Why We Chose Fiber Cement Siding For our House + What it Will Cost

Considering fiber cement for your siding project? Here’s why we chose it for our old house, and the cost we are paying for the project.

One of the things I love most about my house is that it’s old. It has charm, detail and craftsmanship that you just don’t get in a lot of the newer houses today. But one of the things I also dislike most about my house is that it’s old. I feel like every year we have a project to tackle that’s required to simply keep the house standing, and these projects have to be prioritized over the fun projects like installing a patio and bathroom remodels … (i.e. why I ended up “renovating” our primary bathroom with paint last year).

white colonial house

This year’s project? Our house needs new siding. The paint is peeling, and it’s at the point where it’s not worth it to re-paint the old stuff. Trust me, I wanted to paint it. I tried to get quotes for re-painting it, and instead I got a lot of side-eyes and head shakes and “you can do it, but you’ll be wasting your money”-s.

Essentially, we were told that if we painted the siding, we’d have to just keep re-painting it every 5 years, at about $15,000 a paint job, because the paint will just keep peeling off.

white house with peeling siding
Here’s a closer look at how bad the paint is on our house … and this is a section we know was replaced in the 1990s. Some of the siding on other areas of the house is much older.

So, we started to seriously consider an option we’d always thought would be the long-term solution: fiber cement siding. Fiber cement is common alternative to cedar-shake siding (which is what we currently have) because it’s more durable and less-maintenance. You basically install it once and you shouldn’t have to do any painting or upkeep for 30+ years. But, instead of paying to paint the house every 5 years, you just pay a lot more upfront for fiber cement siding (I’ll get to the $$ details in a minute).

Fiber cement also looks a lot more like real cedar siding than something like vinyl siding. It has a wood-look texture, and comes in different exposures, or widths, so we can match the look of the cedar. This was important to me because I love the look of our house, and I didn’t want to alter its character or charm.

We are going with James Hardie siding, because we’d heard good things about the brand, and there are a lot of James Hardie contractors in our area. But, there are other options, too, like Nichiha or WeatherSide.

Now, as confident as I am that we made the right choice with fiber cement siding, there are still some drawbacks.

chart of fiber cement siding colors

The first is that James Hardie siding comes stocked in limited colors. You can get a custom color, but that increases the price by a lot, and it just wasn’t in our budget. There was only one white color, Arctic White, so that’s what we went with, even though I probably would have gone with something a little less gray if I was choosing a custom color.

The other colors are mostly neutral shades of gray/greige/beige, with a few options for blue, green, and red. You can paint Hardy siding also, but that kind of felt like defeating the purpose for us. Something to think about if you want a specific house color.

Another drawback is that you can’t do archwork or detailed trims in Hardie / fiber cement siding. (You can do standard window trim/straight edges, though). We have arches and columns on our side porch, and those have to be made from a PVC material instead. The PVC is a slightly different shade of white than the Arctic White color (see above), which I don’t love, but will work with.

James Hardie Pricing

And the final drawback, is, of course, the price. We got 4 quotes for Hardie fiber cement siding, and they were all between $68,000-$110,000, depending on the options we chose. For reference, our house is about 3,400 square feet. The price includes:

  • Pulling permits
  • Removing old siding
  • Dumpster rental
  • New waterproofing barrier
  • Replacing any damaged plywood under the old siding
  • All new siding
  • All new window trim
  • New gutters
  • New patio ceiling
  • Replacing railing on top of the front door
  • Re-installing all exterior lights

Basically, it’s the soup-to-nuts price for the whole exterior project. The quote we went with is on the lower end of that price range, because we couldn’t justify (or afford) spending $100k+ on the outside of our house. I’m not thrilled about the cost, but I am happy that we will be done with this project and that our house will look so much better (and be more water-tight, we’ve had some water leakage issues) for the long-term.

We are hoping to have this project underway in the next couple of weeks, and I’ll share the after when it’s all done! In the meantime, I still need to choose a few final details, like shutter & gutter colors, and plan to share the options & inspiration in my next post!

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