Vinyl vs Fiber Cement Siding

Average Siding Costs (1600 sq. ft.)
Most Homeowners Spent Between: Most People Spent: $6,326 - $7,645
Low End
$5,672
Average
$7,003
High End
$8,193

See costs in your area Start Here - Enter Your Zip Code


Vinyl and fiber cement siding are two of the most common siding options used in America.

Although they both offer protection against inclement weather, insects, and enhance your home’s curb appeal, their cost as well as properties vary.

So which siding material is better? Lets take a close look and compare vinyl vs fiber cement siding based on: costs durability, appearance, ease of maintenance, and energy efficiency.

If you are ready to replace your old siding, contact your local siding pros for FREE ESTIMATES!

Cost of Vinyl vs Fiber Cement Siding

When working to a budget, the total siding cost can be the deciding factor. Let’s compare some figures for siding installation:

Vinyl Siding Cost

A basic version of vinyl like “hollow-back,” costs around $6.50 to $7.50 per square foot to install. Insulated foam-back or premium vinyl will cost around $7.50 to $12.50 per square foot.

Cost of Fiber Cement Siding

To install standard fiber cement like Hardie Plank or Allura, expect to pay around $8.50 to $14.50 per square foot.

For the average American home (2,000 square feet of siding) the typical installation cost can vary between $13,000 to $25,000 for standard vinyl siding. Installing fiber cement siding on the same property can range between $17,000 and $29,000.

Pro Tip: To work out the total approximate cost of siding installation for your home, you’ll need to find the exterior square footage.

1. Measure the height and width of each side.
2. For the total square feet of each side, multiple height X width.
Verdict: Varieties of fiber cement siding will generally be more expensive.

What Is Vinyl Siding?

Vinyl siding is a strong form of plastic exterior covering for the home, used for aesthetics and weatherproofing.

Created primarily from polyvinyl chloride (PVC) resin, it can mimic natural siding materials like stone, wood, or tile.

It’s the same material used for vinyl flooring.

Vinyl siding is a very popular choice among homeowners since it’s affordable, and easy to clean and maintain.

It comes in horizontal or vertical planks, shingles, or artificial logs.

The rigid plastic material is securely attached to your home’s exterior using a method that allows it to expand and contract in varying temperatures.

Insulated vinyl siding is available for homes in colder climates or lacking energy efficiency.

Did you know? Insulated vinyl siding is essentially a standard vinyl siding backed with a solid rigid-foam insulation.

It makes the material stiffer by filling the voids behind the siding’s stepped profile. It also becomes more resistant to warping and movement.

However, it is more expensive. Insulated vinyl siding can increase the original cost by 20% to 50%.

What Is Fiber Cement Siding?

Fiber cement siding, also known as Hardie Board or HardiePlank, is named after the world-leading manufacturer for premium building products, James Hardie.

However, James Hardie is not the only fiber cement siding manufacturer, although its most famous. Other high-quality fiber cement siding brands that are worth exploring include: Allura and Nichiha siding.

This siding is strong, long-lasting, and low maintenance. It’s used on residential homes and some commercial developments.

It’s inexpensive and extremely tough – up to five times thicker than any vinyl.

Fiber Cement siding can mimic stone or wood and is easy to clean and maintain.

Fiber cement is made from a mixture of sand, Portland cement, water, and cellulose fiber (often wood pulp), formed into long boards or shingles that directly attach to your home using nails.

It’s partially rigid and provides substantial protection while maintaining some elasticity.

Did you know? Cancer-causing fiber Asbestos was originally used as the supporting material in fiber cement siding.

But due to safety concerns, it was replaced in the 1980s with cellulose fibers. Asbestos exposure is known to increase the risk of cancers including Mesothelioma and cancers of the digestive system, including colon cancer.

Vinyl vs. Fiber Cement Siding

Now let’s discuss the two types head-to-head and see which siding material comes out on top in each category.

Durability

Vinyl and fiber cement are both durable, surpassing other types of siding such as wood lap (which requires regular painting) and cedar shake (which requires regular treatment).

