James Hardie Fiber Cement Siding vs. Vinyl Siding

When it comes time to choose an exterior siding product for your home, it may be tempting to select the same siding as your neighbors, but there is another option to consider. Even if you live in a neighborhood where vinyl siding is the “norm,” you can still get fiber cement siding. Also known as cement board or “Hardie Board,” fiber cement has many benefits and a few drawbacks. Homeowners should always consider the cost, the ease of maintenance, impact on home resale value and overall appearance. What is gained in one direction may be negated by a disadvantage in another, so it all comes down to your personal priorities.

Vinyl Siding

Introduced in the 1960s as an alternative to aluminum siding, vinyl siding has since become quite popular. Made from polyvinyl chloride, or PVC, it is an extremely long lasting and durable material that can be made to match the style of most homes. In the U.S., vinyl exterior siding can be found on twice as many homes as any other siding material.

Fiber Cement Board

Cement board siding in its current form was introduced by James Hardie in the 1980s, hence the name “Hardie Board.” Like vinyl, it is also extremely hard wearing and durable, but it is much heavier to work with. A vinyl siding installer will need special training before being able to install Hardie Board, but many homeowners prefer its authentic designer look. This is why we have become an Elite Preferred Contractor through James Hardie.


Cement board siding has a definite edge in durability. This product will typically come with a 30 warranty non-prorated. It is much less susceptible to weather damage and will withstand the impact of wind-blown debris much better too. Cement board doesn’t change much over time. It doesn’t become brittle or lose strength. It remains one of the more dependable home solutions for siding options on the market today. James Hardie has also put around $80 million into their research and development to make sure the product will hold up to the freeze thaw climate of the Midwest.  Vinyl is a cheaper product than fiber cement, but it is also less durable than cement board. It will need replacing much earlier too. It also becomes brittle or will start to shrink or warp after long exposure to a hot summers and freezing winters, making it less suitable for a hot climate. When it becomes more brittle, it is much more easily damaged, and then even a heavy hail storm can cause damage to the siding. Wind-blown debris will definitely pose a potential hazard to a vinyl siding that has been up for some time and become brittle. Vinyl siding will typically come with a 25-year warranty.

Energy efficiency

Since vinyl siding came onto the scene in the 1960s, energy efficiency has become much more important to the average homeowner, but so has “green building.” While cement board is hardly considered energy-efficient it is a much eco-friendlier product than vinyl. Fiber cement board has poor insulating qualities, but few people rely on their siding product to provide insulation on its own. The “R-value” of cement board, or measure of insulating qualities, is around R-0.50, which is very low when one considers that fiberglass matting has an R-value of R-19.  On its own, vinyl siding is no better than cement board, however it is now possible to buy vinyl with built-in insulation. This insulated variety makes vinyl a stronger and more rigid material to work with. Its popularity has also made it possible to produce the material in a wider variety of colors.

In conclusion, vinyl is certainly the less expensive of the two materials, which is probably why it is the more popular. Vinyl prices vary, but should be at least 10-15% lower than cement board. However, cement board is generally recognized as having the greater overall quality, and is usually chosen with the long-term view.

Elite Exteriors LLC serves Southeastern Wisconsin and specializes in roofing, siding, windows, doors, insulation and finished carpentry. We are a licensed, bonded, and insured contractor who has been in business for three generations!

Elite Exteriors LLC can provide a professional roofing installation for your home with the top warranties in the roofing business. Call us today at (262) 641-5760 for a free estimate on your repair and remodel job. We serve the Greater Milwaukee Area. You can also request a free estimate by emailing [email protected].