Protecting your home’s exterior needs a sturdy material that resists common outdoor threats like pests, extreme temperatures and harsh weather. Two popular materials for siding are fiber cement, also called HardiePlank, and vinyl. Which one is right for your next project, and how do they compare to each other?
On This Page:
- Fiber Cement
- Style & Appearance
- Colors/ Painting
- Installation & DIY
- Durability and Thickness
- Insulation & R-Value
- Maintenance/ Cleaning
- Length of Life
- Which is Better by Climate & Home Needs
- Top Brands & Manufacturers
Fiber cement is a blend of cellulose fibers, sand and cement. When it’s manufactured for siding, it resembles natural materials like wood and stone. It’s known for durability, affordability and for being available in a variety of forms.
The James Hardie brand produces high-quality fiber cement siding products, often called Hardie Board or HardiePlank. These terms are often interchanged with fiber cement. However, these brand name James Hardie products typically cost more than lower grade siding. To find out more, check out the pros, cons & cost of Hardie Board.
Vinyl is made of PVC, or polyvinyl chloride, which is the same material used in luxury vinyl floors. It can look like cedar, stone or tile without the added costs and maintenance associated with organic materials.
It can come in shingles, vertical or horizontal planks, and faux log. Horizontal siding is popular. An insulated version is available and can guard your home against extreme temperatures to make it more energy-efficient. To learn more about this material, explore the pros and cons of vinyl siding.
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Siding Comparison – Which Is Better for Your Home?
Fiber cement and vinyl are both synthetic materials and easier to manage than organic options like wood, shingles or logs. Here’s how they compare.
Which material will give your home the look you want?
- Fiber Cement– This material can resemble stone, wood lap boards, cedar shingles, wood shake siding, logs, and more. Its premium thickness produces deeply embossed products that look like wood.
- Vinyl– It can imitate any material like wood shingles, lap boards, logs, and stone. Overall, the styles are just as varied as fiber cement. However, it falls short when imitating wood because it isn’t as thick. Lack of depth makes its stone replicas less textured.
The Best in Show: Fiber Cement
Both materials come in an endless variety of colors like light blues, dark ash, bright greens and bold reds.
If the product doesn’t initially come in the color you’re looking for, you can paint both. The cost of painting falls between $1,700-$4,000. Select a siding that’s already the color you want to save money.
- Fiber Cement needs a coat of paint every 5-10 years to keep its luster. To save you time for the first few years, you can buy pre-painted products.
- Vinyl doesn’t need paint unless you want to change the color. If you bought pre-painted material, repaint it every 5 to 10 years in fair weather and with acrylic and/or urethane paints. One important thing to keep in mind is that the paint’s color should be lighter than the current color. Darker paints can absorb the sun’s heat and trap it into the siding, causing it to warp.
The Lowest Maintenance for Paint: Vinyl
Which material is better for your budget? For more information on these prices, see our fiber cement cost guide and vinyl siding cost guide.
- Fiber Cement & HardiePlank: $0.70- $5.25 per square foot. It varies in price due to the difference in quality between brands and manufacturing methods. Hardie Board falls on the higher end of this spectrum, usually hovering around the $5 per square foot range. Overall, it costs more after installation due to the extra labor involved.
- Vinyl: $3.00- $6.00 per square foot, with the typical choice costing around $3.00-$4.00 per square foot. Installation is simpler and less cumbersome, making the total cost after labor more affordable.
The Best For Your Budget: Vinyl
Which is easier to install on your own and which one needs the help of a professional?
- Fiber Cement: It’s heavy, which makes it difficult to handle and transport. The material is easy to break if not handled well. Its weight and initial fragility need a team of professionals to install it correctly. Even with the right tools and know-how, the job will take more planning and time. One hundred square feet weighs 300 pounds, while the same amount of vinyl weighs between 60-70 pounds.
- Vinyl: This is light and easier to install. There are not as many opportunities to damage the material or have errors during installation.
The Best For DIY: Vinyl
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Which material will protect your property and stand up to harsh conditions?
- Pros: Harsh weather and extreme conditions, including fire, don’t threaten this easily. Our Hardie Board siding guide has more details about this outstanding asset. HardiePlank is thick, with an average thickness of 5/16 of an inch to a quarter inch. It’s resistant to mold, rot, animals and insects.
- Cons: Though it’s strong, it can crack while settling.
- Pros: It’s durable before and after installation. Its synthetic nature makes it mold, insect, and rot resistant.
