I consider myself a traditionalist when it comes to remodeling materials. Windows have to be wood, not vinyl. Countertops have got to be stone or tile, forget laminate or Corian. Hardwood floors are infinitely preferable over carpet (though I do have a soft spot for vintage checkered linoleum).
So I was surprised to find myself considering fiber-cement siding, rather than wood, for our (hopefully) impending exterior remodel.
Fiber-cement doesn’t deteriorate, is fire-resistant and inhospitable to bugs and, when painted, looks somewhat like the real thing (unlike the vinyl siding on our neighbor’s house – or the ahem, asbestos siding on ours).
Both JamesHardie and CertainTeed make shingles and lap siding that would look pretty authentic on any old house – they even make Victorian-worthy half-round and octagon (or fish scale, as I’ve always known them) shingles.
Since fiber-cement doesn’t contract and expand like real wood, it requires less repainting. It won’t crack off like stucco. And, from what I understand, it can come with paint baked on in your choice of color (assuming you like one of the shades offered by the manufacturer).
Not that we’ll be ripping our siding off anytime soon, since we’ve been blessed with the asbestos-cement variety.
It’s often recommended that people with asbestos siding in decent condition just patch up the bad spots and repaint. It’s old and ugly, but it’s also potentially expensive to remove, thanks to the health hazard (though I hear that if you wear respirators and keep the dust down, it’s probably fine to do it yourself).
But I’m pretty set on a combination of new cedar or fiber-cement shingles and lap siding, at least for the face of our house. If we’re going to paint the whole thing– which has been my hope since the day we bought our house, since I’m not a fan of its current shade of faded grey – why not go all the way and spiff up the siding too? If we can afford it, that is.