James Hardie vs. LP SmartSide: Which Is The Best Siding For Your House?
At VIS Exterior, we get a lot of questions from customers about which type of siding they should have installed on their homes. The answer from us is always James Hardie or LP SmartSide siding. Why, you might ask?
As a professional siding contractor, we’ve gained a lot of experience over the years working with all types of materials from many brands, and we know our customers want something that looks great, last a long time and protects their home. James Hardie and LP SmartSide fit those requirements really well.
What makes James Hardie and LP SmartSide so popular in the siding market?
James Hardie and LP SmartSide siding are the go-to siding materials for many homeowners, but why these two brands? The answer, for most people, boils down to two words: durability and reliability.
James Hardie siding has gained a loyal base of contractors and homeowners who find that the material will stand up to mold, rain, freezing temperatures and pests. It’s one of the most sought-after non-wood or vinyl siding alternatives. It is designed to hold up to punishing ultraviolet light and it won’t rot, split, warp or curl.
LP SmartSide has gained an equally loyal fanbase for similar reasons, plus it is lighter and easier to install than James Hardie. There are fewer seams in SmartSide trim and lap siding and it’s really impact resistant. It’s made of wood, so it’s a renewable source of material, plus it has a desired wood appearance that many homeowners cherish.
Comparison of James Hardie and LP SmartSide
About James Hardie fiber cement siding
Just because James Hardie is keeping it simple doesn’t mean they’re cutting corners. The fiber cement siding contains but four materials: water, wood pulp, Portland cement and fly ash.
The company’s “recipe” is engineered to be fireproof and rot-proof. It’s also resistant to the cold and wind, and it’s impervious to termites, carpenter ants and other pests. James Hardie’s approach to manufacturing fiber cement siding has made the company an industry leader in that space.
Need a siding product that can withstand winds up to 130 mph? That’s the specification that James Hardie hits with all of its fiber cement siding products.
Durability is important to contractors and homeowners, but so too is the look of the material. The siding comes in 23 colors and many shapes and sizes. Smooth, beaded smooth, vertical, panels, staggered edge, straight edge, half rounds, individual shingles – just about any combination you can think of, James Hardie has it covered.
About LP SmartSide wood siding
For contractors, business owners and homeowners who want the look of wood without the maintenance or cost, LP SmartSide siding is a good fit. The company builds siding products that have the beauty and warmth of wood, but with added durability. It has become so popular with builders that LP Building Products began planning manufacturing expansion years ago to meet demand.
Everyone from builders to remodelers to DIYers is snatching up the lap, panel, trim and soffit products due to their excellent durability and aesthetic appeal.
Case studies on the company’s website quote professional contractors who say they like the product so much, they install it on their own homes. However, part of that draw could be tied to the fact that LP SmartSide siding products come with a 50-year transferable limited warranty.
Their siding is a proprietary product composed of wood strands and fibers. These materials are bonded with premium exterior-grade resins. The resins give the material the extra durability needed to withstand extreme humidity, rainfall, heat and cold. Furthermore, throughout the manufacturing process, a zinc borate compound is applied, which protects the material against pests and fungus/mildew.
If weight is an issue, this siding will be the preference of builders, because the wood and resin are lighter than fiber cement siding and easier to handle and install. Builders also don’t have to equip themselves with special tools, because the LP SmartSide siding can be cut with the same saws used to cut traditional wood.
Comparison of pros and cons James Hardie & LP SmartSide
There are so many glowing reviews about each of these products that it can be difficult to ascertain which one will be the best fit for your siding project. In some respects, the situation with James Hardie vs. LP SmartSide is similar to the rivalries between heavyweights in other industries, like PC or Mac, Coke or Pepsi, Dunkin’ Donuts or Starbucks, McDonalds or Burger King – it becomes a choice of personal preference.
To make it easier for you to decide, we’ve compiled information listing the advantages and disadvantages of each:
James Hardie fiber cement advantages
- Many styles from which to choose
- Resists hail damage
- Withstands winds up to 130 mph
- Matching trim and soffit available with all siding products
- 30-year warranty
- Better curb appeal than vinyl siding
- Noticeably different look and texture than other brands
- Easy to wash
- No shrinking
- Warp resistant
- Low maintenance
- Good fit for weather typical of the Midwest
- Authentic wood look without the hassles of real wood
- Excellent seal
- Up to five times thicker than vinyl
- ASTM-rated for fire protection due to the fiber cement material
LP SmartSide advantages
- Aesthetics: LP SmartSide siding can be made to feature the deep cedar grain texture.
