When doing an exterior remodel, your choice of house siding has big implications. The two most common forms we see at Custom Home Exteriors are vinyl siding and Hardie Board. Here we’ll compare them side-by-side so that you can make an informed decision on which is best for you.
The Best Brands for Vinyl Siding
Before we go any further, I’ll note that the features I’m describing for these products only go for the brands my company uses and trusts.
For fiber cement, our preferred choice is James Hardie® siding all the way.
As far as vinyl brands go, here are the manufacturers I recommend:
Each of these brands uses the best materials and offer good warranties. Avoid buying siding from the big box stores. Their products are cheaper and chalkier, and their warranties are lower-grade.
Vinyl exteriors are consistently cheaper to install than fiber cement, particularly compared to the top brands like hardie siding. On average, here’s what you can expect:
- Vinyl siding – $5-8 per sf
- Hardiplank® – $11-13 per sf
Both vinyl and fiber cement siding are actually very durable. Each is resistant to rot, insects, and mold. Both are also flame retardant.
Some would say that vinyl exteriors have a reputation for being cheap, but in my opinion this is an outdated stigma. Vinyl siding today is made using virgin PVC resin, which is significantly more resistant to fading and storm damage. To illustrate the difference, vinyl manufactured 20 years ago came with SPF 15 protection, while today it comes with SPF 50.
However, Hardie plank is much thicker – .31 inches thick vs .043 inches. This makes it more durable overall and gives it higher resistance to storm and animal damage. Moreover, vinyl exterior can melt, while Hardiplank can’t.
With proper maintenance, both home exterior options can last for decades. Depending on the climate, vinyl siding can last up to 40 years with proper maintenance. Hardie Board can last even longer, with estimates ranging up to 100 years depending on who you ask.
Hardiplank comes with a 50 year warranty, while the best vinyl manufacturers usually include a warranty of 25 years. However, in order to capitalize on these warranties, you will need to hire a VSI-certified installer who will follow all of the unique rules of each manufacturer.
Common Repair Needs
The most common repairs that we see for vinyl siding are related to melting. Many people make the mistake of turning on the grill next to the house. Under high heat, the material will melt. Other common repairs include hail and weed eater damage.
Hardiplank doesn’t usually need as much repair, and it has higher durability overall. It’s much thicker than vinyl, and its base ingredient is concrete rather than pvc resin. However, bear in mind that most fiber cement manufacturers also include an ingredient called fly ash in their mixture, which causes the plank to shrink up to a quarter of an inch within 6 months of installation. Hardie Board is the only fiber cement product that I’ve seen that doesn’t shrink at all, which is one of the reasons why it’s our top recommended fiber cement brand.
Both vinyl siding and fiber cement siding can be repainted. Typically vinyl comes with its color baked in. so you won’t have to repaint it unless you want to.
Likewise, Hardiplank can also come pre-finished with its ColorPlus® technology. This baked-in color coat lasts longer than a typical paint job, is more resistant to fading, and has a more even finish. As the 2nd largest installer of ColorPlus in the country, we love this feature. However, Hardie siding is the only fiber cement product that comes with ColorPlus, so don’t expect this advantage with other brands. It comes with a 15 year warranty covering maintenance for paint and peeling.
Vinyl is much lighter than fiber cement, which makes it easier to replace if there is a problem. Fiber cement takes high precision tools and increased skill to replace, so the costs will be higher. Each of these exteriors can be power washed, and both should be at least once per year. Make sure a professional does this job, since power washing incorrectly can damage both materials.
Fiber cement has very little R value, which is the metric used to measure a substance’s intrinsic insulation. For example, Hardie siding comes with an R value of .5, which means it offers very little insulation. In contrast, vinyl siding typically comes with an R value of .61, which is a small but noticeable difference.
However, each form of siding can be upgraded. Insulated versions of Hardiplank can have an R value as high as 4, while insulated versions of vinyl can go above 4.
So Which is Better Overall?
If your primary concern is affordability, then vinyl siding is probably what you want. It has a lower cost of installation and will be cheaper to repair. However, if you’re more concerned with longevity and durability, Hardie Board is better for you.