Fiber cement siding isn’t new. In fact, the first fiber reinforced cement based sidings were first produced in Austria in the late 19th century. These early sidings contained asbestos fibers, and were later deemed to be unsafe in the 1970s.
Cellulose fiber reinforced cement sidings were introduced by James Hardie in the 1980s, and became the first fiber cement planks as we know them today. But while James Hardie was the first to reintroduce the product, others quickly began to create their own formulas, colors, planks, shapes, and styles so consumers today have a much wider range of choices for what they may use on their homes.
James Hardie’s HardiePlank is still one of the most used options, in part due to the name familiarity. It’s closest competitor is Allura. Both companies make a high quality fiber cement product with a range of options, styles, and colors. But despite these facts, there are some obvious differences between the two.
Manufacture and Warranty
HardiePlank is largely produced the same way that it was when it was first formulated back in the 1980s. It uses a wood pulp slurry, mixed with the Portland cement to produce their planks, which are made in molds. Like all fiber cements, it also uses a mixture of sand and silica in the blend to keep it stable. The mixture does use some degree of recycled wood product. It comes with a 30 year limited warranty.
Allura is a premium product that uses cellulose fibers, sand, silica, and Portland cement, that produces a plank that is the same thickness, but slightly denser than the HardiePlank product. The material has a 50 year warranty, and bills itself as impervious to most issues that afflict other sidings such as cold, heat, insects, fire, and moisture.
Average Costs Per Square Foot
Like many materials, both Allura and James Hardie have a range of prices for their materials. This can be due in part to the fact that they both have a number of options to choose from in terms of reveal, width, and shape. In addition, while Allura’s siding has been shown to perform well in all regions and temperatures, James Hardie produces a special, more expensive, product just for sale in regions with colder weather. This can make the cost of the material vary wildly depending on the region you live in, while Allura’s prices fluctuate far less, dependant mostly on dealer costs.
On average, you’ll pay between $1.56 and $2.08 a square foot for Allura’s lap siding
In contrast, you’ll pay between $1.86 and $2.02 a square foot for James Hardie’s standard lap siding. These averages take into account the different reveals available for both materials.
Installation costs also have a range for both materials, depending largely on factors such as the layout of the home, the style of the siding, and which brand you’re working with. Allura’s material doesn’t tend to crack as easily as HardiePlank, which means that you’ll need a little less of it, and that it will cost about 15% less to install on average. This makes the average installation costs for Allura between $4 and $8 a square foot, while installation costs for James Hardie range between $4.60 to $9.20 a square foot.
This makes the installation of 2,000 square feet of siding about $15,640 for Allura and $17,280 for HardiePlank, assuming the same style and reveal of siding was used.
Keep in mind that if you live in a cold climate, and choose to use James Hardie, your costs for the same project could climb as high as $34,000 for their premium material. This product is formulated differently, and is roughly twice as thick – ⅝-inch instead of the standard 5/16-inch that both Allura and HardiePlank use.
Options and Styles
Both companies put out a wide range of products meant to give you options for customizing the look and style of your home.
Allura puts out both a traditional (wood grain) and smooth lap siding in sizes 5 1/4″ x 12′, 6 1/4″ x 12′, 7 1/4″ x 12′, 8 1/4″ X 12′, 9 1/4″ x 12′, and 12″ x 12′. All of these sizes are available in their traditional lap siding ready to paint and in their full range of colors and stains, while the smooth lap is available ready to paint or in any of Allura’s 25 solid colors.
James Hardie also makes a wood grain (CedarMill) and a smooth lap siding. CedarMill and smooth lap are available in a single size in a full range of colors – 8 ¼” x 12’. Their other sizes of CedarMill and smooth lap – 6 1/4″ x 12’, 7’ x 12’, 7 ¼” x 12’, 9 ¼” x 12’, and 12” x 12’ – are ready to paint only.
Both companies also make a full line of shingles as well.
Allura has several different shingle lines to choose from, all of which are available in their full range of 25 colors and their wood stains, as well as ready to paint. These include:
- 5” straight edge shingles
- 7” straight edge shingles
- 7” staggered edge shingles
- 7” perfection shingles
In addition, Allura also makes an individual shake, which can have either a staggered or straight edge (varying sizes or one single size), which are available primed and ready to paint.
James Hardie makes a smaller range of sizes and shapes, which are available both in their full range of colors as well as ready to paint. These include:
- 7” straight edge shingles
- 7” staggered edge shingles
- 7” individual shingles
Both companies also offer options for vertical siding, architectural panels, soffits, and trim. In addition, James Hardie also offers their Artisan collection, which is an extra thick lap siding with deep shadow lines.
