5 Worst Problems With Hardie Siding
Hardie siding, a.k.a. fiber cement, is a siding material that was first introduced in the 1980’s as a replacement for asbestos cement, wood, aluminum and vinyl siding products. Hardie has steadily grown in popularity since, mostly due to it’s durability, style, feel and texture. It’s also a mostly natural material which is more “eco friendly” than vinyl, acts as a fire stop, and last longer if properly maintained. With so many siding products available today, it’s important to understand the benefits, as well as the problems with Hardie siding before you make a decision about what siding to install on your home. While we’ll look at the benefits of Hardie siding elsewhere, this article will explore the five worst problems with Hardie siding.
1. Hardie Siding Requires Maintenance
Fiber cement siding products are painted. This means it periodically requires re-painting to maintain it’s beautiful appearance. This is one of the worst problems with Hardie siding considering it’s not an option. If you don’t paint the siding every 7-10 years, on average, it’ll start to fade and/or peel, crack or chip. Compare that to other siding products, such as vinyl, which require no maintenance whatsoever.
There’s a reason you spent a bit more for Hardie siding. This high quality material doesn’t need much to keep it looking great throughout the years. Of course, “low-maintenance” doesn’t mean “maintenance-free.” You’ll definitely need to care for it to keep it looking, and performing, it’s best.
And paint isn’t the only maintenance your fiber cement siding will need. Here’s a quick briefing in Hardie care you’ll need to do to ensure your siding looks it’s best.
Fiber Cement Siding Maintenance Requirements
- Re-apply caulk when it begins to show signs of wear to help keep moisture from getting into the wall cavity. These areas include, but not limited to, penetrations, flashing, plank and trim connections, and in some cases, between plank joints.
- Caulk should be permanently flexible
- Dents, chips, cracks and other minor surface damage can be filled with cementitious patching compound.
- Paint every 7-10 years. Sooner may be necessary depending on climate and weather conditions.
- Touch up paint may be needed to cover small nicks, scrapes, scratches, nail holes, peeling, dents, cracks, etc. Nothing larger than a dime.
Inspect Caulking Regularly To Keep Moisture Protection High
Hardie siding overall is very moisture resistant. However, that doesn’t mean it can’t be affected by moisture and mold. Here at Gambrick we typically use a waterproof sealant-like silicone caulk-to join the siding to other parts of the home. For instance, we use it around door frames, brick or stone facades, window sills, and other edges. This helps keep moisture out. Keeping a home dry is a top priority on all our custom new homes.
To make sure your moisture barrier remains intact, you should inspect the caulk annually, looking for gaps and cracks that need repair. This can be expensive as some areas are high and out of reach requiring a professional for safety issues.
Also check for chipped, cracked or peeling paint. Especially along cut edges where water can soak into the fiber cement. You see, Hardie is great at resisting moisture when intact, but once the inside of the material is exposed to water, it soaks up and holds moisture better than almost any siding on the market.
Long term maintenance adds cost to an already expensive product to both buy and install.
Make sure you factor in these additional long term costs when deciding if Hardie is the right siding product for you.
Fiber Cement Requires Re-Painting
Unlike vinyl, aluminum, and other siding materials, Hardie siding will need to be re-painted. While a paint job on fiber cement siding lasts longer than wood—usually anywhere between 7-10 years, it’ll eventually need to be redone. And that can be a pretty expensive task.
There are two types of fiber cement siding. And the life of your paint job typically depends on the type you install. If you go with a pre-painted option, where the boards come pre-painted by the manufacturer, you’ll generally be covered by a warranty against chipping and peeling for around 15 years. On the other hand, if you choose primed fiber cement, you can paint it any color you want during installation but with this option there’s no warranty covering the paint.
With either options however you still need to eventually paint the siding.
When you start shopping for paint, only use a high quality, exterior grade acrylic. If you went with the pre-painted option contact the manufacturer for a list of recommended paints. If you painted it yourself consult the paint manufacturers guidelines for a second coat.
With regular care your Hardie siding can last 50 years or more. But requiring long term maintenance highlights one of the worst problems with Hardie siding which is the cost.
