What is Fiber-Cement Siding?

A concise explanation of what fiber-cement siding is and how it can help your house:

Fiber-Cement Siding

Fiber-cement siding is a mixture of cement, sand, and cellulosic fibers. The fibers are added to keep the siding from cracking. The mixture is autoclaved–a high-temperature, steam-injected process–and then is rolled out and patterns are imprinted on the surface.

Hardiplank is the Most Recognizable Tradename

Hardiplank is the most famous name in the fiber-cement siding business. It goes back over 100 years to when James Hardie emigrated from Scotland to Australia. He teamed up with Andrew Reid, and in 1911 he retired, selling his half of the business to Reid. James Hardie Industries, Ltd. became a publicly-traded company in 1951. In short, this company has been around for quite some time.

Measure Your House for Fiber-Cement Siding

Use this quick guide for measuring your house for fiber-cement siding (i.e., Hardieplank, etc.).

To Measure Siding You Will Need:

  • Buy or borrow a 50-foot or greater tape measure and a “wide” 25-foot tape measure such as the Stanley FatMax
  • Painter’s telescoping aluminum pole (optional)
  • Calculator
  • Pencil and paper

Step 1: Measure Area of Square or Rectangular Portions of Wall

With the 50-foot measuring tape, measure the height and width of square or rectangular parts of your exterior walls. Multiply length by width to get area.

In the example shown to the left, the height is 10 feet and the width is 30 feet. So, the area is 300 square feet.

Step 2: Measure Area of Triangular Portions of Wall

With the “wide” tape measure, measure the triangular portions of the walls. Since the triangular portions are ten feet high or greater, the “wide” tape measure provides the stability you need to push the tape measure up to their heights. As an alternative, you can fix the end of the tape measure to a telescoping aluminum painter’s pole and push it up that way.

Multiply width by 1/2 of the height to get the area. In the example, the width is 30 feet. The height of the triangle is 10 feet. 30 x (1/2 x 10) = 30 x 3 = 90. So the area of the triangular portion of this wall is 90 square feet.

Step 3: Measure Dormers and Other Odd Parts of Exterior

Measure the odd-sized parts of the exterior such as dormers.

Here, the area of the dormer is 6 square feet.

Step 4: Measure Area of Windows and Doors

In our example, the area of the windows and doors is 20 square feet.

Step 5: Arrive at Total Area of Wall

Add measurements of Step 1 + Step 2 + Step 3. Subtract measurement from Step 4 (since you will not be siding the windows or doors).

So, in our example: 300 + 90 + 6 – 20 = 376 square feet.

Step 6: Measure Rest of Walls and Arrive at Total Square Footage of House

Repeat these steps for the rest of the house. Add all amounts to get a total square footage for your house.

Step 7: Add in 10% Wastage

You will need to buy more vinyl siding than is actually used to allow for wastage. Wastage is where the ends of siding are cut off to make a perfect fit. These waste ends can sometimes be reused in other places, sometimes not. Take the total square footage of the house, multiply by .10 on the calculator. The amount shown on the calculator is your wastage amount. Add the wastage amount to the total you have at this point.

Step 8: Divide Everything by 100 to Find Number of “Squares”

Siding companies and manufacturers speak in terms of “squares.” A square is 100 square feet of siding material. They generally do not talk in terms of individual square feet because the measurements they are dealing with are so large.

So, for our example: the total wall area for the house is 3200 square feet. Divide 3200 by 100. The siding installer will use 32 squares of siding material on the house.

Measure Your House for Fiber-Cement Siding

Use this quick guide for measuring your house for fiber-cement siding.

You Will Need:

  • Buy or borrow a 50-foot or greater tape measure and a “wide” 25-foot tape measure such as the Stanley FatMax.

  • Painter’s telescoping aluminum pole (optional).

  • Calculator

  • Pencil and paper.

Step 1:    Measure Area of Square or Rectangular Portions of Wall

With the 50-foot measuring tape, measure the height and width of square or rectangular parts of your exterior walls.  Multiply length by width to get area.

In the example shown to the left, the height is 10 feet and the width is 30 feet.  So, the area is 300 square feet.

Step 2:    Measure Area of Triangular Portions of Wall

With the “wide” tape measure, measure the triangular portions of the walls.  Since the triangular portions are ten feet high or greater, the “wide” tape measure provides the stability you need to push the tape measure up to their heights.  As an alternative, you can fix the end of the tape measure to a telescoping aluminum painter’s pole and push it up that way.

