Introduced in the 1960s as an alternative to aluminum siding, vinyl siding has since become quite popular. Made from polyvinyl chloride, or PVC, it is an extremely long lasting and durable material that can be made to match the style of most homes. In the U.S., vinyl exterior siding can be found on twice as many homes as any other siding material.
Fiber Cement Board
Cement board siding in its current form was introduced by James Hardie in the 1980s, hence the name "Hardie Board." Like vinyl, it is also extremely hard wearing and durable, but it is much heavier to work with. A vinyl siding installer will need special training before being able to install Hardie Board, but many homeowners prefer its authentic designer look. Both types of siding have their place and, depending on the homeowner's priorities, may have benefits over the other.
Cement board siding has a definite edge in durability. This product will typically come with a 30 to 50 year warranty. It is much less susceptible to weather damage and will withstand the impact of wind-blown debris much better too. Cement board doesn't change much over time. It doesn't become brittle or lose strength. It remains one of the more dependable home solutions for siding options on the market today.
Vinyl is less durable than cement board. It will need replacing much earlier too. It also becomes brittle after long exposure to a hot sun, making it less suitable for a hot climate. When it becomes more brittle, it is much more easily damaged, and then even a heavy hail storm can cause damage to the siding. Wind-blown debris will definitely pose a potential hazard to a vinyl siding that has been up for some time and become brittle. Vinyl siding will typically come with a 25 year warranty.
Since vinyl siding came onto the scene in the 1960s, energy efficiency has become much more important to the average homeowner, but so has "green building." While cement board is hardly considered energy-efficient it is a much more eco-friendly product than vinyl. Fiber cement board has poor insulating qualities, but few people rely on their siding product to provide insulation on its own. The "R-value" of cement board, or measure of insulating qualities, is around R-0.50, which is very low when one considers that fiberglass matting has an R-value of R-19.
On its own, vinyl siding is no better than cement board, however it is now possible to buy vinyl with built-in insulation. This insulated variety makes vinyl a stronger and more rigid material to work with. Its popularity has also made it possible to produce the material in a wider variety of colors.
When it comes to maintenance, vinyl definitely has the advantage. It never needs painting, and in fact, cannot be painted. Cleaning can be performed through simply washing down with a garden hose. One drawback is that you are stuck with the color you buy for the lifetime of the product. This is unlikely to be a problem for most people, however. Additionally, vinyl will never rot or disintegrate.
Cement board needs painting every five to ten years, or so. This has the advantage that you can change the color of your house at this time if you choose to. Because cement board contains wood fibers, it can degrade over time if it is not installed properly, or not properly cared for through regular painting and caulking.
Vinyl is certainly the less expensive of the two materials, which is probably why it is the more popular. Vinyl prices vary, but should be at least 10% lower than cement board. However, cement board is generally recognized as having the greater overall quality, and is usually chosen with the long-term view.
Vinyl is usually the easier of the two materials to work with and install on a building. Cement board is heavy and it requires at least two men to handle a board. Cutting cement board is also more difficult. It releases a toxic dust when sawn, and should be cut with special cutters. Vinyl, on the other hand, is very easy to work with.
Both vinyl and cement board have their advantages and disadvantages as a siding material. Both offer special benefits that the other lacks, so it really in many ways comes down to personal choice.
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