Siding with longevity

The constant evolution of new technology makes us desire products that can prevent problems but don’t sacrifice beauty. Ours is a society that thrives on finding new ways to prevent challenge, tragedy and natural disasters, but we also don’t want to relinquish aesthetics.

The exterior of a home is important toward this end. Catastrophes happen without our control and we search for ways to control them. Fiber cement siding offers homeowners a way to prevent the effects of nature on the exterior of their homes.

Composed of sand, cement and cellulose fibers, fiber cement siding is extremely durable. “It’s long-lasting and requires no maintenance,” says Darrin Haugan, director of marketing, Nichiha. “It holds paint for a long time and doesn’t break down from exposure to the sun’s rays.”

Benefits of fiber cement include resistance to termites, rot, impact and fire. Not only can it resist all these problems but it’s attractive. Usually painted before shipping to the site, homeowners are given the option of a wood, brick or stucco look without the associated maintenance. “In comparison to wood, it looks very similar but doesn’t have all the maintenance hassles,” says Steve Booz, director of sales and marketing, fiber cement division, CertainTeed. “Compared to brick or stucco, you get the siding look but the benefits of masonry siding. It looks realistic and can be painted any color.”

Fiber cement offers many design options for any house. “We offer it in a lot of styles and designs and it can be painted any color,” Booz says. “Lap siding is accented with shaped siding, decorative cedar products, vertical siding and soffits. It comes in smooth, cedar and specialty designs.”

As with most products, there are some disadvantages, but with fiber cement, the disadvantages are very few. One disadvantage is its weight of about 2.3 lbs. per sq. ft., which is more than other siding products. Another disadvantage to consider is its potential to crack. “It doesn’t have the flexibility of wood and it’s easier to break,” Haugan says.

Fiber cement also can wear out saw blades faster than other products. “To cut it you want to use a polycrystalline tooth blade,” says Stephanie Leupp, public relations manager, James Hardie Building Products.

Various options
Most manufacturers of fiber cement siding offer a variety of options to create different appearances. CertainTeed’s WeatherBoard fiber cement siding is available in lap and vertical siding, decorative shapes, soffits and trim. It also is available in an array of pre-finished colors and stains.

Maxitile’s fiber cement siding product line includes MaxiPlank lap siding, MaxiPanel vertical siding and MultiShake panel siding. All products are available in different sizes with smooth or textured surfaces.

James Hardie includes Hardiplank lap siding, Hardishingle siding, Hardipanel vertical siding, Harditrim planks and Hardisoffit panels in its fiber cement product line. All products are available in a variety of colors and styles.

Nichiha offers all of its products in panel form. The product line includes brick and stone panels, Sierra Premium shake panels and Sierra Premium smooth panels. These three lines offer homeowners the brick or stone appeal, shake appeal or a smooth grain appearance.

Installation of most fiber cement siding products requires it to be installed over studs with a weather-resistant barrier. Nichiha’s installation system utilizes a clip. The clip installation creates air between the panels and is designed to reduce moisture buildup. “It’s a hidden fastening system and it’s much faster,” Haugan adds.

The demand for fiber cement is mostly found in the South and on the coasts because it is unaffected by heat, sun, humidity and bugs. “It’s demanded in coastal areas because it doesn’t need to be painted as often,” Booz says. “Wood has to be maintained for painting every year and fiber cement doesn’t.”

James Hardie focuses most of the marketing for its fiber cement products in these areas. “Our first plant opened in southern California and we have an established market in the South, West, Pacific Northwest and Northeast,” Leupp says.

Market potential
Fiber cement has been around for awhile, but it has been only recently that it has taken hold of a larger piece of market share. And it’s predicted to continue growing in demand. “In 2005, fiber cement was 12 to 14 percent of all siding used,” Booz says. “Vinyl was 40 percent, wood-based was 8 to 10 percent and the rest was stucco and brick siding.”

One factor for its anticipated growth is an expected decline in demand for wood siding. “Wood is becoming harder to come by and the cost of wood is increasing,” says Marty Bender, president, Maxitile.

There is a consensus that fiber cement is going to continue to grow in demand. “It will double in size and approach 25 percent of the market in five to 10 years,” Booz adds.

The future of fiber cement rests on consumers becoming more knowledgeable of what fiber cement can do for them. “There is a misconception that fiber cement siding doesn’t look real, but there is a wide range of styles and textures available to achieve a realistic look without it appearing synthetic,” Leupp says. “People think the installation is too hard but it’s really just a new concept to them, and anything that is seen as new is seen as a challenge.”