Colors and Stains
With the exception of a few primed to paint options like their shakes, all of Allura’s siding options are available in a range of 25 designer house siding colors. Many of their materials are also available in their range of 5, natural looking wood stains as well.
This color is made by PPG Paints and applied using Allura’s ColorMax system. The system ensures a smooth application of paint with a matte finish, and seals in the color to help make it resistant to the weather and use outdoors. This finish is given a 15 year warranty.
James Hardie has a standard 15 color options for their siding. They use a process called ColorPlus, which helps make the color resistant to UV rays and prevents it from fading. Using their system, they do offer a custom color option in their Dream Collection. This allows you to choose from up to 700 colors to be applied to select James Hardie products. The ColorPlus system also has a 15 year warranty on the finish of the siding.
Cost vs Value
Fiber cement siding has been a good return on investment on homes for several years now. According to reports, residing a home with fiber cement gets a return on investment of roughly 84.3%. This means that if you spend $14,000 siding a home with fiber cement, it will raise the value of your home by about $11,802 – money that can recoup at time of resale.
This is because regardless of the manufacturer, fiber cement siding is durable, attractive, low maintenance, and long lasting. Residing a home using fiber cement gets a better return on investment than siding with wood, vinyl, or aluminum, making both James Hardie and Allura a good investment in your home.
Allura and James Hardie Pros and Cons
Like all materials, fiber cement has its positive and negative attributes. Both Allura and James Hardie share a lot of these.
In addition to being a great way to add value to your home, fiber cement siding is really durable. It’s insect resistant, flame resistant, and moisture resistant. It’s unlikely to chip or crack, and both materials have a 15 year warranty on the finish.
Fiber cement also has a Class A wildfire resistant siding rating, and it’s more durable and holds up better than vinyl. While it can be difficult to find a recycling center, fiber cement is recyclable. You can also paint it, so you can change the color whenever you’d like.
It’s important to keep in mind, though, that fiber cement can be heavy, which can mean a higher cost of installation when compared to the installation costs of other materials like vinyl. It’s also difficult to cut, because it requires either a blade that can cut through cement or a special tool for slicing it cleanly. If you choose a blade, it’s important to use a filter and respirators, as cutting the material can release silica dust into the air – a known respiratory aggravator that can cause illness.
Finally, due to the heavy, rigid nature, the boards can break or crack when dropped. In addition, if the material is over-tightened it may crack during installation. Due to the weight of the boards, it’s common to have at least two installers handling each plank, which can increase installation costs when compared to other materials.
Alternatives to James Hardie and Allura
While these are the top two brands for fiber cement siding, and offer the most options, there are other fiber cement companies to consider as well.
GAF Weatherside: Roofing company GAF makes a range of fiber cement siding shingles. They’re designed to match old asbestos-based fiber cement if you need just a few shingles replaced, or they can be used over the entirety of the home. They have three shingle lines – Purity, which has a straight, wavy, or slightly irregular edge, Profile, which has a straightedge and a pronounced grain, and Emphasis, which has an irregular edge. All shingles come in a limited range of colors with a 25 year warranty.
Nichiha: Nichiha Fiber Cement has been making commercial fiber cement siding products for more than 20 years. They also have a line of residential siding products that have the same commercial quality. Benefits include a color match system that allows them to match any existing color. They have a line of both cedar-look and smooth planks and shingles as well as a limited line of panels.
Because this company deals primarily with commercial applications, some installers have never used it and therefore won’t work with it for residential applications.
LP Smartside: LP Smartside is a wax-coated siding made up of wood fibers held together with resins. This isn’t a true fiber cement, as there is no sand, silica, or Portland cement in the mixture, but in some ways it does resemble the fiber cement product. It comes in 6 sizes of lap siding, and can be found with a few finishes or primed and ready to paint.
KWP: This is an engineered wood siding made with 100% recycled wood content. They have two lines, with two different product ranges including lap siding, vertical siding, and shakes. Naturtech has 8 styles of lap siding as well as vertical siding and Eco-Side has 3 lap siding styles and and 1 staggered shake.
Choosing Your Best Siding Material
Both Allura and James Hardie are quality products that can add years of durability and beauty to your home while raising its value. Both have a wide range of colors and styles to choose from, and both have a 15 year warranty on their finish. Allura has a 50 year warranty on their siding, while James Hardie has a 30 year warranty. Allura has several more options for shingles and for prefinished plank siding, while James Hardie has the option of a thicker siding plank as well as their standard 5/16-inch. Cost ranges for both do overlap depending on the size and style of siding, and installation you are receiving. Whichever material you choose, however, you are sure to get a quality material that will enhance your home.