by Rob Levesque
Fiber cement siding is a durable choice among the variety of materials you can choose to put on your home. It has a number of attributes that make it appealing and possesses relatively few shortcomings. It gets good marks for being nearly maintenance free, aside from the fact that it’s a product that still needs to be painted. You can buy pre-painted fiber cement or do it yourself but you still won’t have to do it as often compared to wood siding.
While there’s nothing that says a handy do-it-yourself’er can’t install this siding, it does pose some challenges and may be best left to the professionals. There are several makers of fiber cement products and although they each have their own product lines and design features, most fiber cement products are similar. From that standpoint choosing the one that’s right for you comes down to finding the best balance between product style, what it costs and local availability.
If you’re not familiar with fiber cement siding you’re probably wondering what it is and why the quirky name. If you think it’s fairly new stuff you’d actually be wrong, as the idea of combining cement and a fibrous material has been around for a long time (just think ‘asbestos shingle siding’). This type of siding gets its name from two of the main ingredients that go into making it: Portland cement and cellulose fiber. They’re combined with sand, water and usually some proprietary additives particular to the manufacturer to form a tough, durable and stable cladding material.
Fiber cement planks are made so that the siding looks like wood. These planks typically come 12 feet long by varying widths. The width is what gives your siding it’s “reveal”, or the amount of plank that’s visible on lap siding. Panels are bigger sheets of siding, typically 4 feet by 8 feet. They cover a broader surface area per piece than planks and are often used to mimic vertical siding. Most fiber cement manufacturers make a panel that looks like cedar shakes. Some also make individual shingles that mimic the look of individual shakes.