When you install it on the side of your house it will not rot. It will not burn or melt in a fire. Termites will never eat it. The wind won’t affect it and neither will the cold. Freeze-thaw cycles are a non-issue. It is virtually maintenance free. It will hold paint for over a decade. Strong UV radiation will not undermine its usefulness. Unlike, vinyl, it will never warp or buckle. It does such a good job of mimicking wood and stone and brick and stucco that it is often accepted in historical districts. And it delivers all this at a fraction of the price of other house siding materials. What is this high-tech wonder product? It is actually a version of a building material that has been in use for over 2,000 years — fiber cement.
Image Credits: Kramer Construction
The Castel Sant’Angelo, a mausoleum constructed for the Emperor Hadrian that was the tallest building in Rome when it was finished in 138 AD, was constructed with concrete walls. In 1824 a British stone mason named Joseph Aspdin heated a finely ground mixture of limestone and clay in his kitchen and pulled from his boiling vat a hydraulic cement that would harden with an injection of water. Aspdin called his creation Portland cement since the finished product resembled a stone that was quarried on the Isle of Portland in the British Channel off the south coast of England.
The United States began receiving shipments of Portland cement in 1868. It was mass-produced for the first time in 1871 in Coplay, Pennsylvania. In Austria in 1894 Ludwig Hatschek purchased a factory for the production of rag paper and paperboard. He soon branched out into asbestos board and gaskets. To make his asbestos board rigid Hatschek played around with a number of binding agents, eventually settling on Portland cement. He ran the new product through his cardboard machines to fabricate thin sheets that were a strong and durable.
Hatschek branded his asbestos cement Eternit from the Latin word for “everlasting” and obtained Austrian Patent Number 5970 for its sale. Asbestos cement revolutionized roofing around the world as the product was developed and improved. Eventually it was discovered that asbestos in our interior environment was killing us and the fibers were replaced with wood pulp and fly ash. Today’s fiber cement siding products were introduced about three decades ago by James Hardie and are composed of the wood pulp, the fly ash, water and Portland cement.
Total Average Cost Installed:
On residential retrofit and remodeling projects, installation will involve the removal of existing siding, adding an additional cost to the project. All installation should include a weather-resistant barrier to allow the building to breathe and help prevent mold and mildew growth. With materials and hired installers, the total average cost of fiber cement siding runs between $6.00 and $11.50 per square foot. Installation costs are similar to wood and more expensive than vinyl. Your location and the company you choose to hire will have a major influence on the total cost of your project. For instance, at $1000.00 per square (100 square feet), it will cost about $15,000 to install about 1,500 square ft. or 15 squares of fiber cement siding on an average two-story house.
The price for fiber cement siding will vary depending on thickness of the panels – from 7/16 of an inch to one inch and the finish and styling chosen. Fiber cement siding such as HardiePlank® Lap Siding is sold in panels and traditional clapboards. Clapboards range from 4 inches to 12 inches wide. A standard length is 12 feet. The finish can be smooth, wood-grained or rough-sawn.
Fiber cement can also be shaped like siding shakes and shingles that are produced in strips or individual pieces. For instance, HardieShingle® siding is designed to replicate the look of cedar shingle siding often installed on Cape Cod-style homes, relaxed cottages, or ranch-style homes in a wooded setting. Styles can include wood-grain and hand-split in 4-, 8- and 12-foot strips that are set in straight or staggered courses. Fiber cement in any configuration can be custom-fabricated for climate specificity. Expect to pay from $150 per square (100 square feet) to $300 per square in material costs.
Installation will cost between $300 and $850 per square depending on the complexity of the job, your location, and the company you choose to hire. Fiber cement siding is heavy – about 2.5 pounds per square foot – and delicate. It is also flexible. Carrying fiber cement siding around a job site is a two-man job so it will not crack and panels should always be transported vertically and not horizontally to again guard against cracking. Toss in specialized tools and fasteners, unique cutting requirements and an expertise in not over-driving the fasteners into the studs, and the installation of fiber cement siding becomes a job best saved for professional installers.
ROI and Recouped Value
Fiber cement siding has achieved an impressive 84% recouped value in 2015, making it one of the best-valued exterior remodeling upgrades of the year.
Many companies sell fiber cement siding with limited warranties for a lifetime; it is generally accepted to last at least 50 years. Buyer protection against flaking and fading will run 15 years and up. If your fiber cement siding comes unpainted get a coat of primer and paint on the panels within 90 days of installation. Properly applied exterior paints and stains can be expected to stay looking fresh from seven to 15 years (especially if two coats are used to achieve a professional finish) as the composite product holds paint better than wood. Liberally coat all end grains with paint or stain. Water-based paints will work as well as oils. Maintenance is usually limited to a yearly washing down with a garden hose and an inspection of caulked joints.
Trim pieces, fascia boards, batten boards, and crown moldings can also be applied to enhance the architectural details of your house. These can made with fiber cement or wood. Homeowners should realize insurance savings with fiber cement siding in most regions.
As for green construction, fiber cement can not currently be recycled, but it is an inert material and so will not damage the environment as it sits in a landfill. And since it is virtually indestructible, there won’t be many trips to the dump with loads of fiber cement siding.
With its durability and chameleon-like ability to appear like wood, stone and stucco on the side of a building fiber cement is now installed on an estimated 15 percent of new construction homes. The material and installation is not as inexpensive as vinyl, but is comparable to wood and delivers greater cost savings with less maintenance than other siding options over the course of its long life on the job.