- Protection: The patented methods used to manufacture the siding prevents it from being damaged by termites.
- Durable: Thanks to the zinc borate, binders and resins used in manufacturing the siding, it’s incredibly resistant to moisture, making it more durable than other siding products on the market.
- Green: Despite the use of resins and binders (which are low-emitting, safe resins), the main ingredient is wood – a renewable source material. Furthermore, the company uses SFI certified forest management and fiber sourcing systems.
- Warranty: The five-year labor and 50-year transferable limited warranty exceeds the warranty on most other siding products in the market.
- Reduced waste on the job site.
- Comes in long lengths, which reduces the number of pieces required.
James Hardie fiber cement disadvantages
- Upfront cost can be an issue for those on a tight budget
- Material is heavier than other types, making installation more labor intensive
- Installation takes longer than other material types
- It will crack if not properly hauled and installed
- Newly constructed homes that settle could result in cracked siding
- Requires installation professionals with experience working with this material
- It’s not the “greenest” material, which can be an issue for those who are environmentally conscious
LP SmartSide disadvantages
- While the warranty is 50 years, it is prorated at year six, which means coverage drops by 2.2 percent each year through the end of the warranty
- The coating is usually applied by a finisher or applier instead of the manufacturer, which means it can flake off if not done properly
- Installers must prime and paint the edges before installing
- The presence of organic material in the siding mean it can burn
- In regions where termite damage is common, the warranty might not cover that type of damage
James Hardie vs. LP SmartSide materials
One of the biggest differences between the two brands is the weight of the material. Fiber cement, which is what James Hardie uses in its material, is heavier than the wood strands LP SmartSide employs in its materials. While the heavier material is quite durable, it is more labor-intensive during installation.
Another big difference is that James Hardie’s fiber cement is considered “highly resistant” to fire and pests, whereas the materials used in LP SmartSide siding is not.
What are James Hardie products made of?
James Hardie uses fiber cement as the main ingredient in its siding. Fiber cement is made from cement and cellulose fibers. The cellulose fibers are mostly cotton and wood pulp. Wood pulp, cement, sand and water are all low in toxicity, and the company hasn’t used asbestos in its products since 1987.
What are LP SmartSide products made of?
LP SmartSide siding is made of wood strands that have been coated with max to resist moisture. The wood strands are also bonded with resin and other binders for durability. Finally, zinc borate is added during several points during the manufacturing process to protect against pests and rot.
Appearance of James Hardie siding & LP SmartSide siding
James Hardie siding and LP SmartSide siding offer a wood-like appearance. Some consumers have noted that out of the two brands, LP SmartSide siding has a more realistic wood appearance. Each brand also offers more traditional, smooth-surfaced siding in a range of shapes, sizes and colors. Furthermore, each offers textured siding, also in different colors and sizes.
There might be subtle differences in each company’s products that appeal to one person more than they would another, so it’s largely a matter of opinion as to which one has an appearance advantage.
James Hardie siding options: products, colors and styles
To meet the aesthetic needs of customers, James Hardie offers products that offer unique appearances. The most popular is the HardiePlank lap siding, which has a traditional and timeless look. Choose either the “Smooth” siding, which is sleek and modern, or the “Cedarmill” siding, which has the appearance of natural cedar.
HardieShingle siding is associated with the Cape Cod-style home, which are adorned with shingles (or shake), offering a distinctive look to a home. They come in staggered edge panel shingles or half rounds for the scalloped-edge look. There are also 7-in. individual shingles that work well in a custom approach.
HardiePanel vertical siding can add a visual punch to the exterior of the home. Select the “Cedarmill” option for a natural cedar effect or go with the “Smooth” vertical siding for a modern and sleek design. They also make a stucco product that offers the warm and inviting tone. Finally, there is the “Sierra 8” product, which is a combination of texture and linear detail.
The “Aspyre Collection” includes a distinctive approach that includes an “Artisan” product, which is 5/8-in. thick for more substantial groove between planks, and there is also a “shiplap” product available that replicates cedar siding. The “Aspyre Collection” also includes the “Reveal” panel system for the ultra-contemporary aesthetic. It features exposed trim that frames the smooth panels for that modern industrial look.
