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 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