If the siding on your home is showing signs of wear and degradation, you’ve likely begun to weigh the look, cost, and durability of several different types of replacement materials, including fiber cement or composite cladding.
Even though you may not plan to live in your home for the next 25 years, you can still determine the actual cost of each project. You need to figure out how many times you might need to repair, replace, or repaint material over this period.
By the time you’re ready to put your house on the market, if you’ve chosen a less durable material that will eventually need replacing, it can impact curb appeal, market value, and final sales price. Here are some factors to weigh before making your decision.
When weighing the total cost against the durability, remember to take the labor and material cost of regular repainting into consideration.
Fiber cement can come unpainted, primed, or pre-painted. But in most cases, the maximum possible lifespan of a coat of paint on fiber cement is ten to fifteen years (if factory-coated), with five to seven years being more typical. Naturally, this also depends upon the quality of paint and primer used, and exposure to the elements. You can conservatively plan to repaint fiber-cement between two or three times over 25 years.
A film of mildew, mold, cobwebs, and dirt will become thicker and more noticeable on any siding product as the years’ progress, so your annual maintenance plan should include a high-pressure wash to keep your home looking clean and fresh. Fiber cement and the surface paint can chip and spall under these conditions. So you have to strike a delicate balance to keep your home’s exterior looking brand new with this type of material.
Composite cladding is available with a finish of five coats of acrylic paint that is heat-treated for exceptional durability. This makes it virtually impervious to chips or moisture damage. And since a baked-on surface bond is strong and the product is resistant to UV degradation and fading, some products are warrantied for as long as 30 years.
No matter which siding you choose, the caulking at the corners and joints may need to be periodically replaced as well. This prevents water from infiltration from causing damage.
Fiber cement can be prone to cracking, especially during installation. If you are planning on a DIY installation, include some extra material to cover accidents. Once installed, fiber cement can last for several decades if the surface paint is maintained correctly. But it can be susceptible to cracking or spalling if hit by large hail or an errant football, or if the foundation shifts significantly.
The high durability of a composite cladding’s structure and surface preparation enables manufacturers to provide products with a 30- to 50-year warranty. Routine maintenance can be handled with a quick wash and occasional re-caulking, so there is little need to calculate the cost of constant repainting into the long-term cost of composite siding.
Composites are also less fragile than fiber cement and can take impact damage without splitting. Although some types of boards and color schemes will show scuffs and scratches (when used as decking, for example).
Whether you choose composite cladding or fiber cement, make sure to account for the entire lifecycle of the material. And remember: deferred maintenance projects can come back to bite you later. If you choose a higher-maintenance product and can’t keep up with regular re-painting, you might not have the opportunity to complete this project in a pinch.