Low-maintenance siding: Stress less with James Hardie fiber cement siding

August 13, 2021

Low-maintenance siding with James Hardie fiber cement siding

What comes to mind when you think of uses for cement? Driveways? Sidewalks? What about siding? It might not be the first thought that comes to mind, but it is a good thought that many homeowners are now considering.

What is fiber cement?

Fiber cement is made up of Portland cement; sand; water; and, in the case of James Hardie products, cellulose fibers and proprietary additives.

The water serves three purposes: It dissolves the cellulose fibers, activates the cement, and hardens it.

The cement itself consists of limestone, clay, and iron. It binds everything together.

Cellulose fibers are used to keep the siding flexible, without compromising its strength.

Benefits of fiber cement

Not surprisingly, longevity is the greatest strength of fiber cement. That makes sense, given that the main ingredient is cement. Fiber cement can last up to 50-plus years, and comes with a 30- to 50-year warranty.

Unlike wood, fiber cement is not susceptible to termites, fire, or rotting. (In fact, it has a Class 1A fire rating.) Home Innovations Research Labs showed it does not absorb moisture as much as wood. It is also resistant to warping.

Fiber cement performs well in both hot and cold weather, which is certainly a plus in the Midwest, which can have both on the same day. Furthermore, James Hardie fiber cement siding is engineered for specific climates. Fiber cement handles hail and wind-blown objects better than vinyl siding, as well.

Fiber cement is low maintenance. The most work required on a regular basis would be washing it once or twice a year. Avoid a pressure washer, which may cause damage.

Per a University of Minnesota study, fiber cement is considered the best combination of affordability, high durability, and less impact on the environment.

Unlike vinyl, fiber cement does not contain volatile organic compounds, which can cause health issues.

It’s no secret that fiber cement emulates the look of wood better than vinyl or aluminum, and comes in a variety of textures, as well. In fact, fiber cement is approved for historical building renovations, which speaks to the material’s quality and aesthetic appeal.

Fiber cement comes in 50 different colors and many different styles, from lapboards to plank, to shakes and geometric patterns.


Fiber cement is more expensive than vinyl siding, though the gap narrows when talking about foam-back insulated vinyl siding. The price range for cement fiber is $8.50 to $14.50 per square foot, including installation. Basic, hollow-back vinyl comes in at $6.50 to $7.50 per square foot installed. That price jumps up to $7.50 to $12.50 per square foot for foam-back vinyl siding installed.

While fiber cement requires little regular maintenance, it does need to be painted at least once during its lifetime. Initially, fiber cement is available in about 50 different colors, which seems like a lot, until you consider that vinyl siding comes in at least 360 colors.

Vinyl siding also has an edge over fiber cement when it comes to the R-value insulation factor. Fiber cement’s R-value is no better than .5, standard vinyl siding’s R-value is .6, and foam-back vinyl siding’s R-value is three times that, at 1.8.

Unlike aluminum siding, cement fiber is not recyclable. However, it is inert, which means it will not degrade into a dangerous substance.

Not surprisingly, fiber cement is hefty, coming in at 3 pounds per square foot.

How is fiber cement siding installed?

Fiber cement must always be stored and handled carefully to prevent damage.

Before installing fiber cement, the walls must be prepared; and flashing around windows, doors, and other openings must be properly installed.

Plywood, oriented strand board, or foam are used to sheath the walls before installation. Insulation is added, as well.

Fiber cement is nailed to the wall, either by hand or with a nail gun. Nails must be stainless steel or galvanized, and must be the right length to ensure that the siding is properly secured to the studs.

Fiber cement lap boards are installed from the bottom up, with each row of siding overlapping the previous row.

Due to its weight, the risk of it being damaged if mishandled, and the need for specialized tools to install it, installation of fiber cement is best kept to the professionals. After weighing the benefits and shortfalls, if you believe fiber cement is right for you, contact KeyPrime at keyprimeroofing.com or 952-522-2945 for a free consultation.

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