What are the pros and cons of fiber cement or a composite (Everlast by Norandex)? I want to replace my asbestos siding.
I will have a professional abatement company remove the asbestos.
I am an architect in Connecticut – a very similar climate to yours - and I have put fiber cement on many a house. I have not put the Everlast product on a house but it is very appealing in some ways.
The pros and cons of each material
Fiber cement's pluses:
- Fiber cement looks good, looks like wood, and has a natural, solid "feel"
- Comes pre-painted and except for minor touch ups during installation and end cut painting, does not need to be painted upon installation.
- Does not need to be painted again for 15 or 20 years.
- Uses production waste (like wood fibers) that would otherwise go into a landfill.
- Not too expensive
Fiber cement's minuses:
- Very heavy
- Very hard to cut and work with
- Silica dust is a danger to those cutting and installing the product if they do not use the right tools.
- Some evidence of delaminating or gapping. (I have had many houses built with fiber cement and have never seen any delaminating in 8 years. I have seen very minor gapping but nothing that would not happen with wood.)
- Color does not go all the way thru and may need sporadic touch ups if chipped or damaged. (rare)
- Easy to install and clean – like vinyl
- Very lightweight
- Interlocking system that keeps it flat and even
- Much thicker than vinyl so it won’t bend, warp or dent
- Color goes all the way through the product so it can never chip off color, etc.
- Says it can be painted if owner chooses to change color.
- Says it will not fade like vinyl does.
- Costs a lot more than fiber cement. The cost of the product alone can be 3 or 4 times the cost of FC.
- Installation of FC is more labor intensive so when you include labor the cost comes down to only about 50% more. If you are planning on painting your FC – which is not at all necessary - Everlast's price would only be about 25% more. So the cost difference may vary, but it is significantly more expensive.
- It is a petroleum based product. (Think refining, importing, mining, politics, energy use.)
- It is a polymer, plastic like product. Some people are not happy with having a plastic house. There are many ‘plastic’ building materials these days. As an architect, I find user happiness is greater in a more natural house.
- The manufacturing of polymers, similar to the manufacturing of vinyl, can be truly horrible for the environment and for the people living near – or working in –the manufacturing facilities. Cancer rates near these facilities have been proven to far outnumber those of people who do not live near manufacturers such as these.
I confess that I lean toward fiber cement as a green architect and a nature lover.
The longer I live on the earth and do my job the more a fan of natural products I become. Currently I encourage all of my clients to just use cedar as even fiber cement is beginning to feel too unnatural for me.
- However I am also a realist. I understand all of the issues with painting and upkeep.
- But I believe if you build with a good rain screen and cedar (either left natural for zero maintenance, or primed 6 sides for a very long term paint job and little maintenance) you can do almost as well as fiber cement in the end as far as overall embodied energy and pollutants are concerned.
I am not comfortable with the plastic and vinyl type products, but I know many in the ‘green’ world are so I am willing to keep an open mind.
I would love to see the Everlast in person and see how well it truly does resemble wood. And I would like to be able to find out more about its manufacturing process before I really make the decision. Its sounds like a great alternative in many ways. Not heavy and hard to work with like fiber cement. A big plus on its own. BUT…but it is hard for me to say yes to petroleum based products.
I hope this helps and does not confuse you more! I think whichever way you go you will be ok, and I wish you the best with your house!
For more information:
Read "Should I use fiber cement siding?" a Q&A answered by Mick Dalrymple.