Problems With Hardie Siding
Hardie siding problems, a.k.a. fiber cement problems, are rare but do happen from time to time. 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 Problems | Maintenance
Fiber cement siding products are painted. This means they periodically require re-painting to maintain a 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.” Hardie siding definitely requires care 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.
Hardie Siding Problems | 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 is very moisture resistant overall. However, that doesn’t mean it can’t be affected by moisture and mold. In fact moisture problems are one of the biggest Hardie siding problems you’ll have to deal with. 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.
Hardie Siding Problems | 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 job.
With either option however, you still need to eventually re-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 Board Installation Problems
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 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. Hardie board installation problems are easily avoided if you hire an experienced professional to do the work.
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. Hardie board installation problems are a huge problem because if installed the wrong way any damage resulting from improper installation will not be warrantied and your siding will be subject to premature damage and deterioration. Hardie siding is very expensive and you’ll want to make sure you preserve your warranty and siding for the long term.
Make sure you install it right the first time.
4. Moisture Problems With Hardie Siding
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 even when it’s installed perfectly. The siding itself is sometimes the issue, not necessarily the installation. However, siding installed incorrectly can absorb moisture in all sorts of additional 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.
There are all sorts of issues due to moisture problems with Hardie siding. It’s a fantastic siding product but make sure to install and care for it properly and keep your eye on any areas where water collects.
What Are The Top Ways To Reduce Moisture Problems 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. Moisture problems with Hardie siding aren’t going away. There’s no way to completely eliminate them when the material itself is the problem. But with proper installation and care you can prevent moisture problems with Hardie siding from damaging your home.
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.
Does Hardie Board Absorb Water?
Does Hardie board absorb water is a questions we’re commonly asked and the answer is yes. This goes for not only Hardie siding products but for any fiber cement product. It’s what the siding is made of that’s the problem. Under normal circumstances, when installed correctly, Hardie is a great siding product and resists water. But, if water manages to get through the surface layer and into the siding, you’ll have big problems down the road.
Common areas where water can absorb into the siding are through cracks and splits in the siding or through nail holes that aren’t covered up properly. Also areas that aren’t flashed correctly or where siding can sit in pools of water. Basically these are all defects caused by improper installation of the Hardie siding.
In cases where water is able to absorb into the siding all sorts of bad things can happen like rot, mold, mildew and complete deterioration of the siding and eventually the sheathing layer.
So does Hardie board absorb water? Yes. But when installed correctly it shouldn’t happen. In fact we’ve never had it happen on any home we’ve used it on. Make sure when you hire a siding contractor that they’re experienced with Hardie siding products and installation methods and you should be fine.
Another point to remember is that assuming you installed your Hardie siding correctly, and it does absorb some water, then your covered by the warranty. However, if you havn’t installed it correctly, then your probably not. So bottom line, install it the right way and avoid water issues altogether.
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.
6. Hardie Board Cracking And Splitting
Hardie board cracking is another issue that can happen with any fiber cement siding product. Fiber cement is a great siding material and Hardie board is by far the best kind we’ve used, but it only performs as well as it’s installed. We here complaints about fiber cement siding and get called to do repair work from time to time and every single time improper installation was the cause. If you install Hardie siding the right away, it’s a fantastic siding product. But if you install it incorrectly, you’ll have problems.
James Hardie siding is a fiber cement siding product that comes with a great warranty, but any warranty will be void if the product is installed the wrong way. Make sure you hire a professional that has experience working with fiber cement. It’s not installed like vinyl or cedar shake so experience with those products isn’t good enough.
There are several reasons why cracking and splitting in Hardie board can occur. It can be caused by one or more of the issues listed below.
Common Causes For Hardie Board Cracking Or Splitting
Over nailing with a nail gun or improper nailing. This is by far the leading cause we’ve found for cracked Hardie siding. Nails driven below the panel surface and directional nailing can cause cracking and splitting of fiber cement.
Nailing too high or close at an edge. This can create a small crack which leads from the nail to the edge of the siding board.
House Settling or moving. Because Hardie siding is so stiff any movement of the house can cause cracks in the siding which are typical of any rigid masonry product.
Improper handling. Siding boards, especially long ones, need to be be supported at both ends when moved. Fiber cement planks are floppy until secured on the wall and holding them only in the middle or transporting them over a shoulder can cause cracking.
Defective material. Although Hardie siding is a great product backed by a fantastic warranty, issues can still happen during manufacturing. If you see some Hardie board cracking call the company and they’ll send out a rep to inspect the installation. If you’ve installed your siding correctly and it’s cracking anyway Hardie will cover the defective material under their warranty.
Hardie Board Moisture Problems Caused By Cracking
Fiber cement siding is a hard, brittle product. One of the worst problems with Hardie siding is moisture damaged which can be 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.
7. Hardie Board Needs To Be Painted
One of the most common questions we’re asked is does Hardie siding need to be painted. And the answer is yes. Even factory painted siding will eventually need to be painted again just like any other painted surface. No paint stays looking like new forever.
How Often Do You Have To Paint Hardie Siding?
If you installed factory primed Hardie siding plan on re-painting it in 5 – 15 years. On average, a high quality, 100 percent acrylic exterior house paint should last somewhere in that range on fiber cement that’s properly primed at the factory, as long as the paint was applied correctly.
