Though vinyl remains the least expensive and most used siding, fiber-cement continues to make strides in the market. Known for its higher-end appearance, durability, and green qualities, fiber-cement is expected to lead siding in growth through 2008, reaching almost 14 million squares, according to a report by market research company The Freedonia Group.
The material's durability fuels its growth, experts say. Fiber-cement resists termites and UV rays, and doesn't rot. It also has a high fire rating, and its weight makes it less prone to thermally induced movement. Many manufacturers warranty their boards for at least 50 years. Plus, it looks good. “It's more authentic looking and has a firmer feel than other fiber products,” says John Witt, COO of Lansing Building Products, a distributor based in Richmond, Va. This, he says, makes the material appealing to remodelers. And, now that fiber-cement is gaining exposure, manufacturers are producing more styles and profiles.
MaxiTile offers various textures, including one that imitates cedar shake, and Nichiha launched a fiber-cement board that is pressed, not layered. This creates a deeper-looking grain, says Darrin Haugan, the company's executive vice president of sales. Fiber-cement leader James Hardie has introduced its new Artisan product (shown, above), which is twice as thick as regular fiber-cement and imitates cedar.
Accessories, such as trimboards, corner boards, soffits, and shingles, are also coming to market, allowing installers a full range of design capabilities. Moreover, fiber-cement once had to be painted by a third party. Now manufacturers offer prefinished versions, such as James Hardie's ColorPlus, CertainTeed's ColorMax, and MaxiTiles MaxiColor. Nichiha also recently added more shake colors. “Customers want it prefinished,” says Brent Fox, vice president of merchandising and purchasing for ABC Supply, a roofing and siding distributor. “They're used to getting their vinyl in a multitude of colors right out of the carton.”
The only thing keeping the fiber-cement segment from growing more quickly is its cost. According to suppliers, the material's weight requires larger trucks and forklifts for transportation. It's also more delicate than vinyl and requires cutting equipment. In combination, this translates into a higher price tag, though it may be one that customers are willing to work with, considering all of fiber-cement's benefits.
—Victoria Markovitz. This article first appeared in PROSALES magazine, a sister publication of REMODELING.