Fiber cement siding is gaining popularity in the home improvement industry with its durability and sturdy good looks. What is fiber cement, and how does it compare with the most commonly used types of siding material, vinyl? This page will compare fiber cement siding vs vinyl siding and discuss their costs, style options, curb appeal, maintenance and efficiency.
What is Fiber Cement Siding? An Overview
What is fiber cement siding? It is a primarily a mixture of cement and wood pulp that is pressed into planks with woodgrain texture. It can be factory primed or painted with a long-lasting coat. Fiber cement is tough and resilient, and highly resistant to fire, rot, mold and pests like termites. Often called by its most top-selling brand, Hardie Board, it stands up to harsh weather including drastic temperature swings. It is also a visually appealing option as it can replicate the deeper textures of wood grain more realistically than other non-wood materials including vinyl and aluminum siding.
What is Vinyl Siding? An Overview
Vinyl is still the market leader in residential siding. It is well known for its affordable cost and low maintenance, but it isn’t very tough. Vinyl is not fire-resistant and can be more easily damaged in severe weather like strong winds. It can replicate wood grain appearance with average quality.
Fiber Cement Siding Styles and Options
What options are there for fiber cement siding? Below is a list of styles, textures, and colors available for fiber cement.
In the fiber cement vs vinyl siding discussion, this material offers more options.
Shingles: Fiber cement is available in either straight or staggered shingles. You can get fiber cement in individual shakes or in strips of shingles that are four, eight, or twelve feet long.
Panels: Siding panels, also known as sheet form, are large panels of siding that can be installed in one solid piece to speed up installation time. Fiber cement panels are available in a few different sizes ranging from 18 inches by 6 feet to 4 by 12 feet. Panels can have the appearance of wood boards, traditional siding appearance, stucco, brick, or stone. Fiber cement panels are much cheaper than real brick or stone, and avoids the cost of hiring a professional stone mason, which can be very expensive.
Planks: Clapboard, Dutch-lap and similar styles with the look of horizontal planks adjoining or overlapping are the most traditional siding type. These long individual pieces of siding each depict one to four “individual” planks in one single extruded plank.
Fiber cement siding can be made to look like real wood, brick, stone, or stucco. This is one clear advantage over vinyl siding.
Fiber cement is available in any color you could want. Fiber cement is either factory primed or painted. If primed, it can be painted after installation using exterior house paint. Keep in mind that the cost per square foot is higher for factory-painted fiber cement than for primed material – though you’ll incur some cost painting primed fiber cement whether you hire a paint contractor or DIY. Plus, the factory coating offers superior hold and durability, so we recommend choosing factory-finished fiber cement if you can find it in a color you like.
Unlike vinyl, fiber cement color isn’t mixed with the material during production to create all-through color, so it must be painted separately. This is one disadvantage: If fiber cement is scratched through the paint layer, the scratch will be visible, and it will have to be touched up to prevent moisture penetration. Vinyl has through color, so if it is scratched, the underlying material is the same tone.
Vinyl Siding Styles and Options
Now that you’ve seen the options for fiber cement siding, take a look at the styles, textures, and colors that vinyl offers.
You’ve got similar options with vinyl, but there’s at least one price difference to note.
Planks: Vinyl clapboard, shiplap, Dutch-lap and similar horizontal profiles are available. They give you an easy and affordable way to add siding to your house.
Shingles: Shingle style is available in individual shakes or in large vinyl panels.
Panels: Vinyl panels are available in several different styles including shingle, brick, stone, and wood. Here is the cost difference – while fiber cement panels cost per square foot is about the same as planks, vinyl shingles and panels cost significantly more. The material is usually thicker and more durable too.
Vinyl siding planks are available in woodgrain and smooth/sanded wood texture. The higher-cost shingles and panels mimic cedar shingle, brick, and stone.
