Because of its price point and ease of installation, vinyl siding has captured a significant portion of the siding industry. It has been marketed as an affordable, "maintenance-free" alternative to wood. And while siding manufacturers have improved both the quality and look of vinyl siding, in the end, vinyl siding is still plastic with its inherent issues.
For those hoping to avoid the maintenance that comes with traditional wood siding have frequently chosen vinyl siding for their homes. They hope that by doing so they can find something maintenance free, durable, and attractive that can give them long term results. Unfortunately, many of those same homeowners end up disappointed or frustrated when they find that their vinyl isn’t as maintenance free as they expected. For those that want a truly durable, low maintenance, and attractive siding option for their homes, comparing vinyl to fiber cement siding may provide the answer you’ve been looking for.
Comparing Siding Types
There are a number of factors to consider while considering which siding to install. If cost is the only factor then an inexpensive vinyl siding is the obvious choice. Vinyl siding manufacturers, however, know that this is not the only determination homeowners have because they make many types of vinyl siding which make it more durable or more fade-resistant or more realistic-looking.
Durability and Maintenance
Most siding products are created to look like wood and almost all siding products look good after they are installed. Some, obviously, look more realistic than others. Some vinyl siding is less plastic-looking than others because additives can create a matte finish. Molds can create a more realistic grain.
The look of wood lap siding is what all siding try to duplicate. The more expensive vinyl sidings come close but the vinyl J-channel trim is a sure give away that it isn't. No matter the cost of vinyl siding, its plastic moldings are a sure give-away that is isn't wood. Fiber cement siding uses a trim and installation process that mirrors more closely a wood installation. And the fiber cement siding manufacturing process allows for a more realistic wood grain.
Looks aren't the only or most important factor when considing siding. How it performs over the years is. Vinyl siding boasts that it maintains its look and doesn't require refinishing. But, like all surfaces, vinyl siding is affected by weathering, UV rays, dirt and grime and over time the finish dulls and fades. While posing some problems, vinyl siding can be re-painted. Typically the graining in the siding gets covered by the coating however and with greater expansion/contraction of the siding, the paint does not hold up as well as it does on other surfaces.
Fiber cement siding comes prefinished or primed, ready to coat. The finish system that fiber manufacturers use has been made specifically for this substrate and has a 15 year warranty. Since fiber cement siding does not expand and contract like vinyl, the coating performs great. It looks the closest to painted wood than any other siding. And with the introduction of "stained" looks, fiber cement even compares with a semi-transparent stain look.
Not only does fiber cement siding look better, it also outperforms vinyl siding in many other areas. Fiber cement siding stands strong against weather extremes. Unlike vinyl, it performs beautifully in the unrelenting heat of the sun in the south and the bone-chilling cold of the north. That is because it does not expand or contract or soften and get brittle in the heat and cold. From Alaska to the tip of Florida, fiber cement is the best choice.
Fiber cement also better resists impact. Many a homeowner has tried to figure out how to replace a piece of two of siding when the lawnmower kicked up a stone, or a weed whacker got to close, or an errant golf hit is or worse yet, hail. Cracking and breaking are all too common occurrences with vinyl siding. Fiber cement is impact resistant and stands strong even against hail.
Vinyl sidings also experience "blow offs" where the wind lifts the siding off the house. Not as serious but as annoying, vinyl siding can rattle in the wind. Fiber cement siding can withstand over 100 MPH winds and have survived hurricanes. The last house standing in Hurricane Michael was siding with fiber cement siding.
Fiber cement siding has a class A fire rating which means it will not burn or melt. More and more homes in California and other fire-sensitive areas are requiring it or other non-combustible siding products to be a first line of defense. Unlike vinyl, you don't have to worry about your gas grill melting your siding or the UV rays, reflecting off you neighbor's windows, warping your siding.
Fiber cement siding is truly as low maintenance as many homeowner desire. It is a lot more durable than lightweight vinyl. In fact, fiber cement siding is so durable and low-maintenance that when compared to the time and money most people put into their siding materials and maintenance over the years, it practically pays for itself.
Color of the Siding
One of the biggest selling points for vinyl siding is the fact that the color goes straight through the materials, so if it were scratched, you wouldn’t see a color change. This is supposed to go hand-in-hand with the low maintenance of the boards, but it can leave you in a bit of a bind.
For one thing, your color choices are always going to be limited to what’s on the market right now, which means that your home color will be driven by trend, and not by your own personal taste. For some homes, this is fine, but for homes where color is a major part of the architecture, you could find that the colors you’re looking for just aren’t available. And because you can’t paint vinyl siding, if you get tired of the color after a few years, you have no options for changing this beyond completing residing your home, which defeats the purpose of choosing such a low-maintenance option in the first place.