They both have little to zero appeal to destructive insects. They mostly attract harmless termites and carpenter ants. Insect-eating-birds tend to leave these types of siding materials alone, as neither product harbors the insects that appeal to woodpeckers.

However, if termites begin to devour a home in either sliding, they’d be interested in the organic materials found in other building foundations like wood studs, wood shavings, sawdust, and OSB underlayment.

Vinyl Siding

Vinyl siding contains 80% PVC resin. The remaining 20% components provide color, flexibility, texture, and impact resistance.

The standard vinyl siding is based on material thickness, varying between 0.40 to 0.46 inches for residential use.

Premium vinyl siding is usually more than 0.50 thick, providing excellent impact resistance, it’s less prone to cracking in freezing temperatures and slightly better insulated.

When it comes to resistance to weather-related elements, vinyl siding usually copes better in the high wind than fiber cement.

Vinyl siding is designed to last for 50+ years, and normally has a product warranty between 25 and 40 years.

Fiber Cement Siding

Fiber cement includes cement, wood fibers, and sand. Its thickness ranges from 5/16th to 5/8th inches.

It’s very firm and each board is quite heavy. It’s essentially a long thin sheet of concrete that will crack upon impact.

However, it will not warp or melt. In moderately-sized hail conditions, it will hold up better than vinyl.

Fiber cement warranties can range from 30 to 50 years. Like vinyl, it’s designed to last for 50+ years.

Pro Tip: Warranties will give you an idea of the durability of the product. Well-made products typically have lengthier warranties.

Verdict: Though vinyl siding is reasonably strong, fiber cement has the overall edge for durability. However, vinyl is far more flexible than fiber cement, therefore it can bend without cracking or breaking.

Combustibility

Vinyl siding is more affected by fire or intense heat than fiber cement. It’s treated with fire retardant, but the treatment only slows down the spread of fire.

If a home with vinyl siding is exposed to fire from a neighboring house, it will severely distort in reaction to the adjacent heat.

The same is true for BBQ grills situated too close to vinyl siding. Generally, panel replacement is the only fix for warped vinyl siding.

Fiber Cement Siding

Fiber cement comprises cement-like materials and about 5% to 10% wood fibers. This makes it difficult to burn. James Hardie considers all of its fiber cement products not to be flammable or explosive.

Pro Tip: Cutting fiber cement board produces a cloud of cement dust. Inhaling the dust could result in acute silicosis. Extreme care should therefore be taken.

Verdict: Vinyl siding’s construction makes it more combustible.

Appearance

The attractive external aesthetics of your home can not only make you feel proud but also increase your home’s value.

In terms of variety of color options, both vinyl and fiber cement siding manufacturers offer almost an endless pallet of colors and styles.

Let’s see how vinyl and fiber cement each play their part in curb appeal.

Vinyl Siding

In comparison to fiber cement, vinyl typically looks cheaper and more plastic-like, this loosing a lot of its curb appeal. Its 0.04 – 0.05-inch thickness lacks an authentic wood appearance, plus it shows dirt and imperfections more easily.

Inexpensive vinyl siding can even melt from the sun’s reflection off of a nearby Low-E glass window. This liability affects the appearance, as the siding looks damaged.

Fiber Cement Siding

Fiber cement offers authentic shadow lines and a uniform grain appearance. Due to its thickness, it can better mimic different textures like wood. It has endless design possibilities.

Did you know? Adding vinyl siding to your home can increase its value by approximately 60% – 80% of the project cost.

However, if your home is historically significant, adding vinyl siding can destroy its value.

On the other hand, fiber cement siding can increase your home’s value by 10% to 15%. This feature is highly sought after by real estate appraisers and home buyers.

Verdict: Fiber cement offers the best curb appeal.

Ease of Maintenance

Overall, Vinyl siding offers low maintenance. You only need to clean it once a year. Once the color on your vinyl siding fades, you can repaint your siding to bring back its original appeal.

Vinyl siding is easy to clean. Stubborn stains can easily be removed using a soft-bristled brush. However, power washing can cause cracks in the vinyl, which can lead to moisture problems.

