18 Pros and Cons of Fiber Cement Siding

Fiber cement siding is a product which affixes to the exterior of a house or other structure. It masquerades as masonry or wood, experiences wear-and-tear like concrete, and can help your home to survive some of the harshest elements of your local environment. Manufacturers create this item by mixing Portland cement with wood pulp so that you can improve the affordability, durability, and looks of your property.

This siding option is the only one that gives you the minimal upkeep function of masonry with the look of shingles, painted clapboard, or even brick and stone. Because the overall cost of this product is at such an impressive price point, approximately 15% of new homes and many remodeling efforts feature this product.

It is a remarkable surge for fiber cement siding in the residential building sector since the item has only been available for the last 25 years. Many architects are specifying that this product be used in new construction because it keeps down expenses without compromising on the aesthetics of the property. Some historic districts are even approving this item for use on properties because of its many impressive features.

If you are building a new home or remodeling your existing property, then these are the fiber cement siding pros and cons to consider.

List of the Pros of Fiber Cement Siding

1. It withstands numerous environmental conditions, including salty air.
If you own a property near the ocean, then the salty air can cause devastating damage to your home’s exterior structure in a surprisingly fast amount of time. When you use fiber cement siding for your house, then you are using a product that will withstand the elements for several years. It will even stop rain and wind damage from occurring in high-risk environments for a fraction of the cost of the other siding choices. This product can even withstand hurricane-force winds, which is a definite benefit if you live along the East Coast of the United States.

2. It is a product which is not flammable.
When you poll the average homeowner about what events scare them the most, a fire at home is usually at or near the top of the list. That’s why fiber cement siding is such a fantastic product to use for the exterior of the structure. 90% of the composition of this product comes from materials which are inflammable. Even in instances of extreme heat, this siding can hold strong.

United Home Experts tells of an incident where St. Paul, MN, firefighters responded to a blaze that was so hot, their fire trucks received damage from the incident even though they were parked almost 100 feet away. A structure close to the inferno that used fiber cement siding was entirely protected despite the high heat levels. It has a Class 1(A) rating, the highest available, and is mostly unaffected by direct flames and heat.

3. It offers an appearance which is remarkably realistic.
When you start to look at the alternative exterior options which are available for your house, many of the most affordable ones tend to look cheap, fake, or both. Your first glimpse of fiber cement siding will leave you with a different perspective. Even when you look at this option up close, the texture of the piece makes it look like real wood, brick, or stone. That means you can still enjoy the traditional look without sacrificing the many benefits that come with modern products.

4. It offers one of the best cost profiles that’s available in the industry today.
When you start shopping for fiber cement siding, then the average range for a home in the United States is between $5,500 to $18,000. The median cost of installation is just under $12,000. You can purchase planks of this material from your local home improvement store for as little as $0.70 per square foot in some locations. Even if you buy at the high end of the pricing scale, the cost is about $5 per square foot. If you opt for shingles, then they can cost anywhere between $2 to $8 each.

Your final costs will depend on the color and style that you choose for your home, but it is clear that fiber cement siding is an excellent value choice.

5. It is a product that you can paint if you don’t like the color.
When you choose fiber cement siding for your home, then there are several base colors from which to select so that your home can have the perfect look right away. If you don’t see a hue or tone that you like with this product, then you can paint over it with an exterior-grade paint without compromising the integrity of the cement.

If you can install the planks without the extra coat of paint, then you won’t see the same levels of weathering and fade that you do with other exterior options either. Fiber cement siding looks great with low-maintenance needs more than a decade after installation in almost any environment.

6. It provides you with complete protection against rot, insects, and vermin.
When you install fiber cement siding on your home, then it provides you with complete protections against rot and pest infestations. There are no seams that overlap with this siding, so you receive a layer of protection against mold or mildew formation as well. Pests don’t chew through the product either since it is made from mostly concrete. These advantages all work together to reduce the number of allergens found in the home, providing you with better indoor air to breathe without a significant HVAC investment necessary.

7. It offers industrial-strength durability with an entry-level product.
You will discover that fiber cement siding comes with many durability advantages when compared to the other materials which are available in today’s market. This product does not warp like natural siding does in high-moisture or extreme heat. You don’t need to worry about it melting like you would with vinyl siding. Exposure to UVA/UVB rays from the sun will not degrade the product. It is such a robust option that communities which see frequent severe storms that include hails or tornados will specify the use of it in their building codes.

8. It is a product which is environmentally neutral.
When you select fiber cement siding for your home, then you aren’t using a product that can release toxins when it breaks down as part of the waste disposal process. PVC siding is especially bad when considering this issue since it is a petroleum product that contributes to carbon dioxide emissions while also causing toxicity problems during disposal.

Although fiber cement siding is not recyclable, it is an environmentally neutral product that you don’t need to worry about when it is time to make a change.

9. It offers a superior level of longevity for most homeowners.
When you choose fiber cement siding for your new home or for a remodeling project, then you are selecting a long-term solution that requires minimal maintenance. The estimated maximum service life for a non-backcoated product from today’s manufacturers is typically 50 years. If you choose a backcoated version, then the maximum lifespan can reach 70 years. Even the warranty coverage for this exterior solution starts at 30 years for many producers, with some brands offering up to 50 years with your investment.

If you choose a fiber cement siding with factory paint on it, then the warranty on that element of the product is usually around 15 years.

