Fiber Cement Siding -
It's a Serious Contender!
DEAR TIM: My husband and I are building a new home. The style will blend both clapboard
siding and stucco-like panels. Wood rot is a major concern. Vinyl siding does not appeal to
me whatsoever. I am looking for an attractive solid material that will not rot and is wind and
fire resistant. I grew up in an old home that had a hard weather resistant siding material. Is
this material still available? Jill - Manitowac, WI

DEAR JILL: This is your lucky day! Your parent's home was very likely covered with a fiber
cement product. The technology is nearly 100 years old. Cement fiber siding products are
still manufactured today. New styles, sizes and products will allow you to cover the exterior
of your new home with a rot, fire, wind and insect resistant material. Fiber cement siding
products represent some of the most exciting exterior products available to homeowners

At the turn of the century a French company was making fiber cement siding and roofing
plates that had a unique ability to resist "fire, frost, acid and ants." This material was
exported worldwide in vast quantities from Australia to America. There are thousands of 80
and 90 year old homes in my own home town that still have this original material on their
exterior walls and roofs. Fiber cement building materials have a proven track record for
resisting rot - that is a fact!

Years ago the fiber cement products incorporated asbestos as the fibers. Soon after it was
discovered that asbestos posed a serious health hazard, cellulose was substituted as the
fiber material. Portland cement, ground sand, additives and water make up the balance of
this wonderful building product.

Fiber cement building products are attractive. You can choose from a variety of clapboard
siding styles that have embossed wood grained texture or smooth finish. The siding
products come in a multitude of widths that will permit you to have clapboard exposures
ranging from 4 inches up to nearly 11 inches. The stucco panels you desire are also
available. You can purchase those with a smooth, stucco, or vertical rustic groove
appearance. The rustic panels have a wood grained finish with recessed vertical channels
spaced at 4 or 8 inch centers. You can even purchase fiber cement soffit panels to finish the
underside of your roof overhangs.

The fiber cement products are complimented by numerous weather resistant vinyl trim and
ventilation accessories. The trim pieces are used at inside and outside corners, where soffit
pieces abut against one another and as a flashing material when the stucco panels abut
one another. The vinyl trim pieces are extremely tasteful. They must be used if you want your
fiber cement siding and stucco panels to block wind driven rain and snow. The vinyl trim
readily accepts paint.

Fiber cement siding planks offer a unique capability. Because of the rigid nature of the
product, you can blind nail many of the available sizes. Each clapboard is nailed
approximately 1 inch from the top edge. The next overlapping piece hides the nails below.
This allows you to produce a siding job free from the polka dot appearance nails cause on
many traditional wood sidings.

Your color options are virtually unlimited. 100 percent water based acrylic paint grips
cement fiber products exceptionally well. The siding planks and stucco panels also accept
stains. Because the cement products do not expand and contract to the extent that wood
does, paint rarely peels and blisters.

I intend to use cement fiber siding on the next house I build. Aside from its many positive
features, it is competitively priced. Fiber cement siding in my region costs slightly less than
the highest quality vinyl siding. Redwood siding costs two and one half times more than fiber
cement siding. Fiber cement products are ideal for remodeling or repair jobs as well. I urge
you to give it serious consideration.

Author's Notes:

March, 1998

I just received an e-mail from Bev A. in Atlanta, Georgia. She indicated that fiber cement
siding in that region "...had a warped look to the exterior when regarded (viewed) from the
side." This condition could be an installation defect and/or a workmanship error. The wavy
appearance might have been caused by using wall studs that were not crowned properly (all
humps pointing the same direction) or using wall studs that had a huge range of crowns or
none at all.

She called the manufacturer and was told that the siding had probably not been
backprimed. The point is this. Manufacturer's instructions must be followed by the builder.
You need to make sure that this happens. Sure, I know you expect the builder to do this, but
here is a possible instance of where a builder might have taken a shortcut. The Web now
allows you to gather good information about critical aspects of home construction. Take the
time and educate yourself and you will be rewarded with a great job! Be careful out there!