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Fiber Cement Siding

Homeowners that want the look of wood but don’t want the hassles and costs associated with it, fiber-cement siding can be a satisfactory alternative. It is available from several manufacturers in a variety of textures that are said to have the appearance of wood. Fiber-cement siding should be more durable than wood. It is termite-resistant, water-resistant, non-combustible, and warranted up to 50 years.

Fiber-cement siding is composed of cement, sand, and cellulose fiber that has been autoclaved (cured with pressurized steam) to increase strength and dimensional stability. Fiber is added as reinforcement to prevent cracking. The planks come in 5¼" to 12" widths and 5/16" and 7/16" thickness. The product also comes in 4’X8’ sheets.

Like wood, fiber-cement siding can be installed over studs or exterior wall sheathing with an appropriate weather-resistant barrier. Galvanized nails or screws that penetrate into wall studs are used to attach it. The material can be cut with a special scoring tool, or a carbide-tipped blade in a circular saw. But a great way to cut it is with a special electric shearing tool that is adapted from an electric drill.

Fiber-cement products come primed or unprimed. However, factory priming and painting are recommended. An alkaline-resistant primer is required. Manufacturers generally recommend using a 100% Acrylic topcoat. Factory top coats are often given warranties for up to 25. Unless the top coat is applied in the factory, this siding may need to be painted every four or five years.

Manufacturers emphasize that fiber-cement siding is appropriate for hot and humid climates because it resists rot, fungus, and termite infestation. It also has excellent weathering characteristics, strength, and impact resistance.

There are some restrictions on blind nailing products with greater widths due to wind uplift. Face nailing can be used with all products, but staples should not be used. Excessive dust creation while cutting will likely require additional control methods. Consult the manufacturer's recommended practices and installation instructions.

The installed costs of fiber-cement are reported to be less than traditional masonry or synthetic stucco, equal to or less than hardboard siding. Depending on the application, it can be more or less than vinyl siding.

Installation of Fiber-Cement Lap Siding
If you have installed wood lap siding, many of the same techniques are used in the installation of fiber-cement lap siding. In order to push the bottom of the first course out to the proper angle you will need some sort of starter strip. 1/4-inch wood lathe is usually used.

The top of each piece of siding should be lined up to a chalk line to keep the spacing even and consistent around the entire house. Drive galvanized siding nails through the top of each piece into every stud. The nail head should sit on the surface of the siding. If the nail is countersunk below the surface it won't hold as well. A pneumatic nail gun can be adapted to drive the nails to the proper depth.

Each row overlaps the row below it, as with wood lap siding, you need to decide on an exposure (the amount on each row that shows) that creates at least a 1½" overlap. This will cover up the nails in each row. (This is known as blind nailing.)

Corners, windows, and doors can be dressed with fiber-cement trim boards. These come in 1”X4” strips that can be cut to size.

You should caulk all gaps between the siding and the trim pieces. It’s a good idea to also caulk the butt joints where two pieces of siding meet. In order to get the best paint job, use a high-quality, paint-able latex caulk.

Installing Fiber-Cement Shingles
Lap siding can be installed over foam or cellulose wall sheathing since you are always nailing into the wall studs. When you put up fiber-cement shingles nailing into the studs isn't always possible, so the wall sheathing needs to be at least 7/16" OSB or plywood in order for them to be anchored well.

These shingles are 18" long, this allows a maximum exposure of 8 inches. They are blind nailed, and the nails should be positioned so that the row above will cover at least 1" below the nail heads. As with lap siding, the nails should be driven snug, but not countersunk.

The shingles come in different widths (6", 8" and 12" are typical) these should be mixed together randomly. It's important however that the joints between shingles on each row are at least 1½" away from the joints on the row below it.

Installing Fiber-Cement Soffits and Roof Trim
Four by eight sheets of fiber-cement material can be ripped into pieces for the underside of the soffits. You can work in continuous soffit vents and there are special types of vents that are designed to work with fiber-cement soffit material.

You can also use the same trim pieces that you used for corner boards and window trim for fascia and frieze boards. At the tops of walls, you can use the frieze boards to cover the nails and the top edges of the shingles or siding.
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