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Before siding, read the instructions

Re-siding or cladding your new home is a big decision. All of your options come with certain assurances and different price points. In the case of fiber cement siding, assurances typically include the following:

  1. Non-flammable
  2. Insect resistant
  3. Hail resistant
  4. Holds paint longer than wood

Each manufacturer offers its own warranty. In the case of James Hardie, a 30-year, non-prorated warranty is generally provided with your purchase. However, warranties usually offer protection only if the product is properly installed.

Fiber cement siding indestructible?

Some people think that fiber cement siding is indestructible. This is unfortunately not the case. As with virtually any building product, improper installation can lead to problems. James Hardie has invested heavily over the last ten years to educate installers, builders, remodelers and design professionals on proper installation techniques. The company has also created the industry's "best practices" for installation of fiber cement siding. Even with this extensive outreach, not every installer is fully-educated.

Water management for high quality installation

Water is the single most destructive force when it comes to buildings. It promotes the growth of destructive molds and mildews, enables rot, draws insects to the building, and expands when frozen, wreaking havoc on buildings. Effectively managing water is the hallmark of properly installed building materials. Fiber cement is no different.

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When we look at a snapshot of James Hardie's installation requirements, we can see they are mainly geared around effective water management. James Hardie requires clearances where roofs and walls meet, where the siding meets the ground (grade), and where the siding meets hardscapes such as decks and patios. These clearances allow water to move freely without affecting the siding. A clearance is also required above any horizontal flashing. This is meant to allow any water that gets behind the siding an opportunity to get out--and yes, water may get behind the siding at some point.

Another important detail that is often overlooked is kick-out flashing. This little piece of flashing can have a significant impact on your building's ability to effectively manage water. Flashings should be located at the edge of the roof where it intersects a wall. They divert water away from the wall keeping it from going behind the siding.

Carefully review James Hardie's installation best practices before you invest in a new fiber cement exterior.

Supporting products

James Hardie employs a concept called the "1-percent rule." The cost to install siding on a home is highly variable, but let's considers a siding installation that costs $9,000. There are a number of items that are likely to be required for the installation such as fasteners, flashings and caulk. All of these items combined may cost less than 1 percent of the $9,000. So why compromise the quality of these products? A box of premium stainless steel nails might cost $160 compared to a box of galvanized at $90. So for $70, a fraction of the overall cost of the job, you may move to a much higher quality nail. The pennies saved on cheaper accessories may very well haunt you down the road.

Follow manufacturer guidelines for installation and supporting products to ensure satisfying results.

About the Author

Matt Spencer is the National Installation Manager for James Hardie Building Products, the largest manufacturer of siding in North America. Matt and his team educate installers, builders, and design professionals on the proper techniques to install fiber cement siding. Matt also works with James Hardie's R&D group to develop and improve installation practices for new and existing products. Matt has been with James Hardie for eleven years holding prior positions in sales and product development. He earned a master's from Northwestern University in product design and development.

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