A Tougher, Better-Looking Wood Alternative
Siding manufacturers are constantly trying to come up with new products that look like wood, but better-resist moisture, insects, and fire. One of the newest home siding materials, fiber cement (also known as cement board siding or simply cement siding), is a highly durable, low-maintenance exterior covering that more closely resembles real wood than vinyl. If you want a realistic wood appearance for your home, but don't want to deal with regular caulking, sanding, and painting, fiber cement siding might be for you.
What is Cement Board?
Cement board siding is made from cement, sand, cellulose fibers (typically wood, but fronds and other materials are also used), and other additives, including fly ash (a byproduct of coal combustion). These ingredients are combined and then formed and hardened through a process known as autoclaving, which utilizes high temperature steam to bake the mixture into a thin, hard final product.
Although cement board siding has been around for more than 100 years, it used to be made with asbestos fibers. Fiber cement that uses cellulose in place of asbestos has been around since the 1980s. You might know the material as HardiePlank, the brand name of a product made by James Hardie Industries. Other leading fiber cement manufacturers include CertainTeed, GAF, Nichiha, and MAXITILE.
Cement Siding Benefits
While cement siding costs more than vinyl and other synthetic home claddings, it offers a number of advantages over the competition, including the following:
- Supreme Durability: Fiber cement, with a Class 1 (A) Fire Rating, won't burn (like wood does) and won't melt (like vinyl can). The material is also rot proof, impervious to insects and birds, resists ultraviolet fading, wind, and hail damage, and is suitable for climates that experience extreme heat and/or cold. Short of direct hammer blows, there's pretty much no abuse that fiber cement can't take. As proof of fiber cement's durability, consider that manufacturers commonly offer a 50-year structural warrantee.
- Can be Painted: Unlike vinyl, which is difficult, if not impossible, to paint, cement board readily accepts paint. While the factory-applied paint can last up to 25 years, you are free to change your home's exterior color whenever you want.
- Realistic Wood Grain: Vinyl siding might look like wood from a distance, but get a little closer and the illusion is shattered. Fiber cement, on the other hand, because it is relatively thick, has an imprinted wood grain design that can fool onlookers even up close.
- Fiber Cement is Considered "Green": Not only is cement board made from recycled and sustainable materials, but the material is also long-lasting, so it's not going to end up in a landfill in a mere 15 to 20 years.
Fiber Cement Siding Costs
Cement board siding is comparable in price to higher-end woods like cedar and redwood, more expensive than vinyl, and cheaper than natural stone and brick.
- Fiber cement siding prices start at $4 to $6 per square foot installed, although better-quality materials are more in the neighborhood of $8 to $12 per square foot installed. For a home with 1,500 exterior square feet, expect to pay approximately $6,000 to $18,000 for fiber cement siding installation.
- Removing and disposing of your home's existing siding might add as much as $1 to $2 per square foot to the project cost. Other factors that influence price include home height and design, local labor costs, and whether repairs need to be made to exterior walls.
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