Weather plays a huge role in how long paint will last along with how much sun you get some keep that in mind. An issue that comes up relating to weather is uneven weathering. If one side of the house gets lots of sun and the other doesn’t then your siding will fade unevenly, but you’ll still have to paint the entire house.
Other things, like if the siding is primed or prepped before applying paint, the quality of the paint used, the number of coats the siding receives, the quality of the paint job and the amount of maintenance it receives after being painted will all affect how long the exterior paint lasts on your fiber cement siding.
Always use good quality paint, it’s not worth saving a couple of bucks on paint. You may think your saving money but your not. Cheap paint doesn’t last nearly as long as high quality paint does so you’ll end up having to re-paint everything again in just a couple of years.
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 as well as list the most common Hardie board installation problems we see.
Worst Problems With Hardie Siding Recap
As we said above moisture problems with Hardie siding is a huge issue if installed improperly. By far the worst problems with Hardie siding are all water related and these are mainly due to Hardie board installation problems. 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. This will eventually lead to deterioration of the siding and can possibly spread into the sheathing layer.
If you’ve got osb plywood sheathing water issues will be even worse as osb absorbs water even worse the fiber cement does.
Does Hardie siding absorb water? As you can plainly see above the answer is yes. But this is most commonly due to Hardie board installation problems and not the siding itself.
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 is another example of Hardie siding installation problems caused by an inexperienced contractor. Future water damage just waiting to happen.
Water or snow will sit against the siding and eventually find it’s way in which causes a long list of moisture problems with Hardie siding. Another problem easily avoided with proper installation.
Remember that most Hardie siding problems are caused by improper installation. This is a common mistake and so easy to avid.
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 installation checks two huge boxes for me.
- Moisture problems with Hardie siding due to improper installation.
- Hardie board installation problems which cause water damage.
As you can see these two issues always seam to go hand in hand. Hardie siding problems due to improper installation are so common because it’s installed a little different than vinyl and isn’t as popular. So installers may not be familiar with the small detail you need to know like the proper gap requirements. Make sure you hire a siding company that works with Hardie on a regular basis.
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.
Water which makes it’s way behind the Hardie siding should hit the flashing layer. The flashing keeps water off the sheathing and drains water properly which prevents water damage. Remember, one of the main Hardie siding problems is water damage however it’s also one of the easiest to prevent with proper installation.
Hardie Board Installation Problems
Here we see multiple examples of Hardie board installation problems on the same wall. The gaps are too tight, butt joints are 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.
Most Hardie siding problems we see are due to improper installation. Fiber cement is a great siding materials, but you have to install it the right way. And not just the siding itself, but also the flashing, house wrap, and painting too.
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.
No matter how many times you re-caulk this it’ll eventually dry up and shrink. Shrinking caulk leaves a gap for water to drain into and eventually cause water damage not only to the Hardie siding but also the brick, sheathing, trim and window.
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, moisture problems with Hardie siding are by far the worst issues you’ll have using the product so do everything you can to make sure water can not absorb into the siding, including sealing all butt joints properly and installing the correct flashing.
Warped Hardie Siding
It’s generally better to replace warped fiber cement “Hardie” siding than it is to try and repair it. Over time the warping can continue since repairing a board or two won’t actually address the reason why the boards are warping in the first place. Unless your just unlucky and have a few defective boards something has caused the boards to warp and you’ll need to find and fix the problem. And if there are no problems and you just have a few defective boards, do you really want to keep defective boards on your house rather than replacing them.
The removal process for Hardie siding essentially mirrors the installation process, and you’ll most likely need to hire a siding professional for the work. However, if siding boards have simply become loose over time, it may be possible to repair the loose siding boards without needing to replace them.
Additional causes for warped siding include structural issues such as missing studs, improper nail placement or using the wrong nails during installation. A good siding specialist with experience working with fiber cement can inspect your siding to determine the reason it appears warped and the best way to correct the problem. You could also call Hardie or whatever siding manufacturer you used and ask them to send out a rep to inspect. This is one reason we recommend Hardie brand siding over other fiber cement manufacturers. Their customer service is good and they have local reps available to come out and check the job whenever you need.
If you have a good hi resolution picture of warped Hardie siding please send it to us. We could use one for this post.
Fiber Cement Siding Problems
The terms Hardie siding or Hardie board are commonly used in the industry as a name for all Fiber Cement siding. But that’s not accurate. Hardie is the brand name of a top fiber cement siding manufacturer, but they’re are lots of manufacturers out there that sell fiber cement siding. And the problems we’ve discussed here for Hardie siding apply to all fiber cement siding. The title of this article is Problems With Hardie Siding but it should really be Fiber Cement Siding Problems as that’s what Hardie siding actually is.
As with Hardie, fiber cement siding problems are mainly due to two things, water and improper installation. There are a bunch of other smaller issues you can run into but those are by far the biggest and most common. And the majority of moisture issues are actually caused by improper installation. We can’t say this enough, make sure you install fiber cement siding properly, no matter the manufacturer, and it’s a fantastic siding product. But if you don’t, chances are you’ll have issues down the line and void your warranty.
If you have any questions or comments e-mail us any time. We’d love to hear from you.