Fiber Cement Siding for Your Richmond Home
For almost 100 years fiber cement has been used. Similar to engineered wood siding, this material offers several advantages compared to natural wood. In the past, it was made with added asbestos, but today, modern fiber cement is made out of a mixture that includes sand, wood fiber materials, cellulose, Portland cement, and an array of other materials.
The newest version has been around since the 1980s when an Australian company called James Hardi Inc. figured out how to manufacture the boards without the asbestos. These are often called Hardi Plank for this reason. We will use fiber cement and Hardi Plank interchangeably throughout this discussion.
It can be formed into several different patterns, have an embossed or smooth face, or be textured in a way that it mimics real cedar. A special curing process will be used on the siding to ensure the final product has a very low-moisture content. This makes it resistant to warping and helps ensure it is conducive to the application of paint.
It can be painted at the factory before shipping, or have a primer coat applied and be painted at the job site.
Fiber cement, or Hardi Plank, has gained immensely in popularity since around 2014, experiencing almost a 50% growth spurt since that time. Its popularity is mostly in the residential installation market, with over 18% of new homes now making use of it.
We will look at the pros and cons of Hardi Plank below.
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The biggest selling point of fiber cement siding is its durability. Even its name implies this. It can stand up to harsh weather conditions, insects, and even rot. In some locales susceptible to high winds, hurricanes, or tornadoes, building codes actually specify fiber cement. And the worst pests, woodpeckers and termites, appear to have no interest in fiber cement.
Most companies offering fiber cement siding also offer generous warranties due to the durability and strength of this material, usually in the 30 to 50 year neighborhood. This siding offers a 50 year service life for non-backcoated product and up to 75 years for backcoated. If it was painted during manufacture, the factory coat of paint may also have guarantees against peeling, fading, and chips, usually in the 15 year range
It is considered environmentally neutral, meaning it isn't recyclable but does not release toxins into the ground when it breaks down, unlike say PVC products. The ingredients of fiber cement are considered to be environmentally inert.
Fiber cement is a fire-resistant product, which makes it a great option for any home that is situated in a wildfire region. It has a class 1(A) rating for fire/flame spread, which is the highest rating available. The installation process is similar to real wood, and it is available in the same widths and lengths as real wood.
There are a few disadvantages, or drawbacks to is as well.
The insulating factor of Hardi Plank is about the same as with vinyl, though there is a vinyl with insulated backing that has a higher R-value but comes at a substantially higher cost. There are other sidings that insulate much better than this, but each has other disadvantages.
The price of installed fiber cement can be substantially higher than vinyl, often running from around $6 to $10 per square foot, compared to $3 or $4 per square foot for vinyl. Fiber cement is similar in price to hardwood or composite siding, and cheaper than brick, stone, or stucco.
The installation of Hardi Plank is substantially more complex than vinyl, primarily due to its weight. Installation usually requires a crew with the correct tools and level of experience to do it right. In fact, the expense of installing this represents a much higher portion of the total bill than with vinyl.
There is no governing body that tests and certifies the quality of fiber cement, unlike with vinyl. There are, however, a number of well-established companies that manufacture this product, and you should stick with these if you want to be assured of a good, well made product.