There’s a reason you spent a little extra for fiber cement. After all, this high-quality material requires little input from you to keep it looking great and performing throughout the years. Of course, “low-maintenance” doesn’t mean “maintenance-free,” so you definitely do need care for it here and there. The biggest thing is that, after a number of years, fiber cement boards do need to be repainted. But that’s not the only way to keep your siding in tip-top shape. Here’s a quick briefing in cladding care so your home can look its best.
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Fiber Cement: A Low-Maintenance Material
Most manufacturers advertise fiber cement as a very low-maintenance material, especially as compared to wood boards or shakes. And in general, they’re right. Due to its special curing process, this siding absorbs less moisture than other materials, meaning that it’s less prone to cracking or breaking.
That makes it extremely durable. And the cement mixed into the boards helps it withstand strong winds, storms, hail, and other weather events. It’s also fire-resistant, and generally doesn’t experience damage from insects and rot. However, just because it’s extra strong doesn’t mean it could use a little love every once and awhile.
Inspect the Caulking Regularly to Keep Moisture Protection High
Fiber cement itself is very-moisture resistant. However, that doesn’t mean it can’t be affected by condensation, leaks, warping, and mold. Contractors typically use a waterproof sealant—like silicone caulk—to join the siding to other parts of the home. For instance, you might see it around door frames, brick or stone facades, window sills, and other edges.
To make sure your moisture barrier remains intact, you should inspect the caulk annually, looking for gaps and cracks that need to be repaired. Thankfully, these are easy enough to fix yourself with a little additional caulk. Just squeeze the silicone out in a continuous bead, and then smooth it down to cover the gaps.
Maintain Gutters and Downspouts
As you probably gathered, moisture is the enemy of healthy home siding. Another thing you can do to prevent problems here is to make sure rainwater gets properly diverted away from your siding. And that means paying attention to your home’s gutters and downspouts.
At a bare minimum, gutters need to be cleaned at least twice a year, especially in the early winter and spring, when falling leaves and debris can clog the works. After you do this, check your downspout to ensure that rainwater can flow through it freely.
You also want to give them a visual inspection every once and awhile, particularly after a storm. If you notice rust, peeling or flaking, or see that the gutters don’t rest tightly against your roof’s fascia, you’ll want to repair these parts to keep your siding at maximum health.
Keep Siding Clean to Prevent Problems Down the Line
Cleaning your siding is about more than merely keeping up appearances. Mold and mildew thrive on siding that isn’t washed regularly—and that can degrade your paint eventually, or put the health of your household at risk.
To give your fiber cement siding a good, thorough cleaning, rent a pressure washer from a home improvement store, or use a high-pressure hose if that’s not an option. Spray from the top of the siding down. If the dust and debris is really bad, use a little dish soap to help get it clean.
Be sure to read the manufacturer’s recommendations before cleaning, however. Some siding companies recommend that you use only a low-pressure spray and a soft-bristled brush on your siding, depending on how delicate the finish is.
Perform this task about once a year to keep everything spic and span.
Fiber Cement Must Be Repainted
Unlike vinyl, aluminum, and other siding materials, if you choose to install fiber cement cladding, be prepared: you will have to repaint it eventually. While a paint job on fiber cement siding lasts longer than wood—usually anywhere between five to fifteen years—it will eventually need to be redone. And that can be a pretty onerous—and expensive—task.
However, the life of your paint job typically depends on the type of fiber cement you purchase. For instance, if you go with a pre-painted option, where the boards come colored by the manufacturer, many will guarantee their products against chipping and peeling for around 15 years. On the other hand, primed fiber cement, which allows you to choose your own individual paint color, obviously doesn’t come with the same warranty. However, the fading of the boards over time may make you decide to paint it, in either case—and most warranties only guarantee against fading if it’s very, very evident.
Of course, on the other hand, being able to repaint means you can just give it a new coat if you decide to go with a new color. When you start shopping for paint, only use a high-quality exterior-grade acrylic product. Never try to stain fiber cement boards.
With regular TLC, your fiber cement siding can last 50 years or more—now that’s what I call long-lasting!