Comparing Hard Board Siding: Part 3 – James Hardie Fiber Cement

two story farmhouse garage with wooden corbels, stone accents, straight edged shake and vertical siding

If you are just joining in; this is part three of a four part series on hardboards and knowing which one fits your needs. Part two covered LP Smartside in detail – Click here to read that article. Today we are covering James Hardie Fiber Cement Board’s history, make up, the pros and the cons.

peoria-il-james-hardie-straight-edge-shake-in-slate-grey
James Hardie Fiber Cement Blue Shakes and White Trim in Peoria IL

History

While James Hardie has a company history dating back 120 years they headed up fiber-cement products in the mid 1980’s. All of these products capitalized on fiber cement’s strength and durability. Over the years, James Hardie harnessed their technical and manufacturing process through research and experience in Australia. Many fiber cement siding companies have tried entering the market that James Hardie monopolizes, but all other companies were never able to compare to the quality, expertise, and research years of James Hardie.

James Hardie Fiber Cement Siding previously only warrantied the panel and not the surface color as the color was applied by a third party. Customers got caught up in the “blame game” between the paint manufacturer and James Hardie. James Hardie empathized with their customer’s plight and decided to take over surface. They now “bake-on” the chosen color as the panel is manufactured. This creates a stronger integration between surface and panel. This also allows James Hardie to provide longer warranties for both surface color and panel failure.

Make-up

Fiber cement is made up of cellulose fibers, cement, sand, water, and minor additives. All of these ingredients combined, make a siding panel that will not catch on fire or burn, resists water damage, stands up against termites, and will not rot or warp (if installed properly).

Pros

Where to begin on the huge list of advantages James Hardie Fiber Cement Siding? Fiber Cement siding may qualify for insurance discounts and gives an “upscale-look” to your home while being durable and low maintenance.

James Hardie Fiber Cement is resistant to fire and has high impact ratings. Depending on your insurance you may qualify for discounts; before selecting your home’s hardboard siding call your insurance and see what your numbers will look like if you had rated fire-restiant and rated impact-resistant siding. Some homeowners have saved as much as 20%! Click here to read more about James Hardie Fire Resistance.

Appearance wise, you can tell fiber cement siding is not your average siding. It looks identical to cedar siding and has a wide range of lap panels, shake styles, and board and batten or sheet cladding available. Any style you have envisioned, James Hardie will have it. James Hardie boasts widths from 5 1/2″ – 12″! Since the surface color is integrated in the manufacturing process, you won’t have to worry about age showing on darker colors. James Hardie has patterned with Sherwin Williams to get you any color siding in Sherwin Williams paint selections. You have endless choices!

Large two story farmhouse with stone accent, bark colored fiber cement siding, metal roof accent, and white trim
This large Towanda, IL farmhouse features James Hardie Fiber Cement Siding in Timber Bark
Large Farm house garage with stone, fiber cement straight edged shake in bark, board and batten fiber cement in bark, with cream accents. Wooden corbels in garage
This Farm House shows off James Hardie Board and Batten and Shake products

Every James Hardie product comes with two warranties; 1- Color Finish Warranty for 15 years and 2- Fiber Cement Panel Warranty for 30 years. With Cedar siding you have to re-paint your siding every 5 years. If you are the DIY homeowner you can sink a ton of time into re-painting your home every 5 years. If you are not the DIY homeowner, you can spent a decent chunk of change on re-painting your home every 5 years. With James Hardie- you don’t have to worry about the paint chipping or needing repainted that frequently.

Cons

If your fiber cement siding was installed incorrectly, your warranties will be voided and your siding could rot or warp as early as 5 years! Do your research on your potential contractor and make sure they know how to install. James Hardie is very specific in installation requirements. Click here to read the whole guide. The guide can be intimidating and will not be read by the faint of heart. Some installers do not like installing fiber cement siding because it requires special blades and is heavier than other hardboards on the market. This may make James Hardie Fiber Cement siding more expensive than other products- but this all depends on your contractor. It’s not a bad idea to call James Hardie directly and ask them what contractors in your area to they recommend. Fun Fact: If you live in Central, IL, Carlson Exteriors is the only James Hardie Preferred Contractor.

