof as cement-asbestos shingles.

Fiber-Cement Simulates Wood Siding

One reason why homeowners choose HardiePlank over vinyl siding is because it closely resembles wood. Like other simulated woods, HardiePlank does not look like wood on close examination. Up close, you would see that the wood grain is fairly shallow and has a uniform pattern.

At close to 1/2-inch thick, HardiePlank is nearly as thick as wood house siding. Contrast this with vinyl siding, which can be as thin as 0.035 inches thick. Vinyl siding's illusion of thickness is achieved by creating hollow spaces underneath; HardiePlank runs all the way through.

Also, unlike vinyl siding, HardiePlank can easily be painted. You can either go with the neutral color that HardiePlank arrives with or you can paint it.

Resistant To Insects and Vermin

Carpenter ants and termites are always a problem for wood siding. Insects do not care about HardiePlank because, even though the siding does contain cellulose fiber, there is not enough cellulose to attract the insects. As such, HardiePlank is considered to be insect resistant.

Cost of Fiber Cement Siding

HardiePlank, along with other major brands of quality fiber-cement siding, is usually more expensive than vinyl siding. As a rule of thumb, HardiePlank is about three times more expensive than vinyl siding. Factor in the cost of painting HardiePlank (with its embedded color, vinyl siding essentially is pre-painted) and the price difference decreases.

Other factors may drive up the cost of fiber-cement siding:

  • While vinyl siding installers are prevalent, fewer siding contractors install fiber-cement.
  • High demand and lower supply drives up costs.
  • Fiber-cement siding installation takes longer than vinyl siding installation.
  • Shipping costs are higher for this product as it is significantly heavier than vinyl.
  • While optional, fiber-cement siding is usually painted upon installation. 

Fiber-Cement: Green Building Material

The cellulose fibers used in HardiePlank are not derived from endangered species of wood. The cement and sand used is in great abundance. Also, no toxic materials are used in the production of fiber-cement siding.

Another aspect of fiber-cement siding that makes it a green building material is that it lasts for so long. James Hardie warrants the material for 50 years. HardiePlank can last longer than that, especially if painted and properly maintained.