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Installing fiber cement panels: what to know

Fiber cement siding comes in a number of shapes and sizes, and panels are one of the most versatile and cost-effective of these products. They work well where plywood, OSB, or T-111 have historically been used -- sheds, board and batten siding and Tudor-style siding. Manufactured in four-foot widths and eight-, nine- and ten-foot lengths, the panels come in various textures that include wood grain, stucco, grooved -- to mimic T-111 -- and smooth. Smooth panels with metal extrusions create a sleek, modern look and are gaining in popularity.

board and batten fiber cement siding panel 

fiber cement panels create Tudor style

Matters of aesthetics

Unlike many wood panels, fiber cement panels are square edge -- meaning they do not have a tongue-and-groove or shiplap edge. It seems like a minor detail, but unlike wood, the fiber cement panel requires two rows of nails at the joint, which makes addressing the joints somewhat of a challenge depending on the look you are aiming for.

You have a number of ways to finish the joints including the following:

  • Butting the panels tight. When aesthetics are less of a concern, butting the panels together is probably acceptable. To help improve appearance, take care to line the fasteners up straight, and be very careful not to over drive the fasteners.
  • Using batten strips to cover the fasteners. If you are going for a cleaner look, one in which the fasteners are covered, try batten strips. The battens lie over the fasteners completely concealing them. Battens can be arranged horizontally and vertically to your liking.
  • Using some type of joiner, such as a metal extrusion. Joiners can be used to both express the joints and to conceal the fasteners, but they only cover the fasteners at the edges of the panels. Joiners made of extruded metal are common in applications with a modern aesthetic.

contemporary fiber cement siding panels

Panel installation tips

Before you install fiber cement siding panels, review these four tips:

  1. The panels are heavy; a 4-by-8 panel weighs nearly 75 lbs. Consider panel installation a two-person job.
  2. Think about what the layout will look like on the building. Hanging the panels is a little like setting tile -- but on a much bigger scale. Aim to avoid having small pieces left over -- they can be a real challenge to integrate pleasingly into the design. Spending time early on to get the layout right can prevent headaches down the road.
  3. Consider the fasteners and fastener schedule. Fiber cement panels have separate fastening schedules based on local wind load requirements, fastener type, frame type, and the height of the building. There is no one-size-fits-all fastener schedule. Consult www.jameshardie.com for the correct schedule.
  4. The framing of the building might need some enhancements. When the panels join, it can be difficult to line up two rows of fasteners onto a 1½-inch stud. Adding another stud at the joints is a simple way to ensure the panels are securely fastened. For complete installation instructions, visit www.jameshardie.com.

fiber cement siding panel installation

With a little patience and forethought, you should be able to create some amazing panelized designs.

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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