Home’s appearance transformation with LP SmartSide products
Lap siding, shakes and shingles, panel and vertical siding, as well as the soffit, trim and fascia are all part of the package in LP SmartSide’s product offering. You can choose the style and color to get the look you want to transform the look of your home.
Choose lap siding in a cedar texture for that authentic wood look. Lap siding also comes in a “colonial beaded” selection if you want that smooth and traditional look of the early American homes. You can also upgrade to bold profiles for extra depth. Or, choose the smooth finished lap siding for a more traditional look.
Shakes and shingles are also an option if you want a more rustic aesthetic. Choose the cedar texture offered in staggered or straight edges for a detailed wood appearance, or go with a more modern “perfection” shingle texture, which features fine sawn wood texture with no knots.
LP SmartSide also offers panels in a cedar texture with shiplap edges; stucco texture for the earthy, hand-troweled effect; reverse board & batten style for the rustics and cross-sawn texture; or go with a smooth finish featuring shiplap edges for easy installation.
Finally, LP SmartSide offers vertical siding for the charming style and stylish appearance closely related to board & batten. Vertical panels are 16 in. by 16 ft.
James Hardie siding cost vs. LP SmartSide siding cost
James Hardie’s fiber cement siding is not as easy to manufacture as other siding types, including LP SmartSide’s wood composite siding. Therefore, there will be more of a cost investment when James Hardie becomes the material of choice.
Another factor to consider is that the cost of installing James Hardie will be higher than that of LP SmartSide because it’s heavier material, which means it will not be as easy to handle as the lighter siding.
How much does James Hardie fiber cement siding cost to install?
Many factors go in to determining how much it will cost to install James Hardie siding, the most significant of which is the size of your home.
The type of Hardie siding you choose will also influence the cost, but as a general estimate, a home requiring 1,500 square foot of siding home will cost between $11,250 and $19,500, which includes material and labor.
How much does LP SmartSide siding cost to install?
The size of the home and the LP SmartSide product you choose to have installed will have the most influence over how much it will cost be installed.
A home requiring 1,500 square feet of siding will cost between $8,000 and $17,600, which includes material and labor.
How to clean and maintain James Hardie & LP SmartSide siding?
James Hardie recommends cleaning your siding once to twice a year, but it could be done more frequently if you live in an area prone to an abundance of dust, debris or mildew/mold.
The company recommends using a garden hose to douse the siding and to never use a high-pressure power washer, as this can damage the siding.
To remove dirt and debris, use a soft medium bristle brush, but make sure you don’t use a wire brush as that can damage the siding. Should you encounter dirt, grease or mildew that won’t come off with just water and light scrubbing, add a mild liquid dishwashing soap to water and use a cloth or soft bristle brush on the stains. Don’t let the soap dry on your siding – be sure to thoroughly rinse it all off when finished.
LP SmartSide has similar cleaning instructions for its product. They recommend filling a bucket with a solution of mild detergent and water with a cloth, sponge or soft brush and to wash the surface of your siding, then rinse with water with a garden hose.
They also recommend using a solution of three parts water to one part white vinegar to remove mold and mildew stains. Never use harsh abrasives or solvents on LP SmartSide siding, as this can damage the surface or paint.
Tips for maintaining James Hardie fiber cement siding
Mold and mildew: Hardie recommends using a commercial mold/mildew remover should the siding experience such a problem. If the siding has been painted over, it’s recommended to consult with the paint manufacturer about what should be applied to the mold/mildew for removal.
Patching: cracks, chips and dents should be filled with a quality cement patching compound or acrylic mortar patch that can be found at local hardware stores.
Loose siding: James Hardie offers written installation requirements, which can be accessed by Googling “ESR-1844 for HardiePanel.” It’s important to re-nail using the properly sized corrosion-resistant fasteners.
Caulk replacement: old sealant should be carefully removed and replaced with a high quality, paintable latex caulk that complies with ASTM C 834, ASTM C920 or better. Follow the caulking manufacturers installation instructions.
For more information about written installation requirement, call 1-(800)-9-HARDIE.
Tips for maintaining LP SmartSide siding
Use matching paint to touch up chips and small imperfections in your LP SmartSide siding. You can utilize a cotton swab to dab paint on the affected area, but don’t paint over existing paint. Allow it to dry for 24 hours.
