Comparing Vinyl Siding to Hardboard Siding

James Hardie Siding panels and real cedar siding in Heyworth Il

It’s time to reside your home but what siding products should you use? Vinyl siding, James Hardie Fiber Cement siding, or LP Smartside siding? What are the pros and cons of each product? What is right for you? Let’s tackle those questions with this article.

two story house with brick and fiber cement shake gables
AFTER – Carlson Exteriors removed faux stucco from the gables on this Peoria, IL house. It was replaced with James Hardie fiber cement shake

Back to the basics– what is vinyl siding and what is considered a hard board siding?

Vinyl siding is primarily made up of PVC resin that is extruded out to make up the length of the siding piece. The top layer usually includes fade resistant material to protect the original color of the siding from fading in the sun.

Hardboard siding can cover an array of products but is meant to simulate a real wood product. It’s a solid board while vinyl siding is a shell. Our company only offers LP Smartside and James Hardie Fiber Cement Siding as hardboard options. LP Smartside is an engineered wood product including waxes, resins, and wood strands harvested from a renewable wood source. James Hardie Fiber Cement is cellulose fibers, cement, sand, water, and minor additives. Both LP Smartside and James Hardie Fiber Cement use heat and pressure (in different ways) to create their finished product. Below are 2 virtual tours of the factories.

In the photo, you can see the vinyl siding only gives the allusion of being a solid piece while LP Smartside and James Hardie Fiber Cement Siding are actually solid pieces of siding.

Comparing the profile of Mastic vinyl siding, LP Smartside, and James Hardie Fiver Cement siding

Pro’s of Vinyl Siding

  • Maintenance free
  • Costs less than LP Smartside or James Hardie Fiber Cement Siding
  • Easier to make storm damage repairs on
  • Most Siding Contractors can install correctly
  • Wide array of colors

certainteed cobblestone grey roof, mastic white board and batten white siding and trim, black garage door

Con’s of Vinyl Siding

  • More susceptible to storm damages
  • No insurance discounts
  • No custom color options are available
  • Limited in profile options (Double 4″ and Double 5″ are available in most colors. Single 8″ is only available in white)

LP Smartside siding in custom dark grey siding white white trim

Pro’s of LP Smartside Siding

  • Impact resistant (may qualify for insurance discounts)
  • Available in standard colors or custom colors
  • Comes in a wide array of profiles
  • Looks like real painted cedar siding
  • Does not require and special blades or tools to install
  • Costs slightly less than James Hardie Fiber Cement because it’s slightly easier to install

LP Smartside in tan and dark brown

Con’s of LP Smartside Siding

  • Limited contractors are skilled enough to install properly
  • Requires re-caulking around every 3- 5 years
  • Harder to make repairs on
  • Costs 4-5 times more than vinyl siding

Pro’s of James Hardie Fiber Cement Siding

  • Impact Resistant (may qualify for insurance discounts)
  • Fire Resistant (may qualify for insurance discounts)
  • Available in many profiles and styles (Board and Batten come in custom widths)
  • Looks like real cedar siding
  • Available in 700+ standard colors

two story town homes with two toned grey siding

Con’s of James Hardie Fiber Cement Siding

  • Limited contractors are skilled enough to install properly
  • Requires re-caulking every 3-5 years
  • Higher risk of product breakage in delivery
  • Needs special blades and tools for install
  • No custom colors are available (but it is available in 700+ standard colors)
  • Costs 4-5 times more than vinyl siding

Conclusion

If you plan on staying in your home for a long time, a hardboard option might be right for you if it is within budget. If you aren’t sure how long you will live in your home or are trying to update on a slimmer budget, vinyl siding might be the best option for you.

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 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