When it comes to the exterior of your home, siding is one of the most important components. Without this layer of weather-resistant material outside your home, moisture will quickly ruin the wood underneath. As such, it is very important to choose the right material for your home’s siding.
Up until the 1970s, aluminum siding was by far the most popular type. However, it has several significant problems. This is why most siding is now made of vinyl or other plastics. However, there is a new contender on the block. It’s called the Hardie board, and it’s made from concrete fibers. Today, we will attempt to determine which is better: Vinyl or Hardie board? First, let’s take a look at the contenders.
What Is Vinyl?
Vinyl is a type of plastic that is made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC). That’s right; It’s made of the same substance as your plumbing pipes. Vinyl is a lot cheaper than the metal siding of the past, and a lot cheaper than weather-treated wood. It is also popular because it has a useful mix of stiffness and flexibility. It is flexible enough to resist impact without denting or breaking, but still stiff enough to maintain its’ shape.
Because plastics can be cast and formed more easily than metal or wood, it is much easier to create vinyl siding with a realistic grain. Thus, you get the look of wood without the termites or the rot. Vinyl siding boards are often coated in a layer of titanium dioxide to increase their weather resistance even more. This layer also has the effect of keeping out UV radiation.
Vinyl offers some other benefits as well. For one thing, it never has to be repainted. The color goes all the way through the material, so that task is eliminated. Considering how long it takes to paint the whole exterior of your home, we think this is a significant advantage.
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Hardie board is a relatively new product invented by James Hardie, a company that doesn’t seem to sell anything except these boards. They are made of cement fiber, making them very similar to concrete. Of course, they are much thinner and lighter than concrete would ever be.
We don’t know the exact composition of these boards, but this study gives us a clue. Based on the language used, we can see that extruded cement fibers are extremely tough, stiff, and resistant to damage. It’s like having a layer of thin but dense stone around your home. For more information, we turn to the patent information from this product. Here we see that Hardie board is made from a mixture of cellulose fibers (in other words, wood fibers) that have been impregnated with a special type of cement.
The Hardie board has a number of advantages that explain its relative popularity. First, this kind of siding normally comes with a 50-year warranty, which is pretty impressive. There are some limitations to the warranty, but the long term of the deal indicates that the manufacturer has a lot of confidence in their product. Second, these boards are completely fireproof.
Third, Hardie boards provide better insulation than their plastic counterparts. This means that your home can stay cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. This is the case because Hardie boards are thicker than standard vinyl siding, and leave a smaller air gap between the boards and the house. It also helps that this is a stiff material that won’t be rattled around by a strong breeze.
Without any further ado, let’s get our two rivals in the ring and let the fight begin:
Round One: Durability
Our competitors will first face off in a battle of durability. After all, the primary purpose of your siding is to protect your home from everything outside. Therefore, durability is the most important consideration when choosing a material. Since there are many types of damage, we will be looking at several.
In terms of impact resistance, Hardie board is at a serious disadvantage. Being made mostly of cement, it is relatively brittle. One good tap with a hammer is enough to shatter one of these boards like a thin piece of rock. Vinyl, on the other hand, is able to flex and bend. Thus, vinyl wins this first exchange of blows. Its flexibility allowed it to roll with the punches and come back, while the Hardie board stood rock-still and got nailed in the face.
Now it’s time to consider weather resistance. Hardie pulls himself up from the canvas and thinks about his opponent. He knows that vinyl siding tends to become warped and misshapen after a certain number of years. This warping is caused by several things, but most researchers seem to agree that it is caused by a mixture of UV light and temperature changes. As Hardie board does not have this problem, he is immune to any potential counterattack, allowing him to bust his opponent with a stinging counterpunch.
In terms of durability, these two materials seem to be about equal. This round is a draw.
Round Two: Cost
Now it’s time to consider the crucial factor of cost. Most home repairs and improvements are made on a budget, and a cheaper material can do a lot to help you stay within that budget. It should be noted that the expense of covering (or re-covering) your home with either of these materials will depend on the size of your home, the extent of the damage being repaired, the number of windows and doors you have, and a few other things such as your location. However, we can still get a good estimate by looking at the cost of raw materials.
Let’s check this handy online calculator for some example costs. Let’s assume your home is about 2600 square feet. This size is considered to be average by today’s standards. Since we have to input a zip code, let’s assume you live in South Carolina. According to this calculator, your cost will probably be somewhere between $9,000 and $19,000. Just to confirm, let’s try a different zip code and see if the numbers are similar. After putting in an Arizona zip code, we find that the numbers were the same.