10. It is very easy to maintain fiber cement siding.
The maintenance requirements for your new fiber cement siding are straightforward. You can spray down the structure with a low-pressure water source, such as a garden hose, once or twice per year. If there are stubborn stains, debris, or grime on the surface, then a non-scratch sponge and some soapy water will help you to clean things up. Avoid using the high-pressure setting on your washer to avoid having the integrity of the paint compromised by your efforts.

List of the Cons of Fiber Cement Siding

1. It is not available for direct order from the manufacturer.
There are always the occasional exceptions to this disadvantage, but most providers will not offer small- or medium-sized lots for distribution. That means homeowners cannot order their fiber cement siding directly from the manufacturer. You will need to purchase what you want from a local retailer or contractor who qualifies as an industrial-grade buyer. Since you cannot eliminate the middle man from the equation, there are some costs and fees that go beyond the product price to consider.

2. It comes with a higher labor cost than other materials.
If you want to install fiber cement siding on your home, then plan on living there for at least 5-7 years so that you can recoup the labor investment that you will need to make. The cost to install this siding is up to 3 times higher in some communities when compared to vinyl or aluminum options. The final expense is still lower than it would be since the manufacturing process with the fiber cement is significantly less, but you will need to install this product personally if you wish to maximize the savings.

3. It requires you to re-paint the siding at some point during its lifetime.
When you choose vinyl or aluminum siding for your house, then you almost never need to repaint it because the color stays consistent throughout the life of the product. If you decide that fiber cement siding is the option for your home, then the paint job will last for approximately 15 years before you need to address this disadvantage. You will also want to hire a professional contractor familiar with this surface to ensure that your exterior update achieves the expected result if you don’t plan the repainting to be a DIY project.

4. It is not a recyclable material.
The ingredients in fiber cement siding are considered to be inert from an environmental perspective, which means tossing it into a landfill or other form of disposal will not cause it to degrade into a damaging substance. Unlike other materials (especially aluminum) that are available for siding, this option has no recycling option. If you need to take it off of the exterior of your home for any reason, then you’re going to be throwing it away.

5. It does not offer much insulation protection once installed.
The insulating factor of your exterior siding will help to reduce heat gains during the summer months and losses during the cold months of winter. When your choice has a high R-value, then it stops the movement of energy transfers into or out of your home. If you choose fiber cement siding for your project, then the R-value of the product is only 0.5. That means you’ll need to use a superior grade of insulation inside of your walls, attic, and crawl space to ensure that your home is up to code in this regard.

Because of this disadvantage, you may wish to have your property professionally inspected if spray-foam insulation was used to keep your indoor temperatures comfortable. This product requires a specific thickness for each R-factor measurement, so if it isn’t as thick as it should be, then your home can use a lot more energy. Installing fiber cement siding over inadequate insulation could create a long-term properly for your property.

6. It is a heavy product that some home structures might not accept.
When you use a vinyl siding option for your home, then the product is fairly light. Most structures will accept the exterior protection because it doesn’t weigh down on the walls, joists, and foundation of the structure. If you choose fiber cement siding, then the outcome can sometimes be a little different.

This product contributes 300 pounds of weight for every 100 square feet you install. That’s about 5 times higher than a premium vinyl product. Since you are installing cement boards with fiber inclusions, there are specialized cutting tools required to create the seamless look. If you have an older home, then an experienced contractor may wish to have the local building inspector take a look at your property to see if it qualifies for this option.

7. It does not offer independent testing or quality controls as a product.
When you choose an alternative siding option for your home like vinyl, then you can rest assured that the testing and certification processes it goes through will provide you with the intended outcome. With fiber cement siding, there isn’t a quality control agency available right now that tests the planks. Although the producers of this option are well-established brand names in the construction industry, that doesn’t mean you are guaranteed to receive a high-quality product.

8. It may have limited availability in your area.
If you are interested in fiber cement siding for your home, then it is essential that you look for a local supplier. Because the weight of this product is significant, any shipping and transportation costs are going to eat into the savings you can experience with this choice. Some communities, especially in rural areas, may have limited availability or expertise with this option, which means the limited access could force you into a different choice for your siding. Try to consult with a minimum of three different contractors before hiring one so that you can know for sure if the results will be what you desire.

When you do select a contractor for your fiber cement siding, then make sure that they are licensed, insured, and bonded for the work they are doing. You can usually check on their qualifications by reviewing their information with your region’s secretary of state, board of labor and industries, or a similar government division.

Conclusion of the Fiber Cement Siding Pros and Cons

If you are trying to decide which type of siding is correct for the exterior protection of your home, contacting a local installer can help you to see which options are available in your community. Most contractors will provide you with an estimate at no charge, along with advice on which siding options will serve the structure of your house today, tomorrow, and well into the future.

Even if you choose fiber cement siding because it is cheaper than the other materials available locally, this product is an investment. That is why it is critical to review every option instead of jumping right into the project to ensure that your final selection is the best one for your home and family.

The pros and cons of fiber cement siding show us that this product is affordable, useful, and highly desirable from an aesthetic standpoint. Although the installation costs are a little higher, the overall savings that you can experience make this option a wise choice to consider.

About the Author
Brandon Miller has a B.A. from the University of Texas at Austin. He is a seasoned writer who has written over one hundred articles, which have been read by over 500,000 people. If you have any comments or concerns about this blog post, then please contact the Green Garage team here.