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Hardie board siding – is it worth It?

Over the past several years, there has been a distinct rise of interest in the look of the old Bahamian clapboard house. While varieties of horizontal siding are still easily available in wood, many people have been drawn to a popular horizontal siding alternative – Hardie board. This cementitious product, which was created to mimic wood siding, but to avoid problems of rot and termite infestation, has become very popular in North American housing developments, where most housing construction is by what is called “balloon framing”, either in wood or in metal. The look is distinct, and the popularity is seductive, so there is a lot of Bahamian interest in the product.
Hardie board siding, created by James Hardie, and also known as cement board siding, has been around forever, but its popularity seems to come in streaks. Typically billed as a low-maintenance, long-lasting material, does it measure up to its reputation? Here are the pros, cons and costs of Hardie board siding to see how it looks under scrutiny.

The pros
This siding is certainly a rising trend in the industry, especially among nostalgic Bahamians. It’s a product that lasts, comes in a wide variety of textures and colors and is reasonably affordable. The benefits extend beyond those factors though, and when it comes to Hardie board siding, there is a long list of pros.
• Longevity: Most Hardie board siding comes with a 50-year, limited transferable warranty. This siding is completely rot and insect resistant and can even handle salt spray from the ocean. Whether the warranty is enforceable outside the U.S. is not certain, but the existence of the warranty and its length suggest a premier product.
• Appearance: Hardie board siding can be made to mimic just about any other siding material, including wood lap boards, cedar shingles and wood shake siding. Color options are virtually unlimited. These colors are typically accompanied by a 10 to 15-year warranty on the finish.
• Fire resistance: Hardie board siding is 90 percent sand and cement, which makes it fire-resistant. Case in point: in St. Paul Minnesota in the U.S., a house fire torched two fire trucks parked 60 feet away, but the cement board siding home next door, 50 feet away, remained unscathed.
• Storm resistance: Whether you’re looking for a siding material that can withstand the next Matthew, or one that can fend off the next summer rainstorm without sustaining significant damage, cement board siding is a proven commodity in the weather department.

The cons
What’s not to like about Hardie board siding? A few things stand out.
• Installation: Because of its weight, the siding requires more resources to install than other siding materials. As noted below, it will take longer and may require more tradesmen.
• Maintenance: Hardie board is not a completely maintenance-free siding material. You will have to repaint it in time. Although the warranty is usually for 50 years, Hardie board siding finishes are only guaranteed for 15 years. By comparison, wood has to be painted every three to five years, maximum.
• Costs: Hardie board siding involves high installation and labor costs. Hardie board siding requires more planning, a larger labor force and takes longer to install due to its composition. It weighs about 300 pounds per 100 square feet, compared to 60 to 70 pounds for vinyl siding. This can increase labor and installation costs as compared to vinyl or aluminum siding. Wood siding is closer in weight, but still lighter.
In the U.S., Hardie board siding runs about $10 to $12 per square foot. So plan on spending about 40 percent more for siding, if you choose it over vinyl. However, if the pros speak to you more than the cons, the price doesn’t matter that much. Over a few years, the beauty and reduced maintenance alone will have paid off the difference.

• Patrick Rahming & Associates is a full service design firm providing architectural, planning and design services throughout The Bahamas and the northern Caribbean. Visit its website at www.pradesigns.com and like its Facebook page. The firm’s mission is to help its clients turn their design problems into completed projects through a process of guided decision-making, responsible environmental advice and expert project administration.

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