Vinyl Siding vs. Fiber Cement & Hardie Board Comparison Guide

By HomeAdvisor

Updated January 19, 2022

House with gray vinyl sidingVenerala – stock.adobe.com

Fiber cement and vinyl siding both make fine siding options for home exteriors—and they don’t chip like brick and stucco. Vinyl costs less to install but isn’t permitted on historic homes. Fiber cement looks more natural but tends to fade and requires more maintenance. Read on as we compare the differences between fiber cement and vinyl siding side by side.

On This Page

  1. What’s the Difference Between Fiber Cement Siding vs. Vinyl Siding?
    1. Vinyl Siding
    2. Fiber Cement
    3. Hardie Board and Hardie Plank
  2. Fiber Cement or Vinyl Siding: Which Is Better?
    1. Cost
    2. Appearance
    3. Durability
    4. Maintenance
    5. Energy Efficiency
    6. Ease of Installation
    7. Environmental Friendliness
  3. Which Is Best for Your Home: Fiber Cement or Vinyl Siding?
  4. Pros and Cons of Fiber Cement (Hardie Board) vs. Vinyl Siding

What’s the Difference Between Fiber Cement Siding vs. Vinyl Siding?

Fiber cement and vinyl siding are both popular siding choices that safeguard the exterior of your property from the elements and improve your curb appeal. But knowing the differences between the two can help you make a well-informed decision for your home and budget.

Vinyl Siding

Vinyl siding is made from PVC (polyvinyl chloride) plastic and is available in various colors and styles, including planks, shingles and shakes. Vinyl is a popular siding choice because it’s affordable and easy to install and maintain, making it good for DIY installation. Vinyl comes in insulated options, which can improve energy efficiency compared to non-insulated vinyl but is more expensive.

Fiber Cement (Hardie Board)

Fiber cement is a mixture of Portland cement, sand, water, cellulose fiber, and sometimes wood pulp. Its material is highly durable and comes in faux wood or stone finishes. Fiber cement siding is sustainable, environmentally friendly and easy to maintain. Unlike vinyl siding, you can paint and stain fiber cement with the proper application.

Hardie Board and Hardie Plank

Fiber cement siding, also called HardieBoard or HardiePlank, is named after the manufacturer, James Hardie. James Hardie’s product is highly durable and made from Portland cement and wood pulp. The material mirrors wood and stone and is fire-resistant, low maintenance, weather-resistant and insect-resistant.

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Fiber Cement or Vinyl Siding: Which Is Better?

When deciding which siding is best for your home, it’s important to weigh all the qualities of siding across the board. We’re examining the qualities in eight core areas from price to environmental impact to help you decide which is better for your home.

Fiber Cement Siding Vinyl Siding
Cost $5 – $25 per square foot for materials and installation $5 – $11 per square foot for materials and installation
Appearance Looks close to the authentic texture of real wood or stone Doesn’t look like natural wood or stone
Durability Can last 50 years Can show signs of wear in 10 years
Maintenance Needs more maintenance than vinyl Low maintenance
Energy Efficiency Not energy efficient Insulated vinyl offers some energy efficiency
Ease of Installation Easy to install More difficult to install
Environmental Friendliness Made from environmentally friendly materials but can emit harmful dust when cutting Manufacturing process requires the use of fossil fuels

Cost

Best bargain: Vinyl

When comparing siding costs, it’s important to know the square footage of your home to allow pros to calculate accurate costs.

Fiber Cement

Fiber cement siding costs $5 to $25 per square foot, including materials and labor. The price for materials equals $1 and $15 per square foot. The labor cost ranges from $4 to $10 per square foot.

Vinyl

Vinyl siding costs range from $3 to $6 per square foot. Labor runs between $2 and $5 per square foot. Expect to pay $5 to $11 per square foot for materials and installation.

Appearance

Modern home with fiber cement sidingPhoto: Ursula Page / Adobe Stock

Best looking: Fiber Cement Siding and Hardie Board

Your siding is one of the most important factors in determining your curb appeal, so choosing the right one is essential.

Fiber Cement

  • Looks more like original wood or cedar shakes
  • Comes in thicker planks
  • Maintains a natural appearance throughout planks and boards

Vinyl Siding

  • Shows dirt, debris, and dents more quickly
  • Thinner boards may not be as visually appealing as fiber cement boards
  • Wears faster, which can diminish the appearance

Durability

Built to last: Fiber Cement

Fiber cement can last up to 50 years, and vinyl, although durable for a time, begins to show signs of wear as soon as 10 years in extreme climates.

