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Fiber cement siding - Installation costs, advantages, and distinctive features

Choosing the model of your new car or the paint color for your new bedroom walls are both crucial decisions, but a selection with even greater, longer-lasting consequences is the exterior material for your new home. The curb appeal of your home is not only significant to you, but it will be an essential component of your home’s future resale value. Whether you’re choosing between exterior options in a planned community or designing a custom home with the help of an architect, you may want to evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of fiber-cement siding. For most homeowners, the attractiveness of their home’s exterior is of prime importance, followed by affordability, durability, and maintenance considerations. Let’s look at how fiber-cement siding measures up against other materials such as wood, vinyl, stone, brick, and stucco to help you determine whether it’s a good match for your home’s architectural style, climate, and budget.

Fiber cement siding - Installation costs, advantages, and distinctive features

What to know before fiber cement siding installation?

According to the U.S. Census, 21% of newly constructed single-family homes in 2019 used fiber cement siding – the most of any year since they started publishing fiber cement siding data. This figure may come as no surprise to those familiar with the touted benefits of fiber cement siding, like visual appeal, strength, and long-term value.

The reason so many homeowners across the country install fiber-cement siding is that the product can be finished to look like nearly any other material, such as traditional siding, wood, brick, stone, and stucco. This versatility means it can be used for a variety of home styles. In some cases, fiber-cement siding can even be approved for use in a historic district.

Fiber cement siding comprises simple ingredients, including portland cement, cellulose fibers, sand, and water. Depending on the brand, further additives may increase strength or help it resist moisture, rot, and insects.

Maintaining your fiber cement siding requires minimal effort. Manufacturers recommend spraying the siding with a garden hose every six to 12 months to remove dirt and keep plants pruned away from the siding to avoid accumulating moisture. In addition, it’s wise to check caulked joints every few years to ensure they are still solid. 

What are the types of fiber cement siding?

Picking the right type of siding for your house involves various considerations. You’ll want something that looks good and holds up to the harsh elements but is still easy to maintain and easy on the wallet.

As with different types of wood and vinyl siding, fiber cement siding is available in different styles and textures. Take a look below to discover different types of fiber cement siding for your home:

  • Sheet fiber cement siding

Cost: $3 - $3.50 per square foot

Sheet form or panel siding is available in large sheets, usually on a 5/16 basis. You can choose from various textures to complement the look and feel of your home. Sheet form fiber cement offers an affordable, modern finish and seamless fit to your home exterior.

  • Brick fiber cement siding

Cost: $3.80 - $4.00 per square foot

Stucco or brick fiber cement siding allows homeowners to get all the color and texture of masonry without needing a professional mason. Furthermore, stucco or brick fiber cement siding won’t crack or delaminate in the future.

Smooth fiber cement panels are a low-cost alternative to stucco, and homeowners can choose from fiber cement panels that come in 5/6 or 5/8 inch thickness, varying in sizes from 18 inches by 6 feet to 4 by 12 feet.

  • Shingle fiber cement siding

Cost: $2 - $8 per square foot

This siding type comes in individual shakes and 4, 8, or 12-foot strips with either wood-grain or hand-split textures. You can choose from either straight or staggered shingles to complement your home’s unique style.

Available in a variety of shapes and sizes, you can choose primed, factory-painted, or stained-finish and decorative pieces that highlight different areas of your home.

  • Lap fiber cement siding

Cost: $1.60 - $2 per square foot

Also known as clapboards, lap siding installs much like traditional products on a row-by-row basis. They are easy to install and look great painted or stained. They are offered in various finishes, including smooth, wood-grain, or rough-sawn surface treatments.

While most clapboards are 5/6 inch thick, some styles that appear more like wood are available in 5/8 inch thickness. Not only do clapboards work well in a variety of different climates, but they also complement a variety of home styles, including contemporary and classic.

Fiber-cement siding - Maintenance

Most manufacturers advertise fiber cement as a very low-maintenance material, especially as compared to wood boards or shakes. And in general, they’re right. Due to its special curing process, this siding absorbs less moisture than other materials, meaning that it’s less prone to cracking or breaking.

That makes it extremely durable. And the cement mixture into the boards helps them withstand strong winds, storms, hail, and other weather events. It’s also fire-resistant and generally doesn’t experience damage from insects and rot. 

Here are some tried-and-true methods on how to upkeep fiber cement siding to prolong its service life:

  • Clean siding once in 2 months

Cleaning your siding is about more than merely keeping up appearances. Mold and mildew thrive on siding that isn’t washed regularly—and that can degrade your paint eventually or put the health of your household at risk.

