Fiber cement siding was introduced to the building trades in the early 1970’s. Before this time wood or asbestos-cement siding was widely used throughout the U.S. However, as health risks associated with asbestos materials became more well known, the EPA banned the use of asbestos in the U.S. in new building products in 1973.
Fiber cement siding began to grow in popularity as a better alternative to wood siding because it offers the following advantages.
Less expensive than traditional wood siding
Looks like real wood
The truth is fiber cement siding can be a better alternative to traditional wood siding if properly installed and well maintained.
Fiber cement siding that is not installed strictly to the exact specifications of the manufacturer is the number one reason for product failure. This isn’t always a result of shoddy workmanship.
In addition to the install specifications changing every year, many homeowners ask their contractor to ignore some of the specifications because they don’t like the look a certain specification may create.
Many homeowners do not want to see the wall flashing where their roof meets an adjoining wall. Almost every customer I have worked with has asked me to leave no more than ½” between the siding and the roof. I have to explain to them that this will completely void any warranty provided and will eventually cause the siding to fail. This is because water is the enemy of fiber cement. If water ever gets behind the siding, it will cause deterioration and mold.
There are specific clearance specifications for anywhere there is a potential for moisture to get behind the siding.
In addition to the recommended clearances, another specification many customers prefer their contractor ignore is how James Hardie recommends that seams are dealt with.
This is a specification that has recently changed. Up until a few years ago the engineer recommended that all seams be caulked. This hid the seams pretty well.
Then engineer realized that the fiber cement would expand and contract with temperature changes differently than the caulking, and this caused constant maintenance in order to keep water from infiltrating the siding and causing deterioration and mold issues.