Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. It’s a statement that can be agreed upon by many homeowners around the US. The look of your residence depends on many factors, like landscaping, colors, shingles, and even the decision between vinyl siding or fiber cement. You want something that is going to look amazing but also fits within your budget.
That’s why we have come up with a guide to help you choose between vinyl siding and fiber cement siding, the two most popular choices available for your home.
What is Vinyl Siding?
According to the US Census Bureau, vinyl siding has been the number one exterior wall covering for the past 20 years. Vinyl is made out of 80% PVC plastic. Because of the affordability, durability, and ease of installation, many new homes since 2010 have been built with vinyl siding. To give it room to expand and contract throughout the seasons, vinyl siding is not nailed directly to the house.
While vinyl siding can be crafted to imitate wooden shingles, logs, stone, and lap boards, it does not imitate wood and stone well, due to lack of depth and thickness.
What is Fiber Cement?
Based of the popular brand manufactured by James Hardie, Hardie board or Hardiplank is also known by the generic name of fiber cement. The planks are made from a mixture of sand, Portland cement, and natural wood fibers that can give it a wide range of patterns and looks. Fiber cement is attached directly to a house with nails.
Fiber cement can resemble stone, wood, cedar shingles, wood shake siding, and logs convincingly. The thickness of the cement aids in the imagery.
Both types of siding come with innumerable options. The color varieties for both fiber cement and vinyl are endless. You are sure to get the color you want; and even if you can’t get the color you want, both materials can be painted without problems.
Fiber cement tends to fade with time. You will have to repaint the surface every 5-10 years to keep the vibrancy of the color. Periodic caulking is also required to prevent rot and moisture damage. This preventative maintenance can become time-consuming and costly.
If you purchase pre-painted vinyl, the color will last many years in fair weather and may never need repainting. Constant direct sunlight can wash out the colors, however. At any time the vinyl siding looks dingy, you can wash it with soap and water. If you want to paint over vinyl siding, keep in mind that you can only go lighter. Painting a darker color over your current side will cause heat to be absorbed into the siding and trapping there. This could result in warping.
Do you want to simplify installation? Then consider this:
- Fiber cement is a heavy material that can be difficult to handle. One hundred square feet of Hardiplank weights about 300 pounds, while vinyl siding of the same amount weighs only about 65 pounds. Fiber cement can break easily if not handled correctly. Because of this, professionals are required to install fiber cement correctly.
- Vinyl siding is by far the easiest kind of siding you can install, and the chances of damaging it during installation. No special tools are needed, making it great for DIY.
For those who are concerned about the environment and saving money on their utility bills, fiber cement could be the better choice. Unlike vinyl siding which is made from PVC plastic, fiber cement comes from natural sources and is inert—meaning it won’t give off harmful chemicals. PVC, if burned, releases poisonous dioxins.
Both types of siding are efficient at keeping heat, cold, and the elements from affecting the interior of your home. You might think that because vinyl is thinner, it would be worse at insulating your house than fiber cement. If you use insulated vinyl, the R-value (or insulating ability) increases through a process called thermal bridging. Vinyl has an R-value of 0.61. When coupled with housewraps, the R-value can go past 4.
On the other hand, fiber cement alone has an R-value of 0.5. It’s recommended that you install a housewrap prior to using fiber cement because that increases the R-value to 4.
Durability & Maintenance
One factor you should prioritize when determining the best siding option for you is durability, and to a lesser extent, longevity of the purchase. You want to know that you’re getting your money’s worth.
- Durable before, during, and after installation; however, vinyl material is thin, measuring only 0.0040-0.046 inches of thickness.
- Resistant to mold, pests, and rot, but only fire-retardant. In extreme heat and fires, vinyl will warp or melt.
- Usually has a warranty of 25 years.
- With proper maintenance, vinyl siding can last for 20-40 years.
- Can be power washed
- Loose siding must be fixed as soon as possible, otherwise, it could cause damage to the internal structure of your home.
- Doesn’t need to be repainted and is considered low maintenance.
- Stands up strongly to fire, harsh and extreme weather conditions. Fiber cement is also mold, rot, and pest resistant.
- Hardiplank is thick, with the average being around 5/16 of an inch to ¼ of an inch.
- The only disadvantage is that fiber cement can crack during settling and installation.
- Comes with a warranty that lasts 30-50 years. Hardie board has a peeling and paint warranty of 15 years.
- Can be power washed.
- With proper care and upkeep, fiber cement can last for 100 years.
- Requires re-painting and re-caulking every 5-10 years
There is no clear winner, as we hinted to earlier. The champion of siding depends on your needs, after all! For homeowners looking for a durable, eco-friendly, and aesthetically pleasing choice, fiber cement is for you. Conversely, if you have a smaller budget and less time for maintenance and re-caulking, vinyl siding could be right for you.
Hopefully, this has helped answer some of your questions! If not, don’t hesitate to send us a message.
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Want to learn more about whole home remodeling in PA? Check out our Ultimate Guide to Remodeling Your Luxury Home.