To give your fiber cement siding a good, thorough cleaning, rent a pressure washer from a home improvement store, or use a high-pressure hose if that’s not an option. Spray from the top of the siding down. If the dust and debris are really bad, use a little dish soap to help get it clean.

Be sure to read the manufacturer’s recommendations before cleaning, however. Some siding companies recommend that you use only a low-pressure spray and a soft-bristled brush on your siding, depending on how delicate the finish is.

  • Inspect the caulking from time to time

Fiber cement itself is a moisture-resistant material. However, that doesn’t mean it can’t be affected by condensation, leaks, warping, and mold. Contractors typically use a waterproof sealant—like silicone caulk—to join the siding to other parts of the home. For instance, you might see it around door frames, brick or stone facades, window sills, and other edges.

To make sure your moisture barrier remains intact, you should inspect the caulk annually, looking for gaps and cracks that need to be repaired. Thankfully, these are easy enough to fix yourself with a little additional caulk. Just squeeze the silicone out in a continuous bead, and then smooth it down to cover the gaps.

  • Repaint your fiber cement siding 

If you choose to install fiber cement cladding, be ready to repaint it eventually. While a paint job on fiber cement siding lasts longer than wood—usually anywhere between five to fifteen years—it will eventually need to be redone. And that can be a pretty onerous—and expensive—task.

However, the life of your paint job typically depends on the type of fiber cement you purchase. For instance, if you go with a pre-painted option, where the boards come colored by the manufacturer, many will guarantee their products against chipping and peeling for around 15 years. On the other hand, primed fiber cement, which allows you to choose your own individual paint color, obviously doesn’t come with the same warranty. However, the fading of the boards over time may make you decide to paint it, in either case—and most warranties only guarantee against fading if it’s very, very evident.

  • Maintain gutters and downspouts

As you probably gathered, moisture is the enemy of healthy home siding. Another thing you can do to prevent problems here is to make sure rainwater gets properly diverted away from your siding. And that means paying attention to your home’s gutters and downspouts.

At a bare minimum, gutters need to be cleaned at least twice a year, especially in the early winter and spring, when falling leaves and debris can clog the works. After you do this, check your downspout to ensure that rainwater can flow through it freely.

Fiber-cement siding - Advantages and downsides

Just as well as any other siding product, fiber cement features its advantages and downsides. Always thoroughly examine them, as what seems minor to one homeowner can become real trouble for others.

Below you will find the key advantages that make fiber-cement siding one of the most sought-after siding materials on the market: 

  • Durability. Some manufacturers offer a 50-year warranty on the fiber-cement siding. 
  • Fire resistance. Unlike wood, fiber-cement siding stands up to the fire.
  • Insect resistance. Fiber-cement siding is not a food source for insects.
  • Low maintenance. Unlike wood, which needs to be repainted, fiber-cement siding requires minimal maintenance. 
  • Versatility. Fiber-cement siding can be designed in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors to match any architectural style or community.
  • Resale value. Fiber-cement siding is attractive to many buyers, and its long-lasting nature adds to a home’s value.

While fiber-cement siding offers many advantages, it comes with several disadvantages too, such as:

  • Expense. While prices vary according to your location, the size of your home, and the complexity of the installation, fiber-cement siding costs more than vinyl siding or wood siding, which HomeAdvisor estimates costs between $3 and $10 per square foot to install. 
  • Complicated installation. Fiber-cement siding is extremely heavy, which makes it time-consuming and, therefore, more costly to install. 
  • Not environmentally friendly. Fiber-cement siding is typically manufactured in a large factory and shipped to building sites, often from overseas. The material is also not recyclable.
  • Lack of insulation. While you can use spray foam insulation inside your walls, fiber-cement siding on its own doesn’t provide much insulation.

How much does fiber cement siding cost?

Installing fiber cement siding takes several days and requires plenty of attention to detail. The average national cost to purchase and install fiber cement siding is about $13.000, with costs ranging from $1.500 to $38.000. Exact pricing on fiber cement siding will depend on the siding’s brand and quality as well as the size and shape of your home. If your home has hard-to-reach areas, the customized siding will cost more.

For an average 1,500-square-foot home, installing fiber cement siding will cost an average of $13.000, including materials and labor. Most of that cost actually comes from labor. Installing fiber cement siding has a number of quirks to take into consideration, so professionals typically charge more to install fiber cement compared to other exterior siding types.

Fiber cement siding is heavier than other siding types and can easily crack when mishandled. Its installation requires special tools and must be installed carefully to avoid gaps. Even the smallest of gaps can allow water in and lead to water damage. While labor costs to install fiber cement siding are relatively high, most homeowners say it’s worth it to avoid extra maintenance costs down the line.

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