A small piece of metal is placed behind siding joints.
A small piece of metal is placed behind siding joints.

Again, the gapping can be an issue for some homeowners. This gap is required by James Hardie to allow your siding to minimally expand and contract over the seasons. Fiber cement is a wet manufacturing process- the initial gap is left with the intention of your siding to shrink. Behind each gap is a pan flashing the same color as your siding (just like LP). This pan flashing make the gap not as noticeable.   Similar flashing is installed where siding butts up against roof lines. The pictures below show the gape between James Hardie siding and shakes. The gap is smaller where horizontal lap siding meets the roof line but it is still noticeable. This may bother some homeowners.

James Hardie does everything in their control to make their fiber cement siding last, but all of that can be undone if the homeowner does not stay on top of caulking every 3-5 years. Windows, corners, and trim details will need re-done. If you don’t perform this preventative maintenance, your siding can start to de-laminate, warp, or rot.

Conclusion

If you are interested in a siding that can score you some insurance discounts- this is the product for you! This siding has a wide array of styles, sizes, colors, and accessories to fit your dream home that vinyl and other hardboards can’t offer you.

Next Up: Royal Celect Siding

Hastings Home after the Chestnut brown siding was installed. Our crew also replaced 7 windows.
AFTER – Royal Celect Chestnut brown siding and Willow (off white trim)

 

Click here to read “Comparing Hardboards: Part 1”

Click here to read “Comparing Hardboards: Part 2 – LP Smartside”

Comparing Hard Board Siding: Part 2 – LP Smartside

LP Smartside siding in Pewter with White trim and Black roof and Metal Roof accent

Welcome back! Last post from this series we quickly covered 3 hard boards that are a hot topic: LP Smartside, James Hardie Fiber Cement, and Royal Celect siding. If you missed it and want to catch up- Click Here! Part 2 is all about LP Smartside: it’s history, material make-up, the pros, and the cons.

LP Smartside soffit and trim in cameo and CertaindTeed Weathered wood Roof in Champaign IL
LP Smartside soffit and trim in cameo and CertainTeed Weathered Wood Roof in Champaign IL

History

LP (Louisiana Pacific) had a product in the late 90’s called Inner Seal that prematurely rotted causing de-lamination, color changes, and sometimes fungi growth. A large class-action lawsuit was brought on by homeowners, shareholders, and even an attorney general! LP worked as quickly as they could to pay out all losses and begin reformulating their failed product they still believed in. This massive public failure birthed LP Smartside.  LP actually boasts about this lawsuit when questioned about potential moisture management issues for Smartside. Not only did they learn from their product mistakes, they stood behind it and made sure their customers were taken care of correctly and as fast as possible. Not every company is known for being fast to pay out warranties that are due.

Material Make-up

LP Smartside is made up of a mixture of binders, waxes, and zinc borate all throughout the wood strands and is finally bonded with a water-resistant, resin-saturated overlay. The wood used in Smartside products comes from a renewable forest; the binders and resins coating this wood make it high-impact proof. It can withstand golfballs, hail, rocks from lawn mower, balls, bikes, or nearly anything else that might hit it. The waxes and resins make the wood water resistant wile the Zinc borate helps protect against algae, fungi, insects, or any other pesky pests.

comparing two wood sidings one that prevents rot and insects
Zinc Borate in the LP Smartside siding (Right side) prevents insects and fungi from growing

Pros

There are so many wonderful benefits to LP Smartside ranging every degree from purely aesthetic reasons to endurance qualities. Like most hardboards, LP Smartside has a commanding appearance over vinyl siding. Smartside looks exactly like real cedar siding but  a fraction of the real wood maintenance.

Larger reveal siding is starting to re-surface in siding trends. If you are looking at vinyl products, wider reveals are scarce (if any!). LP Smartside offers widths up to 8″, 12″, and 16″ depending on style and you can choose between woodgrain or smooth surface. You also can go to Sherwin Williams and pick out any one of their paint colors and have LP match the color exactly!