2. Hardie Siding Isn’t Energy Efficient
When it comes to insulation values, your siding doesn’t contribute much. In Home Building we use a measurement, known as R-value, to rate how well a building material insulates. The higher R-value a material has, the better it is at insulating. That’s how we compare and contrast all the different materials we build a new home with. While building codes here in NJ require certain R-values in the walls and various other places, siding typically rates less than a 1 on the r-value scale. Definitely not the most protective part of your home’s exterior, in fact when calculating a homes r-value, most builders don’t even take the siding into account.
That said, however, definite differences exist among the various types of siding. For instance, while a brick veneer will only get you an R-value of around 0.11, vinyl siding typically has a measurement of 0.61.
While not one of the worst problems with Hardie siding. It’s near total lack of any insulation value is still an area of concern. To be fair other materials don’t offer much in terms of r-value either. But vinyl siding at least offers an insulated version which is about 10x better than Hardie.
- Wood Shingle Siding: R-Value of 0.87
- Beveled Wood Siding: R-Value of 0.81
- Non Insulated Aluminum, Steel or Vinyl: R-Value of 0.61
- Brick or Stone: R-Value of 0.44
- 2-inch Stucco: R-Value of 0.40
- Fiber Cement: R-Value of 0.35
- 1-inch Brick or Stone Veneer: R-Value of 0.11
- Insulated Siding: R-Value of 3.5
Insulated siding is available with an r-value of up to 3.5. That’s an incredible 24 times the r-value of Hardie.
These differences help explain why certain materials are more popular in various regions of the country. For example stucco is more popular in hot climates. Whereas in the North, vinyl or wood make better options, since they provide a higher r-value.
However, bare in mind that a material’s energy performance isn’t the only factor worth considering when choosing the right siding for your home.
3. Hardie Siding Is Expensive & Difficult To Install
At Gambrick, we do siding installation projects as well as build custom new homes and additions. We deal with Hardie products on a regular basis for both new installations and repair work. The vast majority of complaints we get about fiber cement siding products are due to improper installation. If you install Hardie according to the manufacturer specifications, it’s a terrific siding product. Fiber cement doesn’t install like vinyl, most siding companies just aren’t trained or experienced enough to install the product.
Because of the high cost to both buy and install Hardie siding, it’s imperative that you hire a company trained and experienced in installing fiber cement siding products. The is one of the worst problems with Hardy siding and the one that’s most preventable. Hardie siding is a fiber-cement product that comes with a great warranty, but any warranty will be void if the product is improperly installed.
Fiber cement can also be brittle before being nailed to the wall. Care must be taken to properly store planks, which generally require two people to carry and install. Attention must be paid to the types of nails and guns used to prevent errors like nailing too deep or too shallow.
Most Common Installation Defects
- Keep siding 2″ away from roof surfaces, decks, driveways, steps, and other similar hard surfaces.
- Keep siding 6″ above the finished grade.
- Bring gutters 1″ away from the siding, and install kick out flashing.
- Keep siding 1/4″ above flashing above windows, and not caulked here
- Blind nail or face nailed, but not both.
- Use the proper size nails (6d or siding nails).
- Drive nails in straight, do not over-drive or under-drive.
What Does Improper Installation Mean?
Fiber cement siding is considered a premium siding product. It has it’s own set of unique installation guidelines which are very different from cedar shake or vinyl products. If you don’t install Hardie siding correctly any damage resulting from improper installation will not be warrantied and your siding will be subject to premature damage and deterioration.
Make sure you install it right the first time.
4. Fiber Cement Siding Absorbs Moisture
One of the worst problems with Hardie siding is due to how it’s made and the ingredient cellulose, which is essentially just sawdust or wood pulp. Just about every home has an area where siding comes in direct contact with a surface that collects or passes water, snow, or ice. In these areas Hardie siding can absorb moisture. This leads to swelling, crumbling, cracking, and peeling paint.
Keep in mind damage due to moisture absorption can happen with siding installed perfectly. Siding installed incorrectly can absorb moisture in all sorts of ways depending on what errors were made during the install. This is just another reason to make sure you hire a professional installer of fiber cement siding.
Manufacturers have faced a number of class action lawsuits from consumers whose homes suffered moisture related damage. Because this material is porous, it can also absorb water through the cut edges. This water can then cause the product to crack or split, especially in colder climates. Moisture can also cause mold or mildew in the sheathing. Fiber cement also takes a long time to dry, unlike wood siding which drys quickly. This amplifies the problem during times of extended heavy rains or snow.
