When fiber cement was introduced it didn’t take long for it to pick up steam and take some market share away from vinyl siding, which is still the leader in exterior cladding. Many home owners like the wide reveal, wood grain, sturdiness feel of the fiber cement siding in comparison to its vinyl counterpart.
The opportunity to paint cement siding in any color is also seen as an advantage over vinyl siding by many home owners. However, because any painted product is going to require some maintenance, such as repainting and caulking repair, homeowners who want low maintenance often lean toward vinyl siding.
Vinyl siding regained some of the popularity it initially lost when manufacturers developed insulated vinyl siding with wider reveals to compete with the look of cement board.
It was actually the addition of insulation to vinyl siding that it made it possible for manufacturers to achieve a larger reveal, more like real wood and fiber-cement siding. The insulation added rigidity that made it possible for the product to perform well with six- to seven-inch reveals. Of course, that’s in addition to the benefit of energy savings. So now customer’s could get a wider reveal that looked more like wood and add energy efficiency to their home.
Nonetheless, there are still differences in the appearance of the two popular siding choices. Most notably, vinyl siding requires certain details and accessories to allow for expansion and contraction – forces which cement siding are less affected by.
To its advantage, vinyl siding can be “floated” to camouflage wavy walls, whereas fiber cement siding must be hard nailed and conforms to surface. So installing fiber cement siding on a wavy wall can accentuate the problem rather than mask it.
Additionally, vinyl siding will not rot because there are no wood fibers like fiber cement products. Special care in installing fiber cement is necessary because of the presence of wood fibers.
Furthermore, vinyl siding is lightweight and easier to install than the fiber cement products. This usually translates to lower labor cost for the homeowner.
Some fiber cement products also contain a hazardous product called silica dust that requires special consideration when working with the products. Vinyl siding presents no hazards during the installation process.
Fiber cement requires specific clearances to protect panels against moisture, whereas vinyl doesn’t because the moisture doesn’t affect vinyl.
Vinyl siding is virtually maintenance free, requiring only occasional, routine cleaning. Fiber cement will need to be repainted and re-caulked, as mentioned earlier. And for many homeowners, that’s really what the choice comes down to – do they want to sacrifice the “real wood” look and have no maintenance, or would they rather do the occasional touch up and have a more natural aesthetic.
Color usually isn’t a factor anymore because many vinyl siding manufacturer’s have developed technologies in the manufacturing process to create deeper, richer colors that will withstand the test of time. Depending on the type of vinyl used and the job specifications, the cost for vinyl siding is usually lower than the fiber cement installed cost, but in some instances – especially with insulated vinyl siding – the cost can be very similar.