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Fiber-cement siding is an alternative to real wood, engineered wood, and vinyl siding options. Although fiber cement has endured some largely unwarranted criticism concerning moisture issues following faulty installation, it remains one of the more durable siding products in the industry.
Strength and Durability
Fiber-cement siding composition may vary from company to company, but the basic recipe is Portland cement, sand, and cellulose (wood) fibers. Wood fiber helps prevent cracking, as does a special curing process that leaves fiber cement with a low moisture content.
Fiber-cement siding has the durability of cement, a class 1A fire rating, is impervious to wood-boring insects, does not rot, and is resistant to deterioration from salt and ultraviolet rays. “The added cost of fiber-cement is made up by the fact that once it's up, you don't have to worry about it,” says Lisa Santerian, marketing director for CertainTeed WeatherBoards fiber-cement siding.
Fiber-cement siding is low-maintenance, impact-resistant, and available in finished or painted options. Most companies warranty their product for 50-years, which is proof of its durability.
Designs and Profiles
The fiber-cement siding industry has spent years perfecting the look and finish of its product. Surface designs are created during manufacturing, when the surface is embossed with a wood grain or left smooth. “We can do any sort of architectural shapes and styling, and the consumer can pick any color they want,” says Santerian. In addition to stained, prefinished, painted, or unfinished faces, fiber cement is available in every siding type and profile, including vertical and horizontal laps, shingles, trim planks, and soffit panels. “You can even get half-rounds and octagon shapes if you want,” adds Santerian.
Both James Hardie's ColorPlus line and CertainTeed's ColorMax line of pre-finished fiber-cement siding products come with a 15-year warranty on the finish. This warranty covers the product against cracking, chipping, and peeling. The ColorMax line also includes a 100 percent SureStart protection, which covers the cost of materials and labor in the event of a manufacturer's defect. “Again, consumers save money by not having to re-paint the product-the paint is covered for 15 years,” Santerian says.
Fiber Cement Installation
Fiber cement may be heavier than vinyl siding or engineered wood, but it is still lighter than real wood or stone, which means it is not terribly difficult to install. Installation guidelines should be closely followed, particularly when it comes to cutting the product and keeping it dry. Cutting fiber cement is harder than cutting real wood; it requires pneumatic or handheld shears, a dust-reducing circular saw, or a diamond-tip miter saw. Cutting fiber cement will release silica dust into the air, so you should wear a mask when cutting.
DIY-ers and contractors alike should follow handling and storage recommendations closely. Saturated or moist fiber cement siding can shrink at the butt ends if installed prior to drying. “All our packaging states very clearly: 'Do Not Install Wet Product,' ” Santerian says. “Unfortunately, we still hear tales of installers spraying the product down prior to installation.” Proper storage of the product before installation is essential if the siding is to stay dry. A sheltered storage space is best.
Creating a Green Product
Fiber cement may enjoy even greater popularity now that consumers are looking to use green building products. As a wood alternative, fiber cement has forest-saving properties and environmentally friendly qualities. CertainTeed takes the wood fiber needed for its fiber-cement siding from a sustainably managed forest. They also use fly ash (a byproduct of coal-burning) to replace the sand and silica, thereby adding post-industrial recycling to its list of attributes. Fly ash also makes the fiber cement lighter than its sand and silica counterparts, so it can be easier to handle and install.