Vinyl Siding

  • Freezing temperatures can make vinyl siding prone to peeling and cracking
  • Prolonged exposure to heat can warp vinyl
  • Water can get behind the vinyl siding and damage ceilings and the interior
  • Exterior walls are resistant to mold and insect resistant, and rot

Fiber Cement

  • Resistant to mold, insects and rot
  • Withstands fierce storms, hail and temperature fluctuations
  • Fire retardant construction makes material fire resistant

Maintenance

Easiest to maintain: Vinyl

After you hire a local pro to install your siding, you likely want a product that’s easy to clean and requires little siding maintenance. Although fiber cement siding is low maintenance, vinyl siding practically needs no maintenance.

Vinyl

  • Cleans up quickly with a garden hose
  • Doesn’t require power washing
  • Doesn’t need painting or caulking

Fiber Cement and Hardie Board

  • Needs to be repainted every 10 to 15 years
  • Needs to be cleaned with a garden hose every six to 12 months, depending on trees and the weather
  • Stubborn stains may require a soft bristle brush and a mild detergent

Energy Efficiency

Best energy efficiency: Insulated Vinyl

When determining energy efficiency in siding, we need to consider R-values, the ability of insulation material to allow heat to enter or escape. A lower R-value number equals less insulation, and a higher number provides more insulation. Neither standard vinyl siding nor fiber cement possesses low R-values.

Hardie Siding

  • 0.5 R-value
  • For cold climates, it’s best to apply an insulated house wrap before siding installation.
  • You’ll see an increase of 4.0 R-value by adding a house wrap, a synthetic material installed over the sheathing and behind the siding.

Standard Vinyl

  • Standard vinyl has a 0.61 R-value.
  • When you install and nail down a half-inch vinyl foam board insulation, you’ll see an increase to 2.5 to 3.5 R-values.
  • You’ll see an increase to a 4.0 R-value when an insulated house wrap is installed over sheathing and behind the siding.
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Ease of Installation

Best for DIYers: Vinyl

Whether you decide to install fiber cement siding or vinyl siding to your exterior walls, you’ll achieve the best results with professional installation. However, if you have construction and siding knowledge, vinyl makes a better DIY installation option than fiber cement. Just note that all siding can have major issues if you don’t install it correctly.

Vinyl

  • Improper installation can lead to cracking, buckling and breaking
  • Incorrect installation can lead to water damage behind your siding
  • Lightweight material (30 to 35 pounds per 50 square feet) makes vinyl easier to transport and install

Fiber Cement

  • Heavy-duty material weighing 150 pounds for every 50 square feet makes it difficult to carry and install
  • Easy to break material when handled improperly
  • Requires professional installation
  • Thicker boards are not recommended for non-professional installation because they contain crystalline silica, a hazardous dust that can lead to silicosis, a deadly lung disease, according to the CDC
  • Contractors will wear protective gear needed while working

Environmental Friendliness and Safety

Better for the environment: Fiber Cement (when installed by a professional)

When working with construction materials, it’s important to know how to handle each with care. Both come with risks when installing. However, professionals can take precautions to keep the hazardous dust from fiber cement out of the air during the cutting and sawing process.

Vinyl

  • Requires lighter loads and less fuel needed for transport due to vinyl’s lighter weight
  • PVC is not eco-friendly due to the manufacturing process
  • Releases hazardous, carcinogenic dioxins into the air when burned in landfills
  • Many facilities will not recycle PVC

Fiber Cement (Hardie Siding)

  • Made of some natural materials, including wood pulp
  • Cannot be recycled at this time
  • Doesn’t emit hazardous gasses
  • Longer lifespan
  • Hazardous crystalline silica dust can be emitted in the air when sawing and cutting boards and not using the proper gear and method to collect the dust, such as attaching a wet-dry vacuum to saws while working

Which Is Best: Fiber Cement or Vinyl Siding?

To review, when you’re looking for a thicker, more durable product that provides an appearance close to the look of real wood and stone––and budget isn’t an option––choose fiber cement or Hardie Board.

On the flip side, vinyl is the way to go when you need affordable siding fast that requires little maintenance. By spending a little more on insulating vinyl boards and (or) a house wrap, you can improve your home’s energy efficiency, which can cut down your heating bills.

Pros and Cons of Fiber Cement (Hardie Board) vs. Vinyl Siding at a Glance

If you’re looking for a quick recap of the benefits and drawbacks of fiber cement and vinyl siding, below is a quick rundown.