Fiber cement siding gives you options because it can be painted just like wood siding. Choose from any of the thousands of shades and colors out there to find the perfect match for your home. If you decide that you’d like a fresh new look ten years from now, you have the option of repainting the boards just like wood. Fiber cement siding gives you options that you might not get otherwise with vinyl.
When vinyl siding first came out, it was being viewed as an alternative not just to wood, but to aluminum siding as well. Because aluminum was so flat, vinyl was considered an attractive option because it has a more realistic looking wood grain. And while it is more realistic looking than aluminum, anyone standing on the street and looking at your home can still tell that you don’t have wood on your home. Why? Because vinyl siding is actually a type of plastic, and it shows. No matter what texture or shape the vinyl is given, no matter what color it happens to be, it still has a slight plastic sheen to it. The planks also have a uniquely rounded edge that cuts under to the next boards that do not and never will look like real wood. So while your home might look nice to someone casually glancing at it as they drive by, anyone who pays closer attention is going to notice the vinyl no matter how nice a quality it happens to be.
Fiber cement siding has a more realistic appearance than vinyl does. This is because the fiber cement boards are formed to mimic the look of wood. This gives the finished boards the actual texture, shape, and appearance of wood siding. They have natural-looking edges and corners, as well as a more natural-looking grain that looks just like wood siding from the road. So now you can have low maintenance durable siding, with the look and texture of real wood.
Green Building Friendly
Green building is a major concern with many homeowners right now, and on the surface, vinyl seems like an attractive option for those who are concerned with the environment. After all, no wood is cut or trees harvested to form the vinyl planks. The manufacturing of vinyl, however, is not at all environmentally friendly. During the forming of these plastic planks, tons of VOCs or Volatile Organic Compounds are given off into the air, which can have a devastating effect on greenhouse gasses, and the environment in general. Vinyl planks do not decompose, and are difficult to recycle as well, so if you decide ten years down the road that you’d rather have another siding choice that they will likely end up in a landfill.
Fiber cement siding is a much more environmentally friendly choice for your home. No VOCs are given off during its manufacturing process, so it’s much less harmful to the environment. Some forms of fiber cement siding also use green building materials in their formation, such as recycled glass in the reinforcing mixture. No chemicals are used and all of the materials break down or recycle much easier than vinyl, so you don’t have to worry about polluting the environment with this product.
As an added bonus, fiber cement siding is also naturally flame retardant without any additional chemicals applied to its surface. Therefore fiber cement siding can actually help to protect your home in the event of a fire. Vinyl siding offers less protection, and if your home were to catch fire, vinyl siding would melt, releasing additional VOCs into the atmosphere.
The price of your new siding is always going to be a contributing factor to what you eventually decide to put on your home. When comparing vinyl to fiber cement siding, you need to consider the quality of the product, and that product’s durability as well as the overall cost.
A good quality vinyl siding, meaning a siding that looks more attractive and is more durable than some of the other, less expensive options will run you a little more than $10 a length for the material. High quality fiber cement siding usually costs less – typically around $8 a length. Adding in the fact that all fiber cement siding, even the less expensive options, are still going to be lower maintenance and more durable than the highest quality vinyl, and fiber cement siding always comes out on top.
Part of the cost of any product also includes any ongoing maintenance that may need to be done over time as well. Fiber cement siding is less likely to break, crack, or require repairs than vinyl, which means that over the course of a ten years span, you’ll be saving even more money with fiber cement than with vinyl.
Most homes and homes that are over 50 years old in particular are under insulated, meaning that they don’t have enough insulation to make them truly energy efficient. So when it comes time to replace the siding on your home, you may want to consider an option that can help improve this. Both vinyl and fiber cement on their own are not great insulators, but both do allow for the addition of insulation behind them to help improve the energy efficiency of your home.
Increased Resale Value
Your home’s curb appeal plays a big role in what you can sell it for, as well as how quickly it sells, and nearly everything that you do for your home in terms of improvements can help you increase its resale value. According to the annual Cost Versus Value reports from 2005 to 2011, people who installed fiber cement siding recouped between 80 and 105% of the cost at time of resale. This is slightly above vinyl siding costs for the same period, which hovered just below 80%.
Make the Right Choice for Your Home
When it comes to choosing a new siding for your home, you have a lot of factors to consider. Selecting the material that’s right for your home’s exterior, however, may be as simple as comparing attributes between popular types. Fiber cement siding may not have been around for as long as vinyl, but it’s quickly becoming the go-to choice for homeowners that want the best of both worlds – durability and maintenance free siding that is also attractive and able to be painted in a rainbow of colors. If you’ve been considering vinyl for your home, be sure to take a good look at fiber cement siding as well; you’re likely to find that fiber cement makes the better choice for your home.