We’ve been noticing large-plank fiber cement siding on houses around our neighborhood and we just love it. It’s modern looking and, according to our sources, it will last forever. Sounds like quite a step up from what we have now: painted wooden boards that were allowed to blister and flake before we bought our house, greatly reducing their longevity. A friend snapped the photo of a house in progress above, which resembles the shape of our house somewhat. I realize the above might be a bit too industrial for some, but with plantings completed I think the look is rather cool. We can’t afford to make any big changes to our house right now, so for the time being we’ll just keep slapping paint on it. In the meantime, though, I asked two friends — Steve, an architect, and Bo, an interior designer — to tell me more. Here’s what they had to say. –Mary T.
PS I also want the metal roofing, but that’s a different post.
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Bo: Everyone called the entire category HardiePlank at first because they popularized it, like Xerox or Band-Aids. The most popular is by James Hardie. The coolest is by Nichiha.
Steve: Fiber cement siding is a really big product in Japan. Nichiha comes in many different styles, some that are molded and painted to look like brick or stone. There’s also Ceraclad, which is made by Panasonic. CertainTeed also makes a version.
Where is it most commonly used?
Steve: It’s used mostly for residential, lots of multifamily. I’d bet most of the townhouses you see with beveled siding have HardiePlank instead of real wood. The panels are used on a lot of modern projects.
Bo: The horizontal panels are likely in the commercial section of the manufacturers’ websites because they have a modern look not typical to most traditional homes.
What are the benefits?
Steve: It’s cheaper than cedar siding; that’s why it’s used so much on townhouses. It doesn’t have the stigma of vinyl or aluminum siding. Cedar is probably $5.50 per sf, fiber cement is $3.70 per sf, vinyl is $2.70 per sf. The Nichiha and Ceraclad products would be more expensive.
It’s better for a wet climate probably, but it’s used everywhere. It’s not going to rot because it’s basically cement. If you get some of the products that are pre-stained, you should never have to paint it, so it’s low maintenance. It’s also fire resistant.
Are there any drawbacks? Is it difficult to install?
Steve: You can screw it or nail it depending on the look you want. The Ceraclad products have a special channel that’s nailed to the wall and the siding snaps into place without any screws. If you use the panel, you have to flash between them to keep moisture from getting behind the siding.
It’s a very hard material, so it’s tough on saw blades and hands. If you were going to use the planks, it used to be that you had to also use cornerboards because the cuts weren’t clean enough at the corners. But I’ve seen lots of projects without them lately, so that problem must have been fixed.
Bo: You can learn more about installation in this video at Nichiha.