Because vinyl siding is a completely man-made material, the color can be mixed in with the vinyl during manufacturing. This means that the color on vinyl siding does not chip or peel. Vinyl siding is available in just about every color you could want for your home, and if you follow pro guidance on paint and technique, it can be repainted.
There are three thickness grades for vinyl siding. The thinnest is Builder’s grade at .40mm. Next is Standard Residential grade at .44mm or 46mm, and the thickest is Premium grade at .55mm, which usually has a thin piece of insulation attached.
Fiber Cement Siding Cost vs. Vinyl Siding Cost
How do these two materials compare cost-wise? We’ve put together a cost estimate for each material, which includes both an off-the-shelf price and an installed price per square foot.
Fiber Cement Cost
$3.00 – $6.00 per square foot uninstalled
$6.00 – $13.50 per square foot installed
$1.00 – $4.00 per square foot uninstalled
$4.00 – $12.00 per square foot installed
Compare vinyl siding and fiber cement siding costs with your other top siding choices!
Energy Efficiency of Fiber Cement Siding vs. Vinyl Siding
Neither fiber cement nor vinyl siding is particularly energy efficient on its own. Fiber cement has an R-value of about 0.5 while non-insulated vinyl has a slightly better r-rating of 0.61. Vinyl is also available in insulated siding that has an R-value of 2.0 – 3.5.
In terms of environmental friendliness, fiber cement tends to be greener. For starters, vinyl is a plastic product derived from petroleum, which is not great for the environment during manufacturing. Vinyl also has a shorter lifespan than fiber cement, so more vinyl ends up in the landfills in a shorter period of time. Fiber cement is mostly made from organic materials like wood pulp, so it is more environmentally friendly through the production process.
Durability and Maintenance
Which material is more durable, fiber cement or vinyl?
In most cases, fiber cement is more durable than vinyl when it is properly maintained. Vinyl is more easily cracked and damaged by severe weather like hail or strong wind, and it is susceptible to warping in the heat or cold. Vinyl is also more likely to fade over time than fiber cement.
Fiber cement is known for its strength and durability. It is highly resistant to rot, insects, and fire, and can even withstand severe weather. One weakness of fiber cement that is worth noting is that if it is mishandled during installation, it may crack. This is one of the reasons why fiber cement is not a DIY siding material – professional installation is recommended. Additionally, cutting fiber cement produces harmful dust, and precautions should be taken not to breath it.
Fiber cement also requires repainting after about 15-20 years, while vinyl does not.
ROI & Curb Appeal of Fiber Cement Siding vs. Vinyl Siding
Fiber cement siding is able to increase the curb appeal of a home more than vinyl siding because most homeowners feel that it looks more natural, realistic and higher quality than vinyl siding. Fiber cement siding has return on investment of 70-75% at the resale of the home. Vinyl siding also increases the resale value of a home, but not as much. Vinyl is estimated to have a 60-65% ROI, also called cost-to-value in the building and real estate industry.
Other Siding Options
Vinyl siding is often compared with aluminum siding for looks, cost and durability.
But these aren’t your only alternative siding choices. We’ve completed an overview of today’s
Which Type of Siding is Better, Fiber Cement or Vinyl?
Now that we’ve gone over all the main features of fiber cement siding vs. vinyl siding, you may still be wondering which type is the best overall. The real question to ask as a homeowner is which type of siding is best for your home and lifestyle.
As with many home improvement materials, you get what you pay for. Vinyl is an affordable option that offers a lot of benefits, including rot resistance and endless design possibilities.
If you are on a budget and want to spruce up your home without breaking the bank, vinyl siding may be the best choice for you. However, vinyl siding is not as sturdy as fiber cement and won’t last as long.
Fiber cement siding is an investment that has a bigger upfront cost than vinyl siding, but it can last 30 years or more and boost your home’s curb appeal and resale value more than vinyl will. It is also tough and durable, so if you are able to spend a little more up front, fiber cement is the superior material.