What Is Fiber Cement Siding?

Updated: Nov. 24, 2023

Fiber cement siding has emerged as a powerhouse in the residential siding market. Why is it so popular, and should you choose it for your home?

Siding can make or break the look of a home. Attractive, well-maintained exteriors enhance curb appeal and provide peace of mind, so it’s no wonder homeowners are increasingly turning toward durable, cost-effective fiber cement siding.

Builders installed fiber cement siding as the primary exterior wall cladding on 22 percent of all new homes in 2021, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the U.S. Census Bureau. That’s an increase every year since 2005 when HUD started tracking fiber cement siding separately.

Is fiber cement siding a good choice for your next home or remodeling project? Let’s take a look.

What Is Fiber Cement Siding?

Fiber cement siding means manufactured planks, shingles or panels installed on the exterior face of a building to protect it from the elements. Often stamped with a wood grain texture and painted, it looks like regular wood siding. But it resists water and pests better, and it doesn’t burn.

Fiber cement siding is made from Portland cement, sand, cellulose (wood pulp) and water. Before fiber cement siding came onto the market, similar products were made with asbestos instead of wood.

HardiePlank is an extremely recognizable example of fiber cement siding; James Hardie brought the technology to market in the 1990s. But other products, like Allura Lap siding and GAF WeatherSide shingles, are major players as well.

Pros of Fiber Cement Siding

Fiber cement siding brings a high return on investment, according to the 2022 Remodeling Impact Report from the National Association of Realtors. Eighty-six percent of the costs are recouped on resale; only a new garage door and a new roof return more.

Fiber cement siding is so high value because it’s:

  • Attractive: It looks like real wood.
  • Durable: It’s made with cement, so it lasts.
  • Resistant: Doesn’t rot and pests can’t damage it.
  • Paintable: Or it can come prefinished.
  • Non-combustible: Fiber cement siding won’t burn.

Cons of Fiber Cement Siding

The cement holding it together gives the siding its strength, but also makes it prone to breakage. Fiber cement siding must be stored and transported carefully to avoid chipping at the corners.

Other potential drawbacks include:

  • Needs repainting: Not every year, certainly, but probably every 10 to 15 years.
  • It’s heavy: For DIY installation, grab a friend.
  • Not a good insulator: You’ll need to buy high-quality insulation to make up for it.

How Much Does Fiber Cement Siding Cost?

Expect to pay about $5 to $13.50 per square foot, including labor. Your actual project cost depends on where you live, what style of fiber cement siding you choose and the complexity of the job.

When compared to installation costs of other types of siding, fiber cement is about in the middle. Vinyl siding runs about $3 to $12 per square foot, while wood is $2 to 5 per square foot. Brick ($9 to $28 per square foot) and stone veneer ($35 to $50 per square foot) are more expensive. Cost estimates from angi.com.

It’s not the cheapest option, but fiber cement siding’s durability and lower maintenance makes it a cost-effective choice in the long run. Here are a few tips to help you estimate house siding costs.

How To Install Fiber Cement Siding

If you’re thinking of DIYing this, beware: If you do it wrong, you’ll compromise the integrity of the installation and likely void the warranty.

Of course, professional installation will cost more. But a pro will bring the right tools and the right crew, and finish the job faster than a homeowner-install nearly every time. Plus, pros generally guarantee their work for some limited period, giving you options if something goes wrong.

Installing it yourself saves money up front, but mistakes will be expensive if you lose the protection of the factory warranty. Fiber cement siding installation requirements are specific, from the fastener type and depth to the kind of flashing needed to the clearances required between the siding and other areas of the house.

You’ll need a circular saw or miter saw with a diamond-tipped blade, a pneumatic nail gun and carbide hole saws for drilling holes for pipes and other wall penetrations. You’ll also need a jigsaw for intricate areas, like under eaves and soffits, plus basic carpentry tools like a Speed square, level and chalk line.

Fiber cement siding gives off silicosis-causing silica dust, so proper dust management and personal protective equipment are necessary as well.

If you’re an experienced DIYer with the tools and know-how to tackle this job, here’s how to install fiber cement siding correctly.

How Long Does Fiber Cement Siding Last?

The typical warranty period runs 30 years for most brands, like HardiePlank and Allura Lap Siding. Look for a warranty that’s not prorated over the life of the product, and one that can be transferred to the next owner should you sell.

For factory-painted fiber cement siding, the paint job itself is usually warrantied for 15 years. Repaint your siding to get the best life out of the next 15 years.

Properly maintained, fiber cement siding can last 50 years or more.

Fiber Cement Siding Maintenance Tips

Maintenance is key to getting the longest life out of fiber cement siding.

  • Wash fiber cement siding once or twice a year with a garden hose and a soft brush.
  • Re-caulk as necessary around wall penetrations, flashings, butt joints and windows/doors.
  • Repaint with acrylic, never oil-based.

When washing siding, don’t set your pressure washer too high or you could damage the finish. Don’t exceed 1,500 pounds per square inch (psi) and stand at least six feet away. A garden hose is best.