Fiber Cement Siding (Hardie Board)

Pros:

  • Holds up to severe storms and extreme weather conditions
  • Resists dents and dings
  • Has waterproof, fire-resistant, weather-resistant, and insect-resistant construction
  • High-quality fiber cement siding comes with 30- to 50-year warranties
  • Can last up to 50 years with the proper care
  • Available in a variety of colors, styles, and textures
  • Looks like natural wood and stone
  • Fire retardant material makes planks and boards fire-resistant

Cons:

  • Difficult to install
  • More expensive than vinyl
  • High labor cost
  • Some maintenance required
  • Needs repainting and caulking over time

Vinyl Siding

Person installing vinyl siding on housePhoto: Venerala / Adobe Stock

Pros:

  • Inexpensive
  • Quick to install
  • Comes in a wide variety of colors
  • Doesn’t require repainting
  • Insulated vinyl provides better energy efficiency than standard vinyl or fiber cement
  • Easy to clean with a garden hose
  • No maintenance needed
  • Color is homogenous, not coated

Cons:

  • Shows signs of age and wear in as soon as 10–15 years
  • Painted and staining are not recommended due to peeling and cracking issues
  • Damaged planks cannot be repaired and require replacement
  • Siding fades quickly when frequently exposed to UV rays
  • Pressure washing can crack siding and cause water damage
  • Made from fossil fuels
  • Can lower property value
  • Temperature changes cause expansion and contraction that can cause planks to split and break
  • Trapped moisture from clogged gutters and badly caulked windows can damage the polystyrene insulation board and leak into your home during expansion
  • Releases greenhouse gasses during the manufacturing process
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7 Comments

  1. Roger Beebe, February 17:

    Have replaced my 30 year old vinyl with hardiplank. Did it all by myself on a 2 story house. It 4 years old now and looks great. Like in SC and the vinyl was noisy from expansion. I am sold on Hardiplank. Only vinyl is on the sofit.

  2. Chuck C., August 29:

    This article is full of inaccuracies and mistakes on the details concerning vinyl siding.

  3. HomeAdvisor, October 4:

    Hi Chuck,

    I’m sorry that you’re reading inaccuracies. We’re happy to make revisions based on your knowledge of vinyl siding for the benefit of readers. Let us know what’s wrong.

    Thank you!

  4. Robert D. Bond, JR, December 20:

    Implying that Vinyl Siding can be “re-painted” is ridiculous. Re-paint Hardie Planks every 5-10 years is inaccurate.

  5. Karl Schmidt, March 28:

    If one uses the PROPER primer – and primes the edges before installing – Caulk joints and use a top quality paint – like PP Timeless (Timeless has some poly in it – painters don’t like it because it is sticky and hard to clean) you don’t have to paint every 5-10 years. I have gone over 20 years – at least on west – full sun – facing walls in Kansas – shaded walls might go twice that. Cheap paint is expensive in the long run – the labor of painting is expensive.

    Vinyl can also have problems with creep – thermal expansion – so it looks like a balloon on hot days – most installers don’t know how to compensate – installing vinyl CORRECTLY is not so easy.

  6. Tim Thoms, December 11:

    We had vinyl siding on an upper part of the house near the roof with metal flashing. It became very warped and discolored and allowed water leakage. Vinyl also requires J trims when siding around object or protrusions. This is very time consuming and unattractive also when you have to screw something onto a wall that has vinyl it can no longer expand and contract as it needs thus it becomes disfigured. Vinyl corners have a hollow area and edges are easily broken when hit and can be difficult to repair not to mention an area for rodents or insects to access. In all these situations Cement fiber is far superior. I do like the simplicity and cost of vinyl siding and usually use both products together to get the best of both.

  7. Daphne ter Kuile, February 21:

    We live up in Calgary Canada. Our winters regularly hit -30 degrees Celcius and our summers can hit 35 degrees Celcius. We also have some terrific prairie hail storms that absolutely decimate vinyl siding. We move around our house in the winter cold snaps with caution; extremely cold vinyl siding on the corners of our house and near our driveway have shattered when struck by one of our idiot dogs or even a shovelful of snow! We hear almost everything that’s going on on our street, despite house wrap and triple-paned windows, so NO, vinyl siding isn’t the one to go with in cold climates. Our new HardieBoard siding has provided sound insulation, looks awesome and has survived two idiot chocolate labs and their rambunctiousness, not to mention two very busy grandsons and their hockey sticks! Up here Cement Board siding is about $12,000 more expensive to install than vinyl but WAY more worth it.

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