Fiber cement siding offers home protection
Fiber cement siding mimics wood and offers a more dimensional look than vinyl, but is virtually maintenance free. (Photo courtesy of Tulsa Renew)
Squirrels sparked homeowner Deborah Thompson’s search for new siding. For years, the animals gnawed on her old clapboard exterior.
“Those buggers had started chewing a nice pile of siding for their nest,” Thompson says.
The Tulsa, Okla., resident found the perfect solution at a local home show, where she met Steven Jones, owner of highly rated Tulsa Renew. Thompson says she liked Jones’ techie approach — he sends video updates from the job — but also the product he offers.
“I chose to install HardiePlank siding because it’s concrete, and I figured if the darn squirrels tried to eat it, they’d die.”
Jones only installs James Hardie fiber cement siding, which includes HardiePlank. “It’s my favorite because it looks like wood but is virtually maintenance free,” he says. It comes in limited colors, but Jones says it can be painted to last longer than most siding manufacturers’ prepainted warranty.
Fiber cement is the fastest growing home siding material in the past decade. However, vinyl still dominated the U.S. market in 2011 at 38 percent of total residential siding sold, according to Principia, a building material consultant firm. Fiber cement accounted for 17 percent. “Composites, like fiber cement, are the new trendy product, but they’ve now been on the market long enough to have solid testing and a track record consumers can be confident in,” Jones says.
Engineered wood and manufactured stone are also gaining popularity, but not to the same degree. “Each product has its advantages and drawbacks, as well as regional preferences,” says Principia partner Ken Jacobson.
Highly rated Exovations in Cumming, Ga., offers vinyl and fiber cement siding, but says more customers are choosing the latter. “It’s very durable, rot-proof, fire rated and impervious to wood-boring insects,” says Candice Skinner, Exovations’ public relations director.
Ty Meredith, owner of highly rated Meredith Home Improvements in Pittsburgh, says vinyl still reigns in his region. “Vinyl is reasonably priced, well-insulated, looks good, most products give a lifetime limited warranty, and you can throw the paintbrush away,” he says.
Meredith estimates vinyl costs between $375 and $650 a square — 1 square equals 100 square feet — and fiber cement is $700 to $1,000. “In recent years though, we’ve been getting more interest in fiber cement,” he adds.
Before any siding goes up, providers say to make sure a quality moisture barrier is installed first to protect your home from water damage and provide insulation. “You have to make sure the company installs a house wrap and tapes the seams,” says Steve Gotschi, owner of highly rated DryHome Roofing and Siding in Sterling, Va. “The No. 1 service call we get is for siding leaks. Many don’t know they have leaks.”
Thompson says she now has great peace of mind that her home’s protected — from both the elements and the critters. “It’s amazing to know something surrounds your house like a glove of cement,” she says. “I now watch the squirrels and say, ‘Go ahead and try to eat your way into my home. Just try!’”
For more information, visit the Angie's List guide to siding.