Installing new siding on your home can improve the curb appeal of your property. However, beyond looking attractive, siding plays a large role in protecting your home from the weather.
Different types of siding material offer distinct sets of features that fulfill these two functions.
Two of the most common types of siding materials that homeowners choose from are fiber cement and vinyl. Understanding the pros and cons of fiber cement siding vs. vinyl siding can help you choose which is the best fit for your home.
Fiber Cement Siding vs. Vinyl Siding Material Construction
Fiber cement siding consists of a mixture of wood fibers mixed in with cement. The fibers provide support to the cement, making it more durable than either of the materials would be on their own.
Vinyl siding, in comparison, consists of pure plastic, formally known as polyvinyl chloride. Different thicknesses of vinyl exist, and sometimes insulation is integrated into a layer underneath the exterior vinyl.
Advantages of Fiber Cement Siding
One of the largest benefits of choosing to install fiber cement siding on your home is the durability that it provides. Fiber cement is able to withstand falling debris or other physical trauma without cracking or becoming damaged. Fiber cement is also non-flammable, despite the fact that it contains wood fibers.
This high durability and set of natural resistances mean that fiber cement siding can last decades before it needs replacement. According to the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors, proper maintenance and regular care can allow fiber cement siding to last upwards of a century, depending on climate.
Fiber cement siding is also a thick siding material, which helps ensure its durability. This also means that fiber cement is able to block out exterior noise and insulate the noise inside your home.
While fiber cement siding comes in a range of pre-painted colors, you can also paint it after installation. This makes it easy to update the appearance of your home without going through the effort of replacing your siding.
Fiber cement siding comes in textures that allow it to resemble other types of materials. This means that you can get the appearance of wood or stone siding while enjoying the durability and lower cost of fiber cement. This is compounded by the fact that fiber cement siding can come in either shingles or traditional siding boards.
You can also choose to source fiber cement siding from sustainable or recycled materials. This helps reduce the environmental impact of your home’s construction or remodeling.
Disadvantages of Fiber Cement Siding
Despite the positives, fiber cement siding can be high maintenance. While you can paint your siding to change its appearance, it is necessary to paint your fiber cement every few years to protect it from the elements. This is because fiber cement siding can absorb water if not properly sealed.
Beyond painting your siding itself, you will also have to apply caulking to the joints between your shingles and boards. If you fail to do so, water can seep in and damage the structure underneath your siding – or even enter your home’s interior.
It’s also a good idea to power wash your fiber cement siding at least once a year to keep it looking in good condition. This represents an added expense and time commitment.
While fiber cement can be effective at insulating noise, it suffers at insulating temperatures. You will have to install secondary layers of insulation to keep your home a comfortable temperature throughout the year. Fiber cement siding does not come in insulated variants as vinyl siding does.
Installation and Costs
Fiber cement is a heavy material, which means that it needs professional installation. Working with fiber cement can result in injury or damage to your home if you don’t know what you’re doing. Siding boards will need to be installed by at least two people at a time.
The heavyweight of fiber cement siding also makes repairs much harder, as you can’t do them yourself. Professionals will have to come in and remove the damaged sections in question, which drives up costs.
Advantages of Vinyl Siding
Vinyl is the most popular type of residential siding material in the United States. According to the National Association of Home Builders, 27 percent of new homes in the country had vinyl siding, compared to 19 percent that had fiber cement siding in 2015. Vinyl’s popularity is not without good reason.
While fiber cement may be more durable against physical pressure, vinyl is completely immune to moisture and water damage. This makes it ideal for wet or coastal climates. Since it is nonabsorbent, vinyl siding does not need regular painting or sealing to protect it.
Vinyl siding is also a flexible building material, which allows it to expand and contract with temperature changes without cracking.
It also comes in many different colors, which lets you customize the appearance of your home’s exterior to a great degree. It also makes it easier to match your siding to landscaping features and other exterior surfaces. Like fiber cement siding, vinyl is available in both shingles and longboards.
The real benefit of choosing colored vinyl is that the coloring goes all the way through the siding. This means that minor scratches and damage won’t be noticeable.
Vinyl siding also comes in insulated variants. While they do cost more than regular vinyl siding, having a thicker siding board and built-in insulation installed on your home’s exterior can help reduce your utility bills and maintain an even and comfortable temperature inside your home.
Installation and Costs
Regular vinyl siding is very lightweight, which makes installation easier and faster. This also means that repairs can be done quickly, as it takes little effort to remove an individual board.
Beyond necessary repairs, vinyl is a very low maintenance siding material. Besides cleaning it off with a hose or pressure washer occasionally if it is covered in dirt, there is very little that you have to do to keep your siding in good condition.
Further, while the price of siding installation will depend on the size of your home and the specific brand of siding you choose, vinyl tends to be less expensive than fiber cement. This makes it ideal for home remodeling or construction projects with a tight budget.
Disadvantages of Vinyl Siding
However, vinyl siding cannot usually be painted after installation. The paint will not adhere to the surface of your siding and will peel off in a short time. This means that if you want to change the appearance of your vinyl siding, you’ll have to replace it.
While some types of specialized paints that do bond well with vinyl siding exist, they tend to cost more than regular paint as a result of their specialization.
However, vinyl siding is susceptible to certain kinds of damage. UV exposure from sunlight can bleach the color from vinyl siding, and make it more brittle with time. This makes cracking and physical damage to your siding more likely, which can lead to water damage behind your siding.
Further, while vinyl can withstand temperature fluctuations fairly well, it can struggle in extremely cold temperatures. Freezing temperatures can cause cracking and other forms of physical damage.
You should also keep in mind that vinyl is not fireproof. While it is treated to not burn easily, vinyl siding can ignite under high temperatures (730°F, according to the Vinyl Siding Institute).
While this is not likely to be a concern, it does mean that vinyl can melt if exposed to nearby flames or high temperatures. It is also something to think about if you live in an area prone to wildfires.
Vinyl is also not a sustainable or green building material. This is because one of vinyl’s key ingredients is ethylene, which comes from crude oil.
Choose New Siding
In the end, both types of siding material are a good choice. Deciding which one is the best fit for your property depends on a host of personal factors. The above list has hopefully quantified the differences between fiber cement siding and vinyl siding, making it easier for you to make a choice.
For more information about your home’s siding, or to ask any questions you may have about fiber cement siding vs. vinyl siding, feel free to contact us. We will be able to work through any and all of your concerns and figure out which type of siding material is the best fit for your property.