Cement Board – Alternative Siding and Trim

By Todd Fratzel on Siding & Trim

Cement Board Siding & Trim

Cement Board siding and trim is becoming a real viable option for many home owners looking for an upgrade from vinyl siding while trying to avoid the maintenance issues of wood siding and trim. We’ve been installing James Hardie fiber cement siding for years now and it’s a great option especially for folks that don’t like the look of vinyl.

Options, Options, Options

When it comes to cement board siding and trim there are as many options today as there are in wood. You can buy trim boards in 4/4 and 5/4 in all standard trim widths up to 12″ (nom.). You can get clap boards in several sizes, shakes/shingle in different sizes and styles including scalloped shingles.

In addition to an enormous range of shapes and sizes you can also get most cement board siding and trim pre-finished at the factory. Many manufacturers offer popular colors from Paint Manufacturers like Sherwin Williams.

The latest trend in cement board siding are concrete stains that simulate real wood trim. In the adjacent photo you can see a custom home that has simulated cedar shakes. In fact the siding is Nichiha cement board siding!

Installation Methods

So above I’ve shown you that you can pretty much eliminate all wood siding and trim and replace it with longer lasting cement board products. So the real question then turns to installation methods and how it compares to traditional wood materials.

Installation of cement board siding and trim is almost identical to wood products. We generally cut the cement siding products with carbide tipped blades on circular saws, miter saws and specialty fiber cement saws. There are also varying types of shears that will shear the products but I prefer to cut it. The real issue is working safely and dealing with the dust. Cement dust (silica dust) can be very harmful to the respiratory system if inhaled in large quantities. So working with dust masks, dust collection and things of that nature are very important.

Fastening cement board siding and trim is also straight forward. It can be hand nailed or pneumatically nailed using ring shank siding nails or roofing nails (I prefer roofing nails because the larger head had better holding properties). The siding can be faced nailed or blind nailed which is the most popular method. The siding gets flashed between but joints and along roofing transitions. Basically the fastening approach is identical to that of traditional wood products.

Cement Board Cost

So the million dollar question is how much does this stuff cost. The real question should be how does it compare to other premium building products. For example if you’re going to side a house with cedar clap boards and want to compare that to cement board siding then the products become comparable. In fact, in some situations cement siding can be cheaper than good quality wood siding. The same can be said about certain cement trim board products compared to wood.

On a current project I just priced the difference between Red Cedar shingles and and stained cement board shingles. The cement shingles were approximately 20% more to purchase compared to the unfinished cedar. However, when you figure out adding in the cost to stain or seal the cedar shingles the cost is probably very close. Now consider that the cedar shakes are going to be sealed/stained every few years and the price starts to favor cement quickly.

Durability and Lifespan

Probably the most appealing benefit of cement board siding is it’s long term lifespan and durability. Many of these products have warranties of at least 30 years and many will last for a lifetime. When you consider the amount of maintenance that wood products might need over that time period you quickly realize that cement board siding is a great option.

About the author

Todd Fratzel

I'm full time builder for a large construction company in New Hampshire. I run their design-build division that specializes in custom homes, commercial design-build projects and sub-divisions. I'm also a licensed civil and structural engineer with extensive experience in civil and structural design and home construction. My hope is that I can share my experience in the home construction, home improvement and home renovation profession with other builders and home owners. I'm also the Editor-in-Chief and Founder of Tool Box Buzz. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions, suggestions or you'd like to inquire about advertising on this site.

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  1. I love our cement board siding. We replaced our vinyl siding because of hail damage and spent the extra money for Hardie board siding.

    I cost about double what vinyl siding did, so we had to cover the difference — it was well worth the money. I also like the fact we don’t have to do anything to it for 30 years and it won’t get damaged by hail like the vinyl.

    Check out the difference:

    Then go to the next photo in the series to see what the house used to look like.

    • Todd says:

      Ben – It looks beautiful! Cement siding is a great product. The key is quality installation and being sure that the paint system was applied exactly as specified. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Sean says:

    I work for a roofing and siding company in Ottawa, Canada and we’re huge fans of James Hardie. Looks great, lasts seemingly forever and it’s backed by an awesome warranty. :)

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