Building Product Spotlight – Fiber Cement Siding

 

When looking for a durable, low-maintenance cladding material for your home, you may consider fiber cement siding. It has the look and substance of wood siding but many attributes that actually make if perform better than wood.

Most fiber-cement manufacturers offer primed and ready-painted options. The latter would only require touchups on end cuts and the matching paint is normally provided. Because it is dimensionally stable (suffers from minimal expansion and contraction), the need to repaint will be much less frequent than with wood siding.

There are several makers of fiber cement products and you are best to ask questions at your building supply store and from professionals with boots on the ground to find out what their experiences have been with the product you are wanting to use.  Budget will always come into consideration but you will also want to consider the product style, local costs, availability, durability and maintenance when making your decisions.

Fiber Cement Basics

Fiber cement is not a new product – it has actually been around for quite a while but it has only recently become a mainstream siding option. Many people like the look of traditional wood lap siding but not the maintenance. Likewise, with densification, some areas area actually mandating the use of fire-resistant materials to prevent fires from easily jumping from one home to the next. Fiber cement siding is often named as an acceptable product in those cases.

So how is this product made? Fiber cement siding is made of two main ingredients: Portland cement and cellulose fiber. They’re combined with sand, water and additives particular to the manufacturer to form a durable and stable cladding material. There is little to no waste in the manufacturing process and many of the products are recognized in sustainable certification programs.

Many styles of siding are available including lap siding (usually in 12 foot lengths and varying widths), cedar shingle replicas, and panels. Co-ordinating fiber-cement trim is even available to keep your entire exterior low-maintenance.

Painting & Staining Fiber Cement

Because fiber cement is dimensionally stable, painted coatings tend to last longer because the paint is not stretching and shrinking with temperature changes.  

If you like the look of stain, you “can” stain it but you would need to use products specifically designed for fiber cement coating. It is best to do your homework to find out what your options are with the specific product you want to use.

Is it difficult to paint?

We’ve found this easy DIY video from Taunton’s Fine Homebuilding… I think even I could do this!

PROS & CONS OF FIBER CEMENT

Like every other product you can put in or on your home there are plusses and minuses and fiber cement is no different. But on balance the number of advantages are greater than the number of fiber cement siding disadvantages. For the record, here’s how it plays out:

THE PROS….

Durability
Fiber cement siding is impact resistant, unaffected by moisture (when painted/properly installed) and can last for decades. It won’t turn brittle in the winter like vinyl and is not prone to rattling in the wind like vinyl.  

Rot and Insect Resistant
Being a portland cement product, fiber cement siding will not be subject to the decay you would normally see in wood siding. Termites and carpenter ants will also look elsewhere for a meal!

Dimensional Stability
As mentioned earlier, this kind of siding doesn’t expand and contract as much with environmental changes so your coating will adhere longer without the cracking and chipping you would be accustomed to with painted wood. This lower maintenance appeals greatly to all stages of life. We all have better things to do than repaint our homes.

Fire Resistance
Fiber cement is fireproof and carries a Class 1(A) fire/flame spread rating. That’s great piece of mind for those living in areas prone to wild fires, brush fires with wind-driven embers.

Available Primed or Painted
Fiber cement siding manufacturers offer their products both primed and primed-and-painted. The factory-applied coatings are done under optimal conditions which allows for longer warranty periods than field-applied coatings. 

Long Duration Warranties
While each manufacturer is different, product warranties are normally quite long – up to 50 years for defects.

Great Curb Appeal
Even up close, fiber cement cladding products (boards, shakes and panels) are a convincing wood alternative.

THE CONS…

Mid-Range Pricing
Typically more expensive than vinyl siding but mid-range pricing could just as easily by a pro when compared to the cost and maintenance of wood. But if you are looking at the lowest cost of cladding, fiber cement will not be found in that class. 

Installation Challenges
Compared to light-weight vinyl, fiber cement is heavy, awkward to handle (without risk of breakage) and requires protective gear to keep from breathing dust created when it’s cut.   

Pre-Painted Could be a Pricey Premium
Getting siding with factory applied paint is convenient but be prepared to pay for this premium. Still, the devil is in the details… How many painters will warranty their job?

I Think I Like this product… Who are the Fiber Cement Manufacturers?

There are actually relatively few fiber cement manufacturers. The primary brands of fiber cement siding are:

Not all of the products or manufacturers are available in all markets so you will need to check with your builder or building supplies store to find out what your options are. Because fiber cement siding is a heavy product, shipping would add substantial costs. Many manufacturers also have zonal product formulations which much be used to meet the warranty conditions.

If you have a picture of a DrummondHousePlan home with fiber cement siding, we would love to see it! It may even be added to our Photo Gallery. Just follow the instructions on our gallery page to show off your beautiful new DrummondHousePlans home.

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