The Basics of Fiber-Cement Siding

A newer product that keeps increasing in popularity, fiber-cement siding has a host of positives for homeowners looking to build new or update their home's exterior.

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Sometimes referred to simply as cement siding, fiber-cement siding is a newer product that's replacing wood in many home applications. Before you choose the type of exterior product that works best for you, take a look at the details of fiber-cement siding.

What is fiber-cement siding?

Fiber-cement siding -- also called wood strand board -- is an exterior building material that's made up of several different components: sand, cement, and cellulose fibers. Like vinyl siding, fiber-cement siding is designed to replicate the look of wood siding.

The types of fiber-cement siding

As with wood and vinyl siding, fiber-cement siding is available in a variety of styles: shingles, clapboard, sheet form, and soffits, as well as lap siding, vertical and horizontal pieces, and stucco options. Fiber-cement siding comes in several thicknesses and densities as well as widths and lengths. It can be cut and customized to virtually any size or configuration, so individuality is one of its key selling points. "It really gives you the look of real wood," says Phil Davis, a spokesperson for the National Association of the Remodeling Industry who works with Harris Exteriors and More in Streamwood, Illinois. "It's taking the place of cedar for a lot of people."

The advantages of fiber-cement siding

One of the main advantages of fiber-cement siding is its fire-resistance, as well as its durability and ability to repel rot, termites, and other pest insects. The thicker the product, the better insulating and sound-control qualities it has, too. Fiber-cement also does not warp. Unlike vinyl siding, fiber-cement siding can be painted. However, it typically comes with a factory finish that's guaranteed to last 15-20 years, Davis says. "But you can change the colors if you like," he says.

Installation of fiber-cement siding

Fiber-cement siding is heavy, so installation isn't as easy or quick as it is with vinyl siding. It can be cut by scoring or with a saw. Fiber-cement siding is installed with nails, so in some applications those may be visible. However, the silica dust generated during construction should collect in and mask the holes.

Maintenance of fiber-cement siding

Fiber-cement siding should be cleaned as needed with a garden hose. In addition, as with wood siding, the exterior will have to be maintained periodically with paint, if used.

The cost of fiber-cement siding

Fiber-cement siding is more expensive than vinyl. "We like it better than cedar, and it holds up longer than wood with less maintenance," Davis says.

One tip from Davis: Check references of any installation companies. "Make sure they are insured and know how to properly install it," he says.

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