Two of the most popular and versatile choices for residential home siding are vinyl siding and fiber cement siding. When comparing the pros and cons of vinyl siding vs fiber cement siding, it’s important to note that they are both less expensive to buy and maintain than wood siding, as well as more durable and water resistant when properly installed.
Vinyl siding has been the most popular siding choice for the last 20 years. It is made primarily from PVC (polyvinyl chloride) with a mix of other materials that give it color and texture. Vinyl siding is attached to the home’s exterior in a way that allows it to expand and contract with changing temperatures.
Fiber Cement Siding
Fiber cement siding is sometimes referred to as “hardiplank” or “hardie board” after one of the most popular brands of fiber cement siding manufactured by James Hardie. It is made from a combination of wood pulp and Portland cement and can be formed into long planks or shingles which do a great job of mimicking traditional wood products. Fiber cement siding is directly attached the home’s exterior using nails in much the same way as wood siding.
Vinyl Siding Pros & Cons
- Energy efficient: Using an insulated version of vinyl siding increases the R-value of the exterior walls and limits the transfer of heat into the wall during summer months.
- Durability: Vinyl siding doesn’t crack, chip or fade and is highly water resistant.
- Less maintenance: Vinyl siding only needs to be washed with soap and water to retain its vibrant look.
- Lower Cost: The initial cost of vinyl siding is less than fiber cement. With lower installation costs and no painting or caulking required, vinyl is significantly less expensive overall.
- Variety of color and styles: More styles and colors than fiber cement with panel designs such as clapboard, board-and-batten and Dutch lap, in addition to the traditional plank and shingle designs.
- Not fire resistant: Vinyl siding can melt when exposed to high heat. Even an outdoor grill or other heat source in close proximity can damage it.
- More easily damaged: Hurricane force winds can blow entire sheets of vinyl siding off a home and hailstorms can dent and damage the siding, requiring it to be replaced. However, some new, thicker vinyl siding products can handle winds up to 240 mph with extra rigidity in the nail hem, panel projections and locking system
- Less eco-friendly: While PVC is a recyclable #3 plastic, it is not recyclable in many facilities and emits hazardous dioxins when burned. However, the lightweight vinyl doesn’t take as much fuel to transport, and doesn’t require painting which reduces the deposit of paint, stain and other maintenance-related materials into the environment
Fiber Cement Siding Pros & Cons
- Durability: When properly installed, fiber cement siding is unlikely to be damaged by high-wind storms or hail. With caulk and paint maintenance, it is water resistant and should last 50 years or longer.
- Fire resistant: Fiber cement has the same rating as brick giving it the highest flame resistance compared to vinyl and wood siding.
- More eco-friendly: Fiber cement is made from fairly sustainable materials, such as wood waste, unlike vinyl which requires PVC made from fossil fuels.
- Looks more like real wood: Fiber cement is thicker than vinyl and looks similar to wood siding. Some historic districts will accept the use of fiber cement instead of wood. Since it can be painted, there is an almost unlimited color variety and it’s also available in pre-painted colors to reduce the initial cost of painting.
- Requires more maintenance: Fiber cement does need to be caulked and painted initially, unless the pre-painted version is installed. Paint will fade, and caulk will dry out over time, so periodic maintenance is required to avoid water intrusion.
- Higher Cost: The initial cost of fiber cement is generally higher than vinyl as is the installation cost. When coupled with the extra cost of caulking and painting, fiber cement may cost approximately 50% more than vinyl siding overall.
- Absorbs moisture: Fiber cement will absorb moisture which can be an issue in an area that is constantly exposed to water. However, with proper caulking and painting, as well as periodic maintenance, it holds up well over time.
So, which is the best siding when comparing vinyl siding vs fiber cement siding? There are many factors that need to be weighed as mentioned above, such as initial cost, maintenance, durability, longevity, insulating ability, water resistance and eco-friendliness.
If cost and durability are your main concerns, then vinyl siding may be the best option. You’ll have more style and color options, and very little maintenance is required to keep it looking new and vibrant.
However, if you live in an area that is prone to hurricanes or wildfires and are concerned about using eco-friendly materials, you may be better off with fiber cement siding.
Whichever choice you make when looking at vinyl siding vs fiber cement siding, there are plenty of style and color options, and either siding will last 40-50 years if properly maintained.
For information about which McKee Homes’ neighborhoods have vinyl siding and which have fiber cement siding, please use the form below or give us a call at 910-672-7296.