Close attention must be paid to all required gap clearances as per manufacturers installation specs. Any violation of the instructions can create serious moisture concerns and void the products warranty.
What Are The Top Ways To Reduce Moisture Absorption With Hardie Siding
The only way to reduce moisture absorption with any fiber cement siding product is correct installation. It all comes down to installing the material the right way. Follow the manufacturers instructions to a tee. In order to do that you have to hire the right professional to do the job. Make sure they’re experienced with installing fiber cement.
Fiber cement siding is not like vinyl, aluminum, masonry, wood, or any other siding product. It has it’s own procedures that must be followed to do the job right and preserve your warranty protection.
Things You Must Do:
- Proper nailing with the correct nails
- Respect the recommended clearances
- Caulk where needed with permanently flexible caulk
- Paint cut edges as you install with the correct paint
- Proper installation of all trim and flashing
- Correct installation of gutter system
- Install the right underlayment
Again, make sure your installer is a well trained and experience professional who works with fiber cement. If you do all these things right, then Hardie is an excellent, premium grade siding product. Do them wrong and you’ll seriously regret it.
5. Hardie Siding Is Extremely Expensive
One of the worst problems with Hardie siding is the cost. It’s extremely expensive to both buy and install correctly. The majority of siding companies are not trained in how to install Hardie siding making companies that are more expensive due to their added skill and experience.
The added cost for install is a must though, don’t try to save money hear or you’ll live to regret it. As we went over above improper installation is the #1 reason homeowners have problems with fiber cement siding. It really is a fantastic product, but only if it’s installed the right way. Do it wrong and the material is a nightmare.
The upfront cost of Hardie is amplified further by it’s long term maintenance requirements. It needs paint every 7-10 years on average and caulking when and where needed. If you don’t do the required maintenance the problems will be more than cosmetic. Un-caulked areas and edges without paint can let in moisture which leads to all sorts of problems.
Hardie is a fantastic siding product and a great investment for your home. But it has some big disadvantages compared to other siding products on the market today. It’s crucial you take both the pros and cons of Hardie siding into consideration before making such a major decision. Below we’ll show some of the worst problems with Hardie siding in detail.
Worst Problems With Hardie Siding Recap
As we said above Hardie has a tendency to absorb moisture if installed improperly. By far the worst problems with Hardie siding are water related. In this example water has absorbed into the fiber cement causing the paint to bubble. This is a sure sign you’ve got moisture either in or behind the siding.
When installing fiber cement you have to respect the manufacturers recommended clearances. There should be a space between the bottom the the Hardie and the cement. This improper installation is water damage just waiting to happen.
Flashing installed incorrectly or siding installed without the proper gap between the siding and flashing will both result in water damage and a voided warranty. The pic shown above has done both things wrong, the flashing is no good and the gap is too tight. This will eventually cause one of the worst problems with Hardie siding which is moisture absorption.
When installing fiber cement siding you must also install flashing in between each butt joint. As you can see here the flashing was not installed. This will result in eventual water damage either by absorbing into the siding or getting behind into the sheathing or frame.
Here we see multiple examples of improper installation on the same wall. The gaps are too tight, butt joints are gapped wrong, short filler pieces have been put in because of improperly cut lengths, ends don’t meet up properly. I also see some nailing issues and bad caulking at the joints. Just an all around sloppy installation. There is no way you’ll be covered by the manufacturers warranty with workmanship like this.
These gaps are way too big. The installer cut the length wrong and tried to hide it with lots of caulk which eventually dries and leaves a huge gap. Caulk is for small, normal sized gaps, not something nearly an inch. This will eventually cause water damage.
Fiber cement siding is a hard, brittle product. One of the worst problems with Hardie siding is moisture damaged caused by cracking. Water will run down from this sill, absorb into the siding, get behind into the sheathing and possibly the frame, causing all sorts of eventual problems. Handle Hardie siding with care and always make sure to cut and nail it properly to avoid cracking.
When installing fiber cement you have to make sure each butt joint is installed correctly as this is a common problem area. Each end has to be painted before installation which was not done here. The nailing is also bad and I’m sure even though we can’t see it in this pic, the flashing behind is missing. Also the siding levels are off by what looks like 1/4″. This is a good indication of improper installation which needs further investigation. As we keep mentioning, by far the worst problems with Hardie siding are water related so do everything you can to make sure moisture can not absorb into the siding, including sealing all butt joints properly.