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Siding Shootout: Hardie vs LP SmartSide. A Case for LP SmartSide

Hardie Plank: An Introduction

Here in Texas it seems like there is one king of siding: Jame Hardie. Whether it’s new builds or remodels, we find our clients instinctually ask for one product when it comes to siding their house: Hardie. Should Hardie be the undisputed champion of siding, or is there another product clamoring for the crown? I want to focus on some of the draw backs of using Hardie in this blog post. There are loads and loads of benefits it provides, but I want this post to open your eyes to newer product lines that have some very distinct advantages over using hardie. This is not intended to be an end-all-be-all article on LP SmartSide vs Hardie, rather a brief primer and opinionated look at what I like about LP SmartSide over Hardie.

If you don’t know, Hardie is a cement based product that mimics the look of traditional wood siding. Hardie comes in many different sizes and styles. Since Hardie isn’t made of wood, it isn’t as susceptible to rot or mold as wood is.

Hardie can still harbor mold and mildew.

Though Hardie will not deteriorate since the product is not organic, it can still mold. Concrete based products are porous and can become a home for mold and mildew. Most home owners don’t know that hardie can harbor mold. They also don’t know that Hardie also is required to be painted every 10 years to maintain it’s effectiveness.

This photo below is an example of mold growing on hardie siding.

https://www.bestpickreports.com/blog/post/causes-of-mold-mildew-on-siding/

Hardie is Brittle

Another issue major issue that you should know about hardie siding is that it is extremely brittle. Given that hardie is not made of wood which is quiet impact absorbent, but rather is concrete based, hardie has a major tenancy to shatter. This becomes problematic with family homes. Baseballs, rocks, and hail have been known to break hardie planks, leading to costly repairs.

Below is a photo of LP SmartSide (The challenger) vs Hardie plank when hit by a thrown baseball.

https://www.proremodeler.com/more-impact-resistant-fiber-cement

Hardie is Difficult and Expensive to Install.

Just because Hardie board looks like wood, it does not mean that it installs or is handled like wood. Since hardie is fiber cement in make up, special blades and tools are required to cut and install the siding. Fiber cement blades need to be purchased for all of the tools needed to cut the siding. On any given project this could mean purchasing new blades for your: table saw, miter saw, circular saw, and even your multi tool and jig saw depending on the job’s complexity.

Another downside to the fiber cement make up of hardie is it’s weight. Hardie is significantly heavier than comparable siding options. This means that more labor is required to hang even one piece of siding. This drives up costs for contractors, and increases DIYer fatigue. This equates to higher costs all around as well as longer time frames.

Another installation downside is the brittle nature of hardie and fiber cement planks. The slightest mishandling of fiber cement planks causes them to break and end up in the trash pile. This greatly increases the waste factor on fiber cement jobs. Higher waste factor, means more material, which means more cost to the home owner.

Finally, and most worrisome, is that cutting hardie and other fiber cement products is dangerous. Fiber cement products produce a dust when cut called silica. Exposure to silica can lead to a disabling and often fatal condition called silicosis. Silicosis has gained a lot of exposure recently with OSHA’s new table 1 requirements. These requirements outline the acceptable methodology for working around silica dust. As a business owner, let me say that these requirements are expensive, time consuming, and necessary for the protection of my employees.

All of these factors can greatly increase the cost of working with fiber cement siding. If you happen to find a contractor that does not charge more for hardie, the fact is, they are probably not handling the product safely.

LP SmartSide: A worthy competitor

LP SmartSide is an engineered wood product. LP is pest and rot treated for maximum durability. LP SmartSide comes in just as many profiles, styles, colors, and trims as Hardie plank does. Below we will get into some of LP’s unique advantages and disadvantages.

LP Smartside Advantages

LP Smartside Installs like normal wood products.

Since LP SmartSide is an engineered wood product, it installs like standard wood siding does. This means that you or your contractor can utilize all of the same tools and materials that they would normally have on hand to install the product.

LP SmartSide is also significantly lighter than hardie siding, making solo installations a breeze. This material lightness decreases worker fatigue and also in turn, decreases mistakes caused by weariness!

LP is also not brittle, and is much more forgiving during the installation and the use of the product, decreasing call backs, extra material runs, and future repairs.

Since the product is made of wood, safety is less of a concern, standard safety precautions are to be made while cutting and installing the product.

LP Smartside is just as mold and mildew resistant as Hardie when installed properly.

If installed properly, according to manufacturers specifications, LP SmartSide is every bit as mold and mildew resistant as hardie. The product is treated specifically to inhibit the growth of mold and mildew, prevent rot, and repel insects.

LP Smartside is not brittle.

SmartSide is impact resistant, much like standard wood siding. This comes in handy if you have an active home like I do. With three small kids running around, something inevitably ends up crashing into the side of my house, whether that be a baseball, stick, one of my kids, or one of their toys I accidentally hit with the lawn mower. LP SmartSide gets serious longevity points as far as I’m concerned, because siding has to exist in a non static environment, and needs to be prepared to weather any storm or accidental occurrence thrown it’s way.

LP SmartSide’s Warranty.

According to the LP SmartSide website, all of their trim comes standard with a 5 year, 100% replacement cost (labor included) warranty, coupled with a 50 year prorated warranty. There is not other warranty like this on the market. The other main players do not cover the labor in a warranty situation which is the majority of the project cost.

LP SmartSide Disadvantages

The main disadvantage to utilizing LP SmartSide is that it has to be installed properly to work properly. While this is true of anything, forgetting to paint the edge of a hardie board won’t result in the Hardie rotting away. However, if you cut the LP siding, the ends need to be primed to prevent water from penetrating the unprotected ends.

Best practice dictates that this should really be done on any siding type, wood siding more specifically. However, I have seen a lot of applications where we have gone out for repairs to find siding improperly installed, where the problem did not arise until well after the contractor’s warranty had expired.

Conclusion

In conclusion, LP SmartSide is a viable, and in many cases a better choice for your siding needs. I know the tonality of this blog post has focused on the negatives of Hardie, but both products are great when installed properly. This blog post focused more on the negatives of Hardie because most people around here know how great the product can be when installed correctly.

Often times, I’ll bring up LP SmartSide when consulting homeowners in replacing siding and the vast majority of them have never heard of the product before. As a contractor, I much prefer installing LP products. As long as you have a contractor willing to read and install the LP siding according to the manufacturer’s specifications, you’ll have a product that in many cases can outlast the hardie products, and often times for cheaper.

5 Comments

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