Hardie plank siding is a premium brand of cement board siding (also known as fiber cement board siding) produced by the James Hardie Company. The difference between Hardie plank and other cement board siding is in the colors offered, the company profile, reputation and ancillary products that go along with the siding.
Hardie plank can be purchased with a wood-grain look, a plain smooth look or a stucco type finish. Hardie plank also comes in simulated cedar shingle planks. There are a variety of colors available, but you can also buy pre-primed white and paint it with standard house paint. If you go with one of Hardie’s colors, you can buy matching color caulk and cement board trim as well.
Hardie siding has the same advantages as other cement board siding: durability -- it is considered a lifetime product that is expected to last as long as your house and low maintenance -- it resists mold and mildew while holding paint without peeling or chipping.
The upfront costs of cement board siding are greater than wood or vinyl. Hardie plank can cost twice as much to buy and install compared to some siding options. With no future painting and replacement costs, it probably ends up being a better deal if you can afford it up front.
Installing any cement board siding is not particularly difficult, but it is different from wood or vinyl siding. Although exceedingly durable once installed, it is more brittle and prone to cracking than wood or vinyl if not handled carefully during installation. Be sure your installers have experience with cement board. If you plan to do it yourself, follow directions on Hardie's website carefully and plan for a brief learning curve.
Cutting hardie siding, or any cement board siding requires special care. For a circular saw, use a carbide tipped or diamond blade designed for cutting fiber cement. You must use a saw with a dust bag or an attached vacuum because the fine cement dust gets everywhere and is difficult to clean up, not to mention unhealthy to breathe. Even with a dust bag, cutting inside is not a good idea. Dewalt makes a variable speed cement siding shear that is easier to handle than a circular saw, but you can only cut one board at a time. With a saw, you can stack and cut multiple boards. However, the shears are more portable and you can use them to cut siding on a ladder.
As with cutting, nailing cement board siding requires special nails. James Hardie Building Products recommends hot-dipped galvanized nails or stainless steel nails. You don't want to use the electro- galvanized nails because they can corrode more easily than the hot-dipped galvanized.
A former science writer for the Smithsonian Institution, Kimbra Cutlip is a writer and children's book author whose articles have appeared in numerous national publications. A certified group fitness instructor and emergency medical technician, she worked for five years as scientific diving officer and dive instructor for the Smithsonian Institution and was a board member of the American Academy of Underwater Sciences. She co-owns a remodeling company specializing in energy-efficient sustainable building and solar hot water systems. She holds Bachelor of Arts degrees in magazine journalism and anthropology.