Multiply width by 1/2 of the height to get the area.  In the example, the width is 30 feet.  The height of the triangle is 10 feet.  30 x (1/2 x 10) = 30 x 3 = 90.  So the area of the triangular portion of this wall is 90 square feet.

Step 3:    Measure Dormers and Other Odd Parts of Exterior

Measure the odd-sized parts of the exterior such as dormers.

Here, the area of the dormer is 6 square feet.

Step 4:    Measure Area of Windows and Doors

In our example, the area of the windows and doors is 20 square feet.

Step 5:    Arrive at Total Area of Wall

Add measurements of Step 1 + Step 2 + Step 3.  Subtract measurement from Step 4 (since you will not be siding the windows or doors).

So, in our example:  300 + 90 + 6 – 20 =  376 square feet.

Step 6:    Measure Rest of Walls and Arrive at Total Square Footage of House

Repeat these steps for the rest of the house.  Add all amounts to get a total square footage for your house.

Step 7:    Add in 10% Wastage

You will need to buy more vinyl siding than is actually used to allow for wastage.  Wastage is where the ends of siding are cut off to make a perfect fit.  These waste ends can sometimes be reused in other places, sometimes not.  Take the total square footage of the house, multiply by .10 on the calculator.  The amount shown on the calculator is your wastage amount.  Add the wastage amount to the total you have at this point.

Step 8:     Divide Everything by 100 to Find Number of “Squares”

Siding companies and manufacturers speak in terms of “squares.”  A square is 100 square feet of siding material.  They generally do not talk in terms of individual square feet because the measurements they are dealing with are so large.

So, for our example:  the total wall area for the house is 3200 square feet.  Divide 3200 by 100.  The siding installer will use 32 squares of siding material on the house.

Fiber-Cement Siding Pros and Cons

I like fiber-cement siding (Hardieplank, etc.).  Though fiber-cement siding looks like the solution for many homeowners, find out the ups–and the downs–of this building material.

Fiber-Cement Siding Pros

  • More fire-resistant than vinyl siding. It is non-combustible.
  • Unlike vinyl siding, it can be painted–giving you far more design options than the limited number of colors provided by vinyl siding.
  • Looks very much like wood siding even on close inspection.
  • Thicker than vinyl siding–resists impact better.
  • Lower cost than most wood siding.

Fiber-Cement Siding Cons

  • Substantially more expensive than vinyl siding. Prepare to spend at least twice as much with fiber-cement siding than with vinyl siding.
  • Slower installation time than vinyl siding.
  • Unlike vinyl siding, it must be painted–meaning more initial installation costs and more maintenance costs down the road.
  • Caulked joints often need re-caulking.

What is Hot Mix Asphalt Paving?

Learn a few basics about hot mix asphalt paving–you’ve seen road crews use it to build and repair roads.

Strange to think, but the asphalt paving that will go on your sweet little old driveway is the same stuff that road crews put down. While you can’t expect a team of orange-vested workers to bring in exactly the same machines that are used on roads, the mixture–called “hot mix asphalt paving”–is really the same thing.

It’s an aggregate of stones and sand mixed in with liquid asphalt. The reason it’s called “hot mix” is because it’s heated to over 300 degrees Fahrenheit, and it’s the intense heat that liquifies the asphalt.

The hot-mix asphalt may be laid on top of your existing driveway. If the driveway is not in good shape, it is removed and the new hot-mix asphalt is laid on top of a base of several inches of aggregate or laid directly on top of soil.

The hot mix is delivered to your house in a hot, soft, ready state. As the mixture cools, it hardens.

Overlay or Full-Depth Hot-Mix Asphalt Paving

Did you know that you can overlay hot-mix asphalt over your existing driveway?

Read on, though, to find out why full-depth is preferable to the overlay method.

Overlay Asphalt Paving

If you have an existing asphalt or concrete driveway, but it’s in poor repair, you can overlay another layer of asphalt paving on top.

Still, the existing surface needs to be in a minimally good condition to support the new asphalt paving. If more than 75% of the existing driveway is cracked, you’re better off pulling off the driveway and starting anew.

The asphalt contractor will first patch minor holes and cracks with hot mix. Then a surface of up to 2 inches of hot mix will be laid on top of the patched driveway.

Full-Depth Asphalt Paving

Full-depth is the better option. There are two ways to define full-depth asphalt paving.

Actual Full-Depth.

