Siding installation throwdown: fiber cement vs. vinyl

Siding installation throwdown: fiber cement vs. vinyl

When it comes to fiber cement vs. vinyl siding, the difference in installation is about as different as the products are. In a nutshell, vinyl siding is easy to install, and fiber cement is difficult.

Though you will find that product costs vary widely, you can estimate that fiber cement siding will cost around 50 percent more to install than vinyl. Here's why.

Vinyl-siding installation

Vinyl siding is easy to cut and handle: It trims with shears and is relatively lightweight. When new, it is flexible and difficult to break.

When installing vinyl siding, keep in mind its generous heat expansion. The panels are cut 1/4-inch to 1/2-inch short and nail slots are provided in the panels; the head of each nail should be about 1/16-inch above the surface to allow the panels to move.

Vinyl siding requires special trim pieces for corners, windows, lighting and faucets, which add some expense to the project, maybe $600 to $1,000, depending on the size of the job.

Fiber-cement siding installation

At least six issues make installing fiber-cement siding a much more complex chore:

  1. Weight: About 50 percent heavier than wood, fiber cement requires more muscle power to install.

  2. Fragility: It breaks and must be handled carefully.

  3. Silica dust: When a board is cut, the particulate matter can damage your lungs.

  4. Tools: Specialized and expensive, diamond blades are designed to reduce dust, but a 7 1/2-inch blade will cost more than $50, while a 10-inch blade can approach $100. Power shears will cut fiber-cement board without dust, but not as cleanly as a blade; power shears cost more than $200.

  5. Water damage: Sensitive to moisture, fiber cement must be kept dry before installation. Any cuts should be sealed with acrylic latex paint. Caulking should be high quality and applied properly.

  6. Paint: Unless you buy pre-painted siding, you'll need to add several coats of exterior paint .

In the installation battle of fiber cement vs. vinyl siding, vinyl wins hands down. For most houses, fiber cement will cost at least $5,000 beyond the materials. Vinyl siding generally costs two-thirds of that, maybe less.


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