We found a similar online calculator for vinyl siding. Using the same zipcodes and home sizes that we used before, we get figures that range between $2300 and $6500. Bear in mind that these numbers reflect only the cost of the material itself, and does not include any installation costs.
In this round, the Hardie board took a beating. Vinyl is a lot cheaper than the Hardie board, and it isn’t even close.
Round Three: Convenience
Which of these materials is more convenient to use? That is the question we will attempt to answer next. Right off the bat, vinyl has a serious advantage because it never needs to be re-painted. As we said earlier, it’s color goes all the way through the material, whereas the Hardie board is constructed in layers.
Hardie insists that he also doesn’t require re-painting. According to the company that sells this stuff, Hardie board is pre-painted with a durable finish that is supposed to last for years. However, when we look closely at the company’s advertising, we see that Hardie’s claims are only partially true. With multiple layers and a hard-baked finish, these boards are not really painted at all but are enameled.
So, does the enamel finish of the Hardie board make it equal to the vinyl? In our opinion, the answer is yes. By the time that hard enamel wears off, vinyl siding would probably have begun to crack, peel, and warp. Some enameled artifacts have been known to last for hundreds or even thousands of years. Some of them were literally buried in dirt for centuries before being found. That being said, Hardie board will sometimes require a little bit of touch-up painting.
Now, having dodged that last punch, Hardie board comes back with a stiff counter. He points out that vinyl siding has an unpleasant tendency to grow mold. Although you never have to re-paint the surface, you will occasionally have to wash it in order to keep it from turning green. This means buying a pressure washer (which isn’t exactly cheap), or you could do it the hard way: A ladder, a bucket of bleach water, a rag, and a mop. This is almost as much work as painting!
So far, this round has no clear winner, so let’s move on to one more point…which of these products is easier to install? To avoid any unproven opinions, let’s just watch some installation videos and make a judgment as to which looks more difficult.
First, check out this video on vinyl siding installation. The process isn’t exactly simple, but it is fairly straightforward. You start by removing any siding and fixtures that are already present, putting down a backer board, and using a chalk line to make some guidelines for yourself. Then, you just hang the pieces one at a time, overlapping them slightly at the top. Each board will hook neatly into a corner piece and must be tucked underneath on both sides. One little thing that some people have trouble with: When nailing the boards in place, you are not supposed to drive the nails all the way down. These boards will expand and contract slightly as weather conditions change, so give them room to move without breaking.
Now, let’s check out a video on Hardie board installation. That one was a little too short, so let’s have another. Based on what we have seen here, the process is not all that different from that used for vinyl siding. One big difference is the fact that the Hardie board requires a mask or other breathing protection. When you cut the boards, a lot of cement dust is created, which creates a small cloud that you don’t want to breathe. Powdered cement can be really bad for your lungs, so you need to be careful. However, these boards do not require loose nailing like vinyl boards. They are much more rigid, and will not flex with the weather. This means that you can screw or nail these boards into place much more quickly.
This is an incredibly close round. On the one hand, Hardie board requires breathing protection and is slightly harder to cut. On the other hand, vinyl boards take longer to mount, since you have to take care not to overdrive the nails. The small hooks that attach vinyl boards to the side mounts can be a little tricky and are often a source of frustration for the inexperienced. In this round, the Hardie board gets a very slight win, primarily for the reason that his installation process is a little bit quicker, and for the fact that his surface is less prone to growing mold.
Round Four: Energy-Efficiency
Now we come to the tie-breaker round. It’s neck and neck, so let’s see who can take this final point. It is generally accepted that Hardie boards provide superior insulation, which contributes to a more energy-efficient home. This fact is so obvious that it requires no proving. Hardie board is a lot thicker than vinyl, and it is hung tightly against the building, meaning that there is no space between the siding and the backer board.
However, vinyl isn’t going down without a fight. He points out that you can buy insulated vinyl siding, which will actually give better insulation than any other type of siding. However, this kind of vinyl siding is significantly more expensive, which defeats the biggest advantage of vinyl siding (that being its low cost). Thus, the round (and the win) goes to the Hardie board.
After thoroughly reviewing these two materials, we believe that we have come to a fair and accurate conclusion. That being said, the matter is not completely settled. Although we found Hardie board to be better overall, it did fall short in one crucial area: Value. A lot of people simply cannot afford to spend the extra money on some Hardie board, even if it is a better material overall. Thus, we advise you to buy the Hardie board, but only if you can afford it. If you have enjoyed this contest of quality, we hope that you will fill out the contact form below to receive more of our work.