Though fiber cement requires more maintenance, it looks better for longer. It requires repainting and being re-caulked (when there is no metal flashing underneath), every 5 to 10 years. Thereon, yearly washing will keep it looking clean and attractive.

Remove debris and dirt with a soft-bristled brush and a regular garden hose. Grease, oil, and other stubborn stains are easily removed using soapy water. Harsh chemicals or power washers can damage the siding’s surface. Therefore, avoid using them.

Verdict: Vinyl siding is easier to maintain.

Ease of Installation

Hiring a professional company to install your vinyl or fiber-cement siding offers peace of mind, knowing that it’s installed correctly.

However, to see whether DIY’s an option, let’s look at the nature of the installation process:

Vinyl siding

Vinyl siding is light, easy to install, and difficult to damage. Its the easiest siding to install DIY and there is plenty of options sold in Home Depot or Lowe’s.

However, incorrect installation typically leads to it cracking, buckling (a change in shape or structure), or breaking, as well as potential water damage.

Fiber Cement Siding

Fiber cement on the other hand is extremely heavy, making it difficult to transport and to install DIY. 100 square feet weighs about 300 pounds; while 100 square feet of vinyl weighs between 60-70 pounds.

It’s easy to break if not handled correctly and requires professional installation. Typically, fiber cement siding manufacturers recommend NOT to install their siding by yourself.

Pro Tip: When looking for a reputable siding installation company, consider the following:

* Licensing and insurance: they’ll need to provide you with proof that you’re protected against any work-related accidents in your home.

* Projected costs: before work begins, they’ll need to provide you with a written estimate detailing all the work and costs involved.

* Online reviews: do they have excellent reviews from satisfied clients?

* Labor and material warranties: you’ll need to know how long your chosen siding is expected to last, and what is not covered by the warranty.

strong> Vinyl siding is best for DIY.

Insulation and R-Value

The R-value measures the amount of heat a material prevents from escaping or getting into your home. Both vinyl and fiber cement siding doesn’t offer much insulation and has low R-values.

Vinyl siding’s R-value is 0.61. When joined with insulated house wraps, it can reach an R-value of 4+.

Fiber cement siding has an R-value of 0.5. For homes in cold climates, adding house wrap can increase the value to 4.

Verdict: Though not all vinyl types include insulation, vinyl wins for a more energy-efficient cozier home.

Environmental Friendliness

Let’s take a look at the ecological cost of each siding:

Vinyl Siding

The production method of the main component of vinyl – PVC – is not environmentally friendly. Nor is vinyl recyclable in many facilities. It releases hazardous dioxins when burned in landfills.

Fiber Cement Siding

Fiber cement siding is made from natural materials that won’t emit hazardous chemicals and gases. The production process is sustainable and doesn’t involve excessive fossil fuel consumption.

However, fiber cement is not renewable nor are there are any recycling options available as yet. On the flip side, its long lifespan means it won’t end up in landfill often.

Verdict: Fiber cement siding is better for the environment.

Fiber Cement vs. Vinyl Siding: Which Type of Siding Is Best?

Vinyl vs Fiber Cement Siding

(Image Source: jameshardie.com)

Vinyl and fiber cement siding both have their advantages and drawbacks. However, for overall better quality and if you’re happy spending a little extra, fiber cement is best suited for the job.

It’s up to five times thicker than vinyl, stands up against damaging winds, rain, hail, and freezing temperatures. It is fire resistant and offers years of home protection. It comes in various finishes and color options to add to your home’s curb appeal and increase its value.

However, vinyl siding suffers from a lot more wear and tear, and over time exposure to the elements makes it brittle.

It can easily crack, buckle, and wrap in changing temperatures. Wind debris and hail can also cause damage. Vinyl is not fire resistant and melts when exposed to heat.

To ensure the project is worthwhile in terms of increasing your home’s value, look for a company that can provide all the required insurance, has good online reviews, and can offer a detailed breakdown of labor and costs.

Average Siding Costs (1600 sq. ft.)
Most Homeowners Spent Between: Most People Spent: $6,326 - $7,645
Low End
$5,672
Average
$7,003
High End
$8,193

See costs in your area Start Here - Enter Your Zip Code


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