Insulated Vinyl Siding vs. Fiber Cement: Which is Best?

There are many siding products available on the market today to give the exterior of your home a beautiful appearance and protect it from the elements, but two products that are gaining popularity are insulated vinyl siding and fiber cement siding. In this article we will take a look at Insulated Vinyl Siding vs. Fiber Cement to help you determine which may be right for your project.

Composition

Insulated vinyl siding is made of rigid, contoured insulation permanently adhered to vinyl siding, while fiber cement siding is made from a mixture of sand, cement, and cellulose fibers. A third party Life Cycle Assessment found that insulated vinyl siding has a lower overall environmental impact than fiber cement, second only to traditional vinyl siding and cedar.

Appearance

Both insulated vinyl siding and fiber cement are designed to replicate the look of traditional wood siding planks. Both products can effectively cover exterior walls to improve the appearance of the home.

Insulated Vinyl Siding

Insulated vinyl siding provides a wider selection of design options that fiber cement. Clapboard, dutchlap, board and batten, shakes, scallops, and even panels designed to look like cabin logs are all available, in addition to extensive accessories to complete the look of the home.

Insulated vinyl siding typically features a significant butt height that creates deep shadow lines to emulate the look of real wood.

Fiber Cement

Fiber cement is traditionally available in planks, shingles, and flat boards for vertical applications. It can come pre-painted or pre-stained, and can be painted any color you desire. Although insulated vinyl siding is available in hundreds of colors, fiber cement has an infinite number of color options because it is painted after installation.

Energy Efficiency

The energy efficiency of insulation products is measured in R-value, which means the resistance to heat flow. The higher the r-value, the greater the insulating power. Tiny air pockets in the insulation resist the transfer of heat. The thicker the insulation, the more air pockets, and the higher the r-value.

Insulated Vinyl Siding

Depending on the particular brand and product, insulated vinyl siding features an r-value of 2.0 – 3.5. The thick insulation component helps reduce energy use and lower utility bills. For more information about how much insulated vinyl siding can save, check out this article about cost and return on investment.

Fiber Cement

Fiber cement offers minimal energy savings at .15 r-value, but can be installed with fanfold or insulating sheathing products to improve the r-value of the whole siding system.

Durability

Fiber Cement

Insulated vinyl siding and fiber cement can both provide a durable exterior solution for your project. Fiber cement is hard to the touch, but because it is heavier and made of a cementitious material, it can be prone to cracking and chipping. It is also considered an absorptive cladding, meaning it it can absorb moisture, which can lead to problems such as rot.

Insulated Vinyl Siding

Insulated vinyl siding is made with a tough plastic material that is impervious to water damage, cracking and chipping. Although traditional vinyl siding is susceptible to impact damage because of the hollow void created between the siding and the wall, insulated vinyl siding provides superior impact resistance. The contoured foam insulation serves as a shock absorber for the siding, protecting it from damage due to hail, rocks thrown from the lawnmower, or the neighbor’s baseball. Check out the video below where an ice ball is shot at insulated vinyl siding.

Maintenance

Fiber Cement

Of the two siding products, insulated vinyl siding requires the lowest maintenance by far. Fiber cement requires regular caulking and repainting to protect the siding from the elements and maintain a beautiful appearance, which can be costly and time consuming.

Insulated Vinyl Siding

Insulated vinyl siding requires only periodic cleaning with a garden hose and some soapy water to maintain its original appearance over time.

Cost

Insulated Vinyl Siding

Depending on your area of the country, which options you select, and the design of your home, prices for fiber cement and insulated vinyl siding can fluctuate greatly. In general, insulated vinyl siding costs anywhere from $4.00 – $12.00 per square foot installed.

Fiber Cement

The 2015 Remodeling Magazine Cost vs. Value Report listed the average price for 12.5 squares of fiber cement siding installed as $14,014 and foam-backed vinyl siding at $15,184. However, it is important to remember that insulated vinyl siding does not require expensive, routine maintenance such as painting and caulking, which can cost up to $6,000 each time per Home Advisor.

In addition, the energy efficiency of insulated vinyl siding can reduce your utility bills every single year it is on your home, significantly reducing the true cost of the project over time.

Installation

Fiber Cement

Fiber cement siding is durable and solid once it is installed on the wall, but it can be delicate during handling in shipping and on the jobsite. Fiber cement installation requires two people to handle all panels to prevent breakage, while insulated vinyl siding can be installed with one person.

Popular brands of fiber cement also kick off silica dust when they are cut. Excessive exposure to silica dust can result in a potentially fatal lung disease, so it is recommended that installers use a respirator when cutting the panels. In comparison, insulated vinyl siding can be cut with snips or a circular saw, and does not require any special safety equipment.

The video below shows a side by side installation comparison for both products.

VSI HardiePlank vs. Vinyl Siding video (Fernando)

Warranty

Insulated Vinyl Siding

The warranty for your project will depend on the particular brand and profile of siding you select. In general, many insulated vinyl siding manufacturers offer warranties of 30, 40, 50 years or more. As the inventors of insulated vinyl siding and the manufacturer of the foam component, we offer a transferable lifetime warranty in addition to the warranty from  the vinyl manufacturer, providing double coverage.

Fiber Cement

Many fiber cement manufacturers also offer a 30 year warranty, with coverage specific to the product selected and the geography of the install.

Summary

Both fiber cement and insulated vinyl siding can help you achieve a beautiful exterior for your home. In general, insulated vinyl siding is going to perform better in the categories of energy savings, long term durability, and low maintenance. Fiber cement can create a completely unique look because it can be painted any color you want, but will require routine maintenance to upkeep that appearance over time.

It’s important to take the special circumstances of your project into consideration when deciding between fiber cement and insulated vinyl siding.

Insulated Vinyl Siding  

  Fiber Cement Siding

Appearance

Energy Savings

Durability

Maintenance

Cost

Installation

Warranty

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