Fiber-Cement Siding: What You Need to Know

In recent years, fiber-cement siding has become the hottest product on the market. It offers the benefits of wood without the hassle of maintenance. It has been featured on TV shows, magazines, and at popular home improvement stores. But what is fiber-cement siding and is it right for me?

What is fiber-cement? It is composed of a mixture of cement, sand and cellulose fiber – all mixed together to form a strong, durable product. Manufacturers mix the materials in large drums and “roll” it onto sheets where it is pressed with woodgrain, stucco and other various patterns.

After being pressed into shape, the product is placed in an oven which bakes the product and increases its strength. Before being shipped to your local retailer, a quality primer is applied to aide in paint adhesion. Manufacturers offer fiber-cement siding in lap siding, panels, soffit, fasica, shingles and trim.

Each product has unique dimensions and application procedures. Before choosing fiber-cement siding, take a trip to your local retailer and investigate the product. The first thing you will notice is that it is heavy! You will also notice it can be difficult to manuever if not handled properly.

Manufacturers provide written installation instructions which explain the proper way to handle the product (carried on edge and held in the middle of the plank). Make sure to request a copy from your local retailer to fully understand how to handle and install the product.

Does fiber-cement siding work well in any region? The simple answer is yes! Unlike wood which can rot, swell, and deteriorate over time, fiber-cement is warranted against these effects. The product typically carries a 50-year warranty against manufacturing defects – which is transferable to the next owner (great selling point if you sell your home). Styles are available to match any design from Territorial to Cape Cod.

In fact, you will find fiber-cement siding on homes from California to Maine! The durability of the products allows it to function well in a range of climates. It can withstand the heat of Arizona summers and the cold of New England winters. It holds paint well – typically 7-10 years and resists moisture (a common problem in Southern regions). Architects have embraced the product as well, so you will find many home plans calling specifically for the product.

Do I need to hire a contractor to install the siding? The product is designed for a homeowner to install – but you should research the product before doing it yourself. Because fiber-cement siding contains sand (or silica), it can be hazardous to inhale the dust. Manufacturers recommend cutting the product outdoors with pneumatic hand shears, specific saw blades, and using dust control devices on circular saws.

Consult the manufacturers written installation guidelines before installing the product. It is nailed just like wood! Fiber-cement siding can be nailed with 8D common or roofing nails. The product is nailed to the wall and with the next piece hiding the nails, called blind-nailing.

Or, it can be fastened through the overlap for added wind shear – known as face nailing. Because the siding comes prefinished from the factory, it only requires one coat of quality paint. Acrylic paints work the best – and it is not as messy as oil-based! Below is a list of tools you will need to install the siding:

  • Nail gun or hammer
  • Chalk line for creating straight lines on the wall
  • A 7 1/4” circular saw blade with polycrystaline diamond tips (see your local retailer)
  • Dust mask

Quality tool manufacturers offer product specifically designed for installing fiber-cement. A trip to the local hardware store will yield a host of these products.

How expensive is fiber-cement siding? In general, it costs more than vinyl siding but is less than masonry, wood, and stucco. The main selling point of fiber-cement is the little maintenance required to keep the product performing well. It does not rot, twist, or breakdown due to moisture, insects, or weather. Paint also bonds extremely well to the surface. Manufacturers also offer the product prefinished from the factory, so you do not even have to paint it! While fiber-cement costs more upfront, it pays for itself over time due to decreased maintenance.

If you are looking for a product to increase your home's resale value, require little maintenance, and provide curb appeal, fiber-cement is for you! It is sold at major retailers throughout the country. The product was designed with homeowners in mind, and can be installed with ease. It can withstand hurricane force winds and the harsh snow of Northern climates. While the technology of fiber-cement has been around for decades, its popularity has risen considerably in recent years.