The top two engineered lap siding brands are the defending champion HardiePlank fiber cement and the up-and-coming contender LP SmartSide engineered wood siding.via Upside to SmartSide
This guide covers both products from all angles that matter to a homeowner – Looks, durability, cost of materials and installation, and pros and cons of each option. Let’s get started!
Material Composition Comparison
Both materials are engineered rather than naturally occurring.
HardiePlank Construction: The James Hardie company blends cement, fine sand, wood fibers and water to form HardiePlank siding.
The cement gives it strength and impact resistance, while the fibers hold the cement together to prevent cracking. The materials are naturally resistant to rot and insects.
LP SmartSide Construction: LP Building Products makes SmartSide siding from wood strands that have been coated with wax for moisture resistance and bonded with resin and other binders.
Zinc-borate SmartGuard solution is added to protect against rot and insect infestation. The coated fibers are compressed for hardness and durability. Planks are finished with a resin-saturated overlay.
These are very attractive siding products made in a range of options.
HardiePlank appearance: There are four series of HardiePlank siding. They are Cedarmill plain and beaded and Smooth plain and beaded.
The cedar-style siding has an open-grain finish. Each of the series is available in more than 15 colors, and all are applied with Hardie’s baked-on ColorPlus technology. HardieTrim boards are often used to complete the installation.
via James Hardie
LP SmartSide appearance: This siding is manufactured in six different styles. They are Cedar Texture lap, Cedar Texture shakes, 12” bold double-lap and triple-lap profiles, 16” double/triple/quad profiles, Colonial beaded and Smooth.
LP has a unique program of selling unfinished siding to qualified prefinishers that put a finish coat on the material for retail sale. As a result, LP SmartSide lap siding is available in dozens of colors.
Some of the LP Preferred prefinishers are Diamond Kote, Coastal Coatings, PSPI and Northwest Factory Finishes. Primed LP SmartSide is available at a lower cost and is ready for you to paint.
Cost and Return on Investment
Both LP SmartSide and HardiePlank are comparably priced materials, so unless you’re watching pennies very closely, this probably won’t be the deciding factor.
Return on investment or ROI, refers to the percentage of the total cost recouped at resale. This doesn’t take into account the enjoyment factor or energy savings.
For example, if the expected ROI on siding were 60% for a project that cost $10,000, the new siding would increase the sale price by about $6,000.
- HardiePlank cost: $2.00-$4.00 per square foot for siding and all trim accessories
- HardiePlank installation: $5.50-$9.00 per square foot
- HardiePlank total cost: $7.50-$13.00 per square foot
- HardiePlank / fiber cement siding ROI: 83% to 86%
- LP SmartSide cost: $1.85-$3.75 per square foot for siding and all trim accessories
- LP SmartSide installation: $3.50-$8.00 per square foot
- LP SmartSide total cost: $5.35-$11.75 per square foot
- LP SmartSide ROI: 82% to 87%
Pros and Cons Comparison
There are more similarities than differences between HardiePlank and LP SmartSide siding products.
HardiePlank fiber cement positives:
- The 30-year warranty is not reduced each year (prorated), as is LP’s SmartSide warranty
- The HardiePlank warranty is transferable once
- Can be repainted
- Resists warping and cracking due to the wood fibers in the mix
- Is very resistant to fire and insects
- Is moisture-resistant when the paint finish is in good condition
- The material is heavier than LP SmartSide and might require two installers per piece, a fact that increases installation costs
- Must be repainted as needed, usually every 3-10 years
- Improper installation such as fastening the material too tight will cause cracking, and data shows these issues are more common than installation issues with SmartSide engineered wood siding
- What seems like a minor impact from a baseball or wheel of a push mower can cause crumbling of the area affected
- A cement blade is required for cutting
- A respirator, or at least a quality dust mask, should be worn when cutting HardiePlank
LP SmartSide positives:
- The LP SmartSide 5/50 warranty covers a total of 50 years
- Hail damage from hail up to 1.75” in diameter is covered
- Good general impact resistance from balls, bumping into it, etc.
- Planks are available up to 16’ vs. 12 for HardiePlank, and this means fewer seams and faster installation for lower cost
- More styles are available
- Lightweight and easy to work with for one person
- Cuts more easily than fiber cement, so a standard saw blade is sufficient
- Locking clips speeds and secures installation
- Less dust when cutting
LP SmartSide negatives:
- The warranty covers defects 100% for just the first 5 years. The pro-rata deduction is 2.2% per year starting in year 6. So, for example, defects that develop in year 10 would be covered 100% less 2.2×5, or 11% resulting in 89% coverage (67% after 20 years)
- The warranty does not cover Alaska and the Pacific Northwest where heavy rain and high humidity are part of the climate
- Improperly applied coatings are likely to flake, and the coatings are covered by the applier, not by LP
- Must be repainted as needed, usually every 3-10 years
- Edges cut during installation should be primed and painted to prevent moisture penetration
- The predominance of wood in the mix makes SmartSide siding more susceptible to fire, though it does have a 1-hour fire rating
Here are the main installation considerations with respect to the choice of materials:
HardiePlank installation: James Hardie uses what it calls the HardieZone system. HZ5 (climate zones 1-5) materials are made for climates prone to freezing.
HZ10 (climate zones 6-10) are made for zones where winter temperatures are milder. Also, at elevations above 2,000 feet in CA, OR and WA, HZ 5 products should be used. Make sure that you use the right product for your zone.
LP SmartSide installation: Keep in mind the regions of the country where some SmartSide siding products are not warrantied, specifically Alaska, Hawaii, Northern California north of 1-80 or west of the Cascades in WA, OR and CA.
Most building supply retailers in those high-rain, high-humidity regions don’t sell this material, but it’s ultimately up to the homeowner to make sure they’re installing a product suitable to their area.
The Bottom Line
If either product is available in your region, climate zone, then consider these “bottom line” points:
If you’re planning to install the material yourself, LP SmartSide is a clear winner because it is lightweight and easy to cut.
If total cost is a “must” factor, then SmartSide is slightly more affordable.
If you plan to move at some point, then either product’s warranty is sufficient. However, if you plan to live in your current location indefinitely, Hardie’s 30-year non-prorated warranty gives you worry-free peace of mind.
Frankly, while the LP SmartSide warranty lasts 20 years beyond Hardie’s, it is prorated, so it loses value every year, and most homeowners are ready for a siding change by that time anyway.
Finally, LP SmartSide engineered wood lap siding is easier to install than HardiePlank fiber cement lap siding, and there’s some data to suggest there are fewer installation errors with it.
If you don’t want the hassle of calling the installer back to repair loose or buckling material, then SmartSide has a clear advantage. 😉