Fiber Cement Siding: The Complete Homeowner’s Guide

What is Fiber Cement?

Fiber cement is one of the most popular types of siding for both residential and commercial uses. Fiber cement gets its name from the fact that it’s made from both cement and cellulose fibers. It was originally made with asbestos, but that was replaced by cellulose fibers due to health concerns.

How is Fiber Cement Siding Made?

Fiber cement siding is made by mixing regular cement with cellulose fibers. The addition of cellulose fibers adds reinforcement to the cement and makes it stronger and more durable.

Once the fiber cement has been created, it’s then manufactured into boards and sheets. These are used for siding applications, cladding, soffit lining, tile underlays, and as a substitute for bargeboards and timber fascias in high fire areas.

Pros and Cons of Fiber Cement Siding

Image Credit – johnmccarterconstruction.com

Fiber Cement Siding Pros

Fiber cement siding is incredibly durable. It’s non-flammable, impervious to rot, insects, and warping, and resistant to weather conditions like high humidity or salty air. Asidie from it’s durability, fiber cement can be a very stylish and aesthetically pleasing material as well. It can be styled to mimic stone, brick, natural wood, and other materials. Not only that, but you can also paint over it if you don’t like the current look of your fiber cement siding. 

Fiber cement siding is also cost-effective, with the average cost of materials and installation coming in at a very reasonable price for the value it offers. It’s also considered a low-maintenance material and will last a long time once installed. Fiber cement is an environmentally-neutral material, making it safer for the environment than many other types of siding.

Fiber Cement Siding Cons

One of the cons of using fiber cement siding is that you have to buy it from a retailer in most cases, which comes with a few more fees and considerations than if you were to buy it directly from a manufacturer. It also has a higher installation cost than most materials.

Fiber cement siding is also non-recyclable and needs to be repainted about once every 15 years or so. Other cons of fiber cement siding to consider are the fact that it is a heavy material and may not fit well with certain types of frames. It’s also poor at insulating and needs to be supplemented with superior-grade insulation to attain reasonable energy-efficiency. 

Fiber cement siding is largely untested for quality control compared to products like vinyl. So, although it’s rare you’ll receive a shoddy product, the door is open for it to open. It may also be hard to find a local supplier in rural areas, which is a problem because the cost of shipping fiber cement is immense, due to it’s heavy weight.

Average Cost of Fiber Cement Siding

As far as straightforward costs go, fiber cement siding is relatively cheap. The average cost to side a home with fiber cement is anywhere from $5,000 to $18,000 in America.  The average cost of fiber cement siding installation is around $12,000, but individual planks of fiber cement can be found for as low as 70 cents per square foot. $5.00 per sq ft is about the average price you’ll find for this material. Fiber cement shingles will cost you anywhere from $2 to $8 per sq ft.

Fiber Cement Siding Installation

The fiber cement installation process is rather simple. It requires all the expected safety gear like ear muffs, goggles, workgloves, a circular saw, and a respirator mask. First, the walls of a home will be sheathed with either plywood, OSB or foam. Then, this sheathing will be covered by felt paper or a housewrap. Next, the fiber cement siding will be cut, sheared, and/or scored to the sizes and shapes that the home requires. 

Fiber cement siding is fastened to the studs with roofing nails and siding nails, with the nailing able to be done by hand or with a nail gun. The corner trim is installed first, with the fiber cement siding being installed immediately afterwards. There are various different styles of siding that can be used with fiber cement such as common horizontal siding, board and batten siding, vertical siding, and more.

Regardless of the siding style, fiber cement needs to be painted immediately after its been installed, unless its been factory primed, in which case you can wait as long as 6 months before painting. All joints and ends should be caulked before a 100% acrylic, latex paint is laid as a topcoat.

Fiber Cement Siding Types

1. Lap Siding

  • Lap Siding is used mainly for residential siding purposes. It can also be used for commercial siding as well. 
  • The average cost of lap siding comes out to about $1.60 per sq ft.
  • Fiber cement lap siding is installed using the above-described installation process. 
  • The two types of lap siding are smooth lap and traditional lap. 
  1. Smooth lap siding is smoother in texture and looks more seamless from a distance.
  2. Traditional lap siding has more pronounced edges and usually has a rougher surface texture, usually resembling the texture of wood.