- Cons: This material is thin, ranging between 0.040-inch and .046-inch. It is only fire retardant, so it will warp and melt during fires and extreme heat.
The Strongest in Unexpected Storms and Fires: Fiber Cement
Installing some extra insulation around your house can keep the interior temperature more stable and your utility costs low. The R-Value is a score which measures how effective your insulation performs. Which material offers a better R-value and a more energy-efficient home?
- Fiber Cement: It has an R-value of only 0.5, which means that it’s a pretty poor insulator on its own. However, you can install a house wrap to insulate your home before putting the siding on. You can buy an insulated version to increase the R-value to as high as 4. This higher insulation value can reduce outdoor noises and reduce your energy bills.
- Vinyl: Without insulation, it has a weak R-value of 0.61. However, it can come in insulated forms. In fact, it’s the most popular insulated siding on the market. Its R-value can go beyond 4, especially when coupled with insulated house wraps. Higher R-values make your home quieter and keep comfortable temperatures year-round.
For a Cozy and Warm Home: Vinyl
As waste in landfills accumulates from old construction materials, it’s important to pick a siding that won’t have a negative impact on the environment. Here’s how both materials compare. If you’re looking for more environmentally-friendly products, check out our list of eco-friendly siding materials.
- Pros: It’s mostly made of natural materials like cement, silica sand, and wood fibers. If put in a landfill, the properties in this material are “inert”, which means it won’t emit hazardous gases or chemicals.
- Cons: Since it’s still new, there aren’t recycling options available. It’s a non-renewable material that will go into a landfill where it can’t decompose since it’s inert.
- Pros: PVC, the product’s main ingredient, is a recyclable #3 plastic. More measures are coming into effect that are pushing for PVC recycling, such as Armstrong flooring’s On &On recycling program.
- Cons: This isn’t recyclable in many facilities. If it enters a landfill, it can burn, which emits hazardous dioxins.
The Best for the Environment: Fiber Cement
Problems are inevitable as a product ages, so which material is easier to repair? For a more comprehensive look at the costs and details of repair, explore our siding repair cost guide.
- Fiber Cement: This is heavy, which makes damaged segments difficult to remove and throw away. It takes skill and precision tools to replace boards correctly.
- Vinyl: The material is light enough to make removing or replacing easy.
The Easiest to Fix or Replace: Vinyl
Which material is easier to clean?
- Fiber Cement: To keep its vibrant color and form, it must be re-painted and re-caulked every 5-10 years. Hardie Board has a warranty that covers maintenance for peeling and paint for 15 years. This can be power washed every year to keep it brilliant, which costs about $300 on average. For more cost considerations and tips, consult our pressure washing cost guide.
- Vinyl: This synthetic exterior is durable enough to be power washed once a year, which will help keep its vibrant color. Fix loose siding as soon as possible to keep your home safe from moisture damage. This material is low-maintenance because it never needs to be repainted unless you feel like changing the color. Our siding maintenance guide has more tips on keeping this material looking great for years.
The Easiest to Maintain: Vinyl
How long does each material last, if you keep up with recommended maintenance?
- Fiber Cement typically comes with a warranty that lasts 30-50 years. When cared for, it can last for 100 years. Because it’s resistant to moisture, rot, and insects, a high-quality brand like Hardie Board can last for generations with the proper upkeep.
- Vinyl usually comes with a 25-year warranty, but can last between 20-40 years, depending on the quality and maintenance of the material.
The Longest Life: Fiber Cement
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*James Hardie Siding & Stone Home Exterior*
The right material for you will depend on a variety of factors. For example, if your home has brick or stone accents or in the front, fiber cement siding could complement it better because of its depth. Here are some key things to keep in mind when you’re deciding which material is better for you:
- Values (environment, sustainability, etc.)
- Climate & weather patterns in your area
- How often you expect to perform maintenance and repair tasks
- Your home’s look and which siding complements it
|Fiber Cement/Hardie Board is Better For…||Vinyl is Better For…|
|Longevity||Maintenance & Cleaning|
|Types & Styles||DIY Installation|
Winners Per Climate
- The Best for Desert Climates: Fiber Cement, for its breathability.
- The Best in Blustery North-East Weather Conditions: Vinyl, for its better R-value and availability of insulated products.
For a more in-depth comparison of these materials to others and to explore other materials, see our siding basics guide.
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|Royal Building Products||GAF|
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