Nothing between the hot-mix and the soil. Four to six inches of hot-mix asphalt laid directly on soil. This is the most preferable type of full-depth paving.

Full-Depth With Partial Aggregate Replacement

Three inches of compacted aggregate base is equal to one inch of hot-mix asphalt paving. A typical arrangement is to lay down 6-8 inches of compacted aggregate under 3 inches of hot-mix asphalt paving.

Benefits of Installing Asphalt Rather Than Concrete

Homeowners may have a hard time deciding to install asphalt paving or concrete. This list of asphalt paving benefits should help make the decision easier!

  • Asphalt paving is more flexible–and therefore less prone to cracking–than concrete.
  • Asphalt paving is done by the hot-mix method and therefore sets faster than concrete, which needs to dry.
  • Asphalt paving is unaffected by the application of rock salt or ice melt during winter months.
  • Asphalt paving is generally cheaper than concrete paving.
  • Asphalt paving does not need the installation of rebar forms. It can even be installed over an existing driveway.
  • Asphalt paving is a competitive business, so it is possible to find good deals.

Asphalt Paving Timetable

Looking for a Window of Opportunity to Install Driveway Asphalt?

We can help.  Homeowners often ask asphalt contractors if there is a best time of year to lay down asphalt.  Yes there is.  All other factors being equal (that is, the temperature of the delivered asphalt being 300 degrees F and final temperature 174 F), there are certain standards for when and how long it takes to install driveway asphalt.

The rule of thumb is that the colder the temperature and the lesser the depth of asphalt, the less time the contractor has to work with it.  The best window of opportunity is shown in blue in the table; the cautionary time in yellow; and the unrecommended time in red.

What’s the Temperature Like?

(Degrees F – Surface and Air)

How Long Does the Contractor Have to Work with the Asphalt? (Minutes)

1.5″ Depth of Asphalt

2″ Depth of Asphalt

3″ Depth of Asphalt

40 º

16

25

46

50 º

17

27

50

60 º

19

30

55

70 º

21

33

60

80 º

24

37

67

Source:  National Asphalt Paving Association

Asphalt Paving Season

Is There a Best Time to Install Driveway Asphalt? Yes.  Read on…

You’ve seen highway road crews laying down asphalt in the worst of conditions. So you might think: how hard can it be to lay down asphalt on my driveway?

Hot-mix asphalt is finicky and its installation depends mainly on the temperature of the air and of the surface. The National Asphalt Pavement Association recommends that contractors stay away from laying down “low lifts” of asphalt in very cold temperatures. A “low lift” is basically the height of the layer of asphalt. A low lift is 1.5 inches; a high lift is 3 inches.

Remember that depth does matter in the case of laying down overlay versus full-depth asphalt paving.

The worst-case scenario would be a low lift of 1.5 inches laid in 40 degrees F. Asphalt workers need time to manipulate the hot-but-cooling-rapidly asphalt mixture. Think of when you spread out hot food on your plate to cool it down. Spreading a thin layer of, say, mashed potatoes hastens the cooling process. But cooling, while good for food, is fatal for hot-mix asphalt.

The same 1.5 inches of hot-mix asphalt is still a dicey proposition up to 60 degrees F. Only above 60 degrees does this 1.5 inch lift become workable.

See our chart showing the “window of opportunity” for laying hot-mix asphalt.

Now let’s double the lift from 1.5 inches to 3 inches. The 3 inch lift is perfectly capable of being worked at 40 degrees F. It’s not the best temperature, but it can be done. The paving crew has a full 46 minutes to work with this higher lift, as opposed to only 16 minutes with the lower lift at the same temperature.

And 16 minutes is such a short time to work the asphalt that most contractors will refuse to take on such a job. If it’s too cold for asphalt and you’re desperate, consider laying a concrete driveway.

Asphalt Paving Resources

Unlike a lot of home renovation topics, it’s tough for homeowners to find much information about asphalt paving.  The field is littered with asphalt paving companies and industry groupd, and really nothing for the consumer.  We try our best for you here:

NHMPA

The National Hot Mix Pavement Association (NHMPA) is right there on top of your search engine results, but that doesn’t mean a thing if you’re a homeowner.  It’s an industry group and doesn’t really have much for the consumer.  Still, it’s there if you need it.

But NHMPA does have a couple of consumer-related resources.

Beyond Roads

A group called Beyond Roads provides information about asphalt paving itself, but not necessarily about consumer-driven asphalt products.  So it’s a fairly interesting high-level resource, it won’t help you find a contractor in your area.