Choosing the model of your new car or the paint color for your new bedroom walls are both important 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, your climate and your budget.
Basics of Fiber-Cement Siding
Fiber-cement siding was introduced to the housing market in the late 1980s as a replacement for cement siding that included asbestos, which was found to be harmful to people. Made of cellulose fibers, cement and sand, fiber-cement siding is among the most durable and fire-resistant options for your home’s exteriors.
One reason fiber-cement siding has become popular for many homeowners and builders 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.
According to HomeAdvisor, fiber-cement siding costs from $5 to $25 per square foot installed and from $0.70 to $15 per square foot for the materials alone.
Maintaining fiber-cement siding requires minimal effort. Manufacturers recommend spraying the siding with a garden hose every six to 12 months to remove dirt and keeping plants pruned away from the siding to avoid accumulating moisture. In addition, it’s wise to check caulked joints every few years to make sure they are still solid.
The exterior of any house is exposed to the elements such as sun, wind and rain, as well as severe weather or natural disasters such as hail, hurricanes, tornados, and sometimes wildfires, so it’s always important to take your climate into consideration when choosing the right material for your home. Fiber-cement siding is one of the few materials that performs well in any climate:
- If you live in the western United States, which is prone to wildfires, fiber-cement siding can be the best choice because it’s fire-resistant. In fact, some insurance companies offer discounts for homes built with fiber-cement siding in those areas.
- If you live in a coastal area with salt air, humidity, sun exposure and the potential for hurricanes, fiber-cement siding provides the advantage of being unaffected by those elements. Professionally installed fiber-cement siding can withstand winds of up to 130 miles per hour.
- If you live in a northern climate with cold winters, fiber-cement siding is also a good option because the material doesn’t crack in freeze-thaw cycles and can withstand below-zero temperatures.
- If you live in a southern climate with high humidity that is vulnerable to pests and mold, fiber-cement offers protection because it’s not a food source for termites and fungi. The material also stands up well to intense sun exposure.
Pros of Fiber-Cement Siding
In addition to fiber-cement siding’s adaptability to any climate, its other advantages include:
- Durability. Some manufacturers offer a 50-year warranty on fiber-cement siding.
- Fire resistance. Unlike wood, fiber-cement siding stands up to 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 it’s long-lasting nature adds to a home’s value.
Cons of Fiber-Cement Siding
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 typically costs more than vinyl siding or wood siding, which HomeAdvisor estimates costs between $3 and $10 per square foot to install.
- More difficult to install. 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.
Architectural Styles and Fiber-Cement Siding
Fiber-cement siding can be purchased in a variety of sizes, shapes and styles. The material can be painted or stained in the factory or primed to be painted or stained on-site at your property, which means your color choices are unlimited.
Fiber-cement siding is available as:
- Clapboards. You can purchase clapboards, also known as lap siding, that can be smooth, wood-grained or rough-sawn depending on your taste and the style of your home. Boards are available in a variety of widths from 5 to 12 inches.
- Shingles. You can buy individual shingles or strips of shingles in lengths of 4, 8 or 12 feet that have wood-grain textures.
- Panels. Fiber-cement panels resemble stone, brick or stucco, providing the look of a masonry home with less concern about cracking or future maintenance.
- Decorative shingles. You can purchase fiber-cement shingles to create patterns such as board-and-batten or sunburst panels.
If you want a modern minimalist look, you can install large panels of fiber-cement siding. Installing more than one style of fiber-cement siding panels provides texture and interest to a home. You can also install fiber-cement trim for a low-maintenance exterior with the style you want.
Besides using different shapes of fiber-cement siding, you can play with contrasting colors for a transitional modern style. For example, you can install siding that resembles a dark wood and then use a neutral color palette on the rest of the house.
No matter which architectural style you choose, fiber-cement siding can be used to provide a durable exterior that complements your home.
Michele Lerner is an award-winning freelance writer, editor and author who has been writing about real estate, personal finance and business topics for more than two decades.