Vinyl Siding vs Fiber Cement: Which Is Better for Your Home?

Posted by Marcos Bicalho

in Siding

Vinyl Siding vs Fiber Cement: Which Is Better for Your Home?

When it comes to siding for your home, there are several choices. Two popular options are vinyl siding and fiber cement siding (sometimes known as Hardie board). Both have their merits and are used extensively on New England Homes. But which one is truly better for your home?

Unfortunately, there’s no definitive answer to which of the material works best. It depends on a variety of factors, including your budget, your climatic conditions and a lot more. Let’s dive into the comparison to help you make the best decision for your needs.

What is vinyl siding?

Vinyl siding is made of PVC and comes in insulated and non-insulated. Vinyl is currently the most popular siding product. This versatile, rigid synthetic plastic siding is durable, low maintenance, and affordable.

What is fiber cement siding?

Hardie Plank is a blend of sand, cement, and cellulose fibers, resembling natural materials like stone and wood. It is often referred to as Hardie® board siding or Hardie® Plank. This relates to the most popular fiber cement siding produced by manufacturer James Hardie.

Comparing vinyl siding vs fiber cement

Let’s break down the factors that could influence your decision about which siding material to choose.

Durability

One of the primary considerations when choosing siding is durability.

  • Vinyl siding is known for its resilience against harsh weather conditions, such as wind, rain, and snow. Vinyl can withstand wind speeds up to 110 mph. It doesn’t rot or corrode, making it a low-maintenance option. Vinyl is a good choice in Southern New England because our temperatures are not extreme. In very warm or cold temperatures, vinyl can warp or crack.
  • On the other hand, fiber cement exceptionally durability. It can withstand extreme temperatures and is also resistant to animals, insects, and mold. Although it can crack, they can be repaired and painted. Plus fiber cement can hold moisture, leading to panel damage and rot. Be sure you hire a professional siding contractor to ensure it is installed correctly and properly treated with the appropriate paint or caulk to protect the panels from moisture infiltration.

While both options are durable, fiber cement siding often edges out vinyl siding in terms of longevity. But both these materials can last over 50 years if installed and maintained well.

Cost

Cost is one of the most significant factors that people have to consider when choosing a siding product.

  • Vinyl siding is generally more affordable to install. It’s a budget-friendly option for those looking to improve their home’s exterior without breaking the bank. Insulated vinyl siding costs between $6 and $12 per square foot, while non-insulated vinyl ranges from $4 to $8. According to Angi, for Massachusetts homes, expect to pay $10,789 – $25,284 depending on the size of your home. Vinyl siding results in the increase in the resale value of $17,067. The average job cost in New England is $19,170. Basically, you recoup 89.0% of your investment.
  • Fiber cement, while pricier initially, offers long-term value due to its durability and potential to increase the resale value of your home. Fiber cement siding typically costs between $5 and $15 per square foot to install, which includes materials and labor. According to Remodeling Magazine’s 2023 Cost vs Value report, replacing your siding with fiber cement results in the increase in the resale value of $21,165. The average job cost in New England is $21,412. Basically, you recoup 101.2% of your investment!

Consider your budget and long-term investment goals when weighing the cost of each option.

Insulation

Since most siding products are not highly rated when it comes to insulation, be sure to add insulation to your exterior before your contractor adds the siding.

  • Insulated vinyl siding is a premium type of vinyl that adds an extra layer of insulation to your home. The insulation increases the energy efficiency of traditional vinyl siding. Depending on the particular brand and product, insulated vinyl siding features an R-value of 1.8 – 4.0. Regular vinyl siding R-value is about 0.61.
  • Fiber cement siding, on its own, is quite a poor insulator with a 0.15 – .37 R-value. To improve the R-value of fiber cement siding, be sure you wrap your home with building wrap and insulation to create a complete siding solution.

Note: R-value tells you how well a specific material insulates. A higher R-value indicates better insulation ability.

Color and design

Everyone has a different vision of what they want their siding to look like.

  • Vinyl siding offers many choices to homeowners as it comes in a wide range of styles, colors, and decorative options. Some vinyl sidings can also be made to look like stone or cedar. 
  • Fiber cement boards mimic the look of wood siding remarkably well. Its realistic wood grain texture and ability to be painted give homeowners the flexibility to achieve their desired look. And depending on the manufacturer, fiber cement siding does offer many looks, such as vertical, shingle and traditional lap siding.

Depending on the type of look you want, either option can give you the versatility you desire.

Ease Of Installation

When determining your choice on vinyl siding vs fiber cement, you should factor in how difficult installation of the new siding will be.

  • Vinyl is the easiest to install. It doesn’t require much labor or expertise. Hence the labor charges won’t really make much of a difference to your overall budget.
  • Fiber cement siding is a heavy material, which, if not handled properly, can break. Since the material is up to five times thicker than vinyl, it’s also harder to cut to size. The installation requires more labor and has the additional process of being painted.

Keep in mind that installation difficulty will play into the overall price of the project. If you are budget conscious, you may be better off going with vinyl.

Maintenance

Homeowners often seek siding options that require minimal maintenance.

  • Vinyl siding is virtually maintenance-free, requiring only occasional cleaning with soap and water to remove dirt and grime. However, it can become brittle over time and may need to be replaced after a few decades.
  • Fiber cement, while more durable, may require occasional repainting to maintain its appearance. Additionally, it should be inspected for any signs of damage or moisture infiltration. And you need to power wash it annually to maintain its appearance.

Both options offer relatively low maintenance, but vinyl siding may have a slight edge in this category.

Pros and cons of vinyl siding vs fiber cement

Just to recap vinyl vs fiber cement siding features and benefits, here’s a summary:

Vinyl siding

Pros:

  • Durable
  • Less expensive
  • Low maintenance
  • No painting required
  • Easy to install
  • More variety of styles and colors
  • Good insulation

Cons:

  • May allow moisture below the surface
  • Can lower your home’s value
  • Not environment-friendly
  • Can be easily cracked or dented

Fiber cement siding

Pros:

  • Durable
  • High return on investment
  • Resistant to pests
  • Long-term warranty
  • Fire resistant
  • Environment friendly

Cons:

  • Higher cost
  • Heavy, harder to install
  • Can hold moisture
  • Needs more maintenance

The choice is up to you

Both vinyl siding and fiber cement have their own set of advantages and drawbacks. Your decision should be based on factors such as durability, aesthetics, maintenance and cost. Ultimately, choose the option that best suits your preferences, budget, and long-term goals for your home. Whether you opt for the affordability of vinyl siding or the durability of fiber cement, investing in quality siding will enhance the beauty and value of your home for years to come.

Keep in mind that regardless of the material you select, the siding contractor you hire matters. If you want the siding to last, choose a contractor that has experience in all types of siding to get the results you are looking for.