Question

What are the pros and cons of fiber cement or a composite (Everlast by Norandex)? I want to replace my asbestos siding.

Asked by Joel Shoner
Brookline, MA

I will have a professional abatement company remove the asbestos.

Answer

Elizabeth DiSalvo

Answered by Elizabeth DiSalvo

Norwalk, CT

Trillium Architects

July 8, 2013

Hi Joel,

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.
  • Fireproof
  • 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)

Everlast's pluses:

  • 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.

Everlast's minuses:

  • 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.

My advice

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.

Tagged In: fiber cement siding, siding

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