2. Shingles and Shake

  • This type of fiber cement siding is used to side buildings. It offers a unique and different style compared to lap siding.
  • It costs $2 to $8 per fiber cement shake.
  • Installing fiber cement shingles and shakes is a bit different from installing lap siding because there are many more pieces to deal with. In general, professionals recommend using a staggered approach, as opposed to the perfectly symmetrical pattern of lap siding. Installation can start in the middle of the wall, and work upwards and to either side as each piece is nailed into place.
  • There are 5 types of shingles and shakes. Combed MultiShake Staggered, Combed MultiShake Straight, Half Round, Traditional Multishake Staggered, and Traditional Multishake Straight.
    • Combed MultiShake Staggered
      • This type of fiber cement shingle features combed vertical lines on each shake, with a staggered pattern.
    • Combed MultiShake Straight
      • This shake has combed vertical lines on each shake and features a perfectly straight pattern along the bottom edge of the shakes, as opposed to the alternating lengths of the staggered variety.
    • Half Round
      • The half round shake is rounded at the bottom of each shake. Textures may vary.
    • Traditional Multishake Straight
      • This shake also has no combed vertical lines and has perfectly uniform lengths, unlike the staggered variety.

3. Panel Types

  • Panels are another type of fiber cement siding and are used for siding buildings. Though typically found in commercial applications, panels can be used on residential homes as well.
  • Fiber cement panels typically cost anywhere from $3 to $3.50 per sq ft.
  • The installation process for fiber cement panels involves installing an outside corner track on a wall for capillary space, then sliding the panels in and fastening them next to each other one at a time. The process may vary depending on different designs and features but the actual fastening of the panels to their desired positions is basically identical, requiring a drill and screws.
  • There are 4 types of fiber cement siding panels, O.C. panels, stucco panels, traditional panels, and smooth panels.
    • The O.C. panel features 8” vertical grooves along the length of each panel.
    • The smooth panel has a smooth texture.
    • The stucco panel has a stucco texture.
    • The traditional panel has a texture like the O.C. panel, without the 8” groove throughout each panel.

Does Fiber Cement Siding Fit Your Climate?

  1. On the west coast and in areas with drier weather, fires are a non-issue. You can even get a discount in some places if you have fiber cement siding because it’s non-combustible. 
  2. On the east coast and in areas with high winds, fiber cement siding is perfect thanks to its ability to withstand winds of up to 130mph.
  3. In the north, fiber cement siding performs admirably because it can withstand below-zero temps, won’t crack in the cold, and doesn’t become brittle.
  4. In the south, you won’t have to worry about fungi or termites because neither of them can survive in fiber cement. In short, fiber cement siding is perfect for all climates.

Fiber Cement Siding Application in Residential and Commercial Buildings

Fiber cement siding is perfect for both residential and commercial applications. Commercial buildings tend to use it more because they usually have a stronger framework that can handle the heavy weight of fiber cement panels, but many homeowners use fiber cement siding on their residential homes and are nothing less than impressed with the results. 

Fiber Cement Siding Application in Residential and Commercial Buildings

Fiber cement siding is perfect for both residential and commercial applications. Commercial buildings tend to use it more because they usually have a stronger framework that can handle the heavy weight of fiber cement panels, but many homeowners use fiber cement siding on their residential homes and are nothing less than impressed with the results. 

Comparison of Fiber Cement Siding against other alternatives

1. Fiber Cement Siding vs Wood Siding

Fiber cement siding is more durable than wood siding and lower-maintenance as well. While wood is usually cheaper than fiber cement, wood siding needs regular maintenance and is vulnerable to termites, insects, rot, and warping as well. Fiber cement can also be designed to look exactly like wood.

2. Fiber Cement Siding vs Vinyl Siding

Fiber cement is far more durable, longer-lasting, and better-looking than vinyl siding. While vinyl is the cheapest siding material and doesn’t require a lot of maintenance, it’s incredibly fragile and not very aesthetically appealing. Vinyl is more likely to be locally available, however, and costs far less to ship.

3. Fiber Cement Siding vs Steel Siding

Fiber cement and steel stack up rather similarly. Steel generally costs a bit less than fiber cement, and can be installed faster as well. Neither material is vulnerable to water damage, insect damage, or fires. Both can be styled to look like a variety of different materials. They are also similar in energy-efficiency. The color of steel tends to fade, though, and it is more stylistically limited than fiber cement.