This siding has a very high impact rating. Many insurance companies offer a break when your siding (or shingles) reach a certain level of impact rating. Like you read in an earlier paragraph – durable siding will withstand hail, golf balls, balls, bikes, rocks from mowers, birds, or almost anything that hits it.

Depending on your contractor, LP Smartside can either be equal to or less than the cost of Fiber Cement siding because it’s slightly easier to work with. It’s easier to work with because you don’t need special blades to cut or work with it, lighter weight, and it doesn’t produce silica dust.

Cons

Like most specialty products, the warranties are preserved by your original installers and preventative maintenance. If your contractor doesn’t know the ins and outs of proper install for LP Smartside, your warranty will be voided or worse- your beautiful siding could fail!

Every hardboard siding requires some amount of gapping to allow for expansion and contraction. This fluctuation happens as the siding starts to acclimate to current weather conditions and as it endures the 4 seasons. Since LP is a dry manufacturing process, the initial gap is left with the intention for the siding to swell slightly. Behind each gap, a pan flashing detail, the same color as your siding, will be installed to disguise the gap. Visually speaking, some homeowners do not like the look of the gap. There also needs to be a 1″ clearance on all roof lines and a 6″ ground clearance. This spacing is reserved for expansion and contraction. The gapping along roof lines is covered with a metal detail that some homeowners find distracting.

 

While the warranty for LP is phenomenal (Click here to read it), if you don’t stay on top of caulking maintenance you will void the warranty. Areas that need to be re-caulked roughly every 3-5 years are around windows, corners, and any trim details. Most installers familiar with LP Smartside will do a “healthy” amount of caulking when they install – They know it might be an easy, but detrimental, thing to slip the homeowner’s mind.

Conclusion

If you are looking for siding product this actually made out of wood – LP Smartside is the product for you! It looks just like cedar siding, comes in many wider reveals, impact resistant, requires minimal maintenance compared to real wood siding.

 

Next Up: James Hardie Fiber Cement Siding

house with three gables all with blue fiber cement straight edged shake
AFTER – Carlson Exteriors removed faux stucco from the gables on this Peoria, IL house. It was replaced with James Hardie fiber cement shake

Click here to read “Comparing Hard Boards: Part 1”

Comparing Hard Board Siding: Part 1- LP SmartSide vs. James Hardie Fiber Cement vs. Royal Celect Siding

There are so many different (and honestly really good) options out there for hard board siding. Before we jump in too deep, lets quickly cover what exactly “hard board siding” means. Hard board siding is any type of siding that is a solid lap; for a comparison, when you look at the profile of vinyl siding it is a hollow shell. See image below:

Hardboard Profiles comparing mastic vinyl to lp smartside to james hardie fiber cement to royal celect siding
Comparing siding profiles and thicknesses

As you can see, vinyl is thin shell creating the allusion of a solid strip of siding while the 3 hard boards shown (LP, James Hardie, and Celect) are actual solid siding panels. LP Smartside is made up of wood fibers combined with waxes, industrial grade binders, Zinc-borate, and resin overlay. James Hardie has perfected the fiber cement industry with their line of fiber cement siding. Royal Celect is a cellular PVC siding very similar to Royal’s trim that they have been providing the construction industry for years.

Impact resistance, gives off a more truer wooden siding or shake appearance (aka greater curb appeal, wider range in color options, and wider range in siding reveal size are just a handful of advantages provided by Hardboard siding. Over the next couple of months, we will be focusing in on the pros and cons on each individual brand.

Hopefully these articles will help you decide if hardboard is right for you and narrow down your options if it is.

Stay tuned for the next blog, which will be all about LP Smartside! Here is a quick teaser-image of an LP Smartside job Carlson Exteriors installed in Savoy, IL.

LP Smartside siding in Pewter with White trim and Black roof and Metal Roof accent
LP Smartside siding in Pewter with White trim and Black roof and Metal Roof accent

 

Follow up: Click here to read the post about LP Smartside