You will also want to make sure your gutters are draining properly to ensure water is not running down your siding, as this can damage the material and lead to leaks. Furthermore, make sure your sprinklers aren’t spraying up onto the siding, as this will also damage the siding and promote the growth of mold and mildew.
If you notice caulking beginning to crack or losing its seal, it’s recommended to bring in a siding contractor to make the necessary repairs. The same goes for any loose or damaged siding repairs.
Which manufacturer offers better warranty?
While the 50-year warranty offered by LP SmartSide looks better at face value than James Hardie’s 30-year warranty, you have to read the fine print.
James Hardie’s warranty is non-prorated throughout the life of the contract, whereas LP SmartSide’s warranty is prorated, meaning LP SmartSide will reduce coverage by 2.2 percent at year six and every year up to 50. Therefore, it would appear that most homeowners would prefer the James Hardie warranty.
The James Hardie fiber cement warranty
When you purchase James Hardie siding, it comes with a 30-year limited warranty. This begins on the date of purchase and applies to all 50 states except Alaska. If during the warranty period the product is found to be defective in material or workmanship, Hardie will either repair or replace the defective portions.
Furthermore, the covered person will be reimbursed for up to twice the original retail cost of the defective portions. If the original retail cost can’t be established, Hardie will make that determination at its discretion. A 15-year finish warranty is also available for paint and labor.
The siding will not be covered if the damages or defects are a result of improper storage, installation, shipping or handling. It will also not be covered should it be altered or damaged due to structural settling, neglect, abuse, misuse, or acts of God, including tornados, earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, severe weather or other natural phenomena.
LP SmartSide warranty
LP SmartSide warrants that the siding will remain free from fungal degradation, buckling, cracking, peeling, separating, chipping, flaking or rupturing of the resin-impregnated surface overlay for a period of 50 years from the date the application is completed. However, the siding must have been stored, handled, finished and applied in accordance with the company’s application, finishing and maintenance instructions.
Should a problem occur in the first five years that is covered under the warranty, LP SmartSide will provide 100 percent labor and replacement of faulty siding. During the sixth through 49th years from the date of installation, LP will pay an amount equal to the cost of similar wood-based replacement product, less an annual pro rata reduction of 2.22 percent per year, and no labor or other charges will be paid.
Damages excluded from the warranty coverage include misuse, improper storage, handling, application, finishing or maintenance of the siding. Acts of God, such as earthquakes, hurricanes, hail, tornado, flood or similar events are also not covered under the warranty.
James Hardie siding & LP SmartSide over traditional wood and vinyl
The materials used to produce LP SmartSide siding are primarily wood strands and fibers, which produce a grain cast when they’re bonded with the resin. The natural wood look is a definite perk, but builders are just as impressed with the fact that the siding doesn’t require the same maintenance and upkeep as real wood, and it’s also much, much stronger than real wood siding.
While James Hardie doesn’t use wood strands, it does produce siding that has the appearance of wood because the fiber cement goes through a manufacturing process where the material is deeply embossed. Fortunately, unlike wood, fiber cement is highly resistant to fire.
While vinyl’s advantage is in its cost and ease of installation, it doesn’t do much for curb appeal. LP SmartSide and James Hardie siding has the much sought after natural wood look, which is a huge advantage for builders looking for improved curbside appeal.
These companies also manufacture a product that is also much thicker and more durable than vinyl, which means it won’t warp or shrink like some of the lesser quality vinyl siding products on the market.
LP SmartSide vs. James Hardie: which is the winner?
Two people can have representations of products from each of the companies in front of them and come up with different opinions about which is the “winner.”
Some might even prefer the LP SmartSide warranty over James Hardie’s, and some might find the wood-like appearance of the James Hardie product more realistic.
Fortunately, both companies are building superior siding products that homeowners have used for years and years to improve the aesthetics of their homes, not to mention add protection against the elements.
Ultimately, the choice is yours and you can’t make a mistake when it comes to choosing either of these brands.
Experienced siding installation contractor for all your fiber cement or wood siding
VIS Exterior carries the best products on the market today, including James Hardie and LP SmartSide products. When it comes to siding, there are so many choices, and VIS Exterior clients often become perplexed when it comes time to make a decision.
It’s impossible to make a blanket endorsement for either James Hardie or LP SmartSide products because every situation is different, as are the preferences of VIS clients. Therefore, we’re pulling together all the facts you will need to make the right choice for your next siding project.
If you have questions about siding materials, contact us and let’s talk about what we have to offer.