Fiber Cement Siding Repair and Maintenance

Fiber cement siding is a relatively low maintenance material. It involves washing down the siding once a year with a basic garden hose, as well as brushing side to side with a soft brush to remove any dirt or debris. 

Touch-up kits are sold by some companies in case you need to patch up any holes or light damage to your fiber cement siding. You should also take care to direct downspouts away from your siding, as well as prevent any contact with de-icing salts that can erode your siding. 

Fiber Cement Design Inspirations

Soft Allure

Image Credit: Allura USA

For a soft yet visually impressive aesthetic, light colors mixed with snow white trim are a great choice.

Classic Colors

Create a classic look with the ever-popular red/white siding and trim combo.

Rustic

Log home designs and rustic exteriors are one of fiber cement’s most popular siding options.

Bright and Vivid

Bright colors and dazzling designs are also possible with fiber cement.

Bold and Unique

Stand out from your neighbors with this unique and sleek siding style.

A Perfect Blend

Show off your eye for style with the perfect blend of colors and tones.

Deep, Rich Colors

Wrap your house in a mix of rich, deep colors that stand out from the landscape.

Fiber Cement Siding Manufacturers 

1. Allura

Allura is one of the most prestigious fiber cement companies in the industry right now. They offer the full range of fiber cement siding options and have been enjoying success for over 75 years. They are also renowned for their culture of  in-house excellence.

2. James Hardie

Based out of Ireland, James Hardie offers a variety of interior and exterior home products, including fiber cement siding. They have been in business for over 100 years and continue shipping their products around the world today. 

3. Nichia

Founded in 1956 Nichia has been not just selling, but creating fiber cement products for residential, commercial, and industrial use. They offer everything from fiber cement siding to architectural wall panels and more.

4. GAF Weatherside

This company is one of the largest waterproofing and roofing companies in the world. They offer fiber cement siding as one of their many innovative products. While roofing is their speciality, they are a premier fiber cement siding option as well.

Choose Fiber Cement Siding For Your Home Exterior

Fiber cement siding is one of the best options for your building when it comes to siding. There are a handful of reputable fiber cement companies to source your materials from and a wide range of designs and styles to choose from. No matter what climate you’re in fiber cement is perfect for your building. The installation process for fiber cement is relatively quick, and there aren’t very many downsides to using it as siding. 

Whether you own a residential home, commercial property, or industrial building, fiber cement siding is durable, low-maintenance, stylistically diverse, and reliable enough to meet all your siding needs and then some.

Fiber Cement Siding Frequently Asked Questions

1. How to Cut Fiber Cement Siding?

You can cut fiber cement with a circular saw, shears, or by scoring it. Scoring it will leave the edges jagged, however, so the circular saw is the most popular choice for cutting fiber cement.

2. How Long Does Fiber Cement Siding Last?

Properly maintained fiber cement siding can last over 50 years.

3. How to Repaint Fiber Cement Siding?

Repainting fiber cement siding is incredibly simple and can be done by anyone in most cases. If your siding is unprimed, you’ll need to prime it with an acrylic primer before painting. If it is primed or you’ve already primed it, simply wash it off with a low-pressure water hose, and paint it like normal. Use a brush, roller, and/or sprayer to add as many coats as you see fit. 

4. How Often Should Fiber Cement Siding be Painted?

Every 10 to 15 years fiber cement siding should be repainted.

5. Does Fiber Cement Siding Increase Home Value?

Yes. The average fiber cement siding installation will give you around an 84 percent return onm your investment, larger than most other remodeling projects.

6. How Much Does it Cost to Re-side a House with Fiber Cement?

It largely depends on the size of your home, but the cost per square foot for fiber cement siding ranges from $5 to $13.50 per square foot. The average home is sized between 1,500 and 2,500 square feet. This means you can expect to pay a rough ballpark estimate of anywhere from $7,500 to $27,000 for a fiber cement siding installation. 

7. Is Fiber Cement Siding Dangerous?

If your fiber cement siding was installed before or around the 1980’s it could contain asbestos. Fiber cement siding made after that only poses a threat during the cutting process, where silica dust could get into your lungs. In general, however, fiber cement siding is perfectly safe. 

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