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CertainTeed vs James Hardie fiber cement shingle

We decided to go with a fiber cement shingle or lap. Wanted to get advice/experience with CertainTeed or James Hardie. Heard James Hardie material is difficult to work with and bad for the environment (when they make and off-gasing when cutting and nailing it). Thanks for your advice! - Karen

Asked by Karen Miller
Posted Aug 16, 2010 5:05 PM ET


18 Answers

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My contractors have had better experience with the James Hardie product. The CertainTeed product seemed to be more brittle. They do include a good amount of coal ash in their mix which is touted as being a good thing. Recently CBS's 60 Minutes aired a story about the potential detrimental effects of using coal ash in place of cement. Basically, we do not know because it is not a regulated product. We do know that coal ash contains heavy metals that are not healthy for humans. The manufacturing process of both is better for the environment than vinyl. James Hardie has manufacturing facilities across the US which means you could source their product fairly locally. This cuts down on carbon emissions for long hauls.

Answered by Heather Curless
Posted Aug 16, 2010 5:33 PM ET


Also look at Nichiha. (see if you have distribution near by) they seem to be a lot more environmentally concious than the others. I personally avoid James Hardie. They were the ones making asbestos siding back in the day and are still fighting lawsuits from Austrailia and the the US. They used to be an Austrailian company, but spent decades dodging and fighting lawsuits mostly by moving to Amsterdam and restructuring the company. I had a client who's father died from Asbesstos related cancer and we were NOT going to use James Hardie on her project. Keep in mind though that that was asbestos siding, not the fiber cement sold today.

I believe that some companies sell special shears to cut the siding instead of saws that make the stuff explode into dust (of the sort I would never want to breath)

All fiber cement siding is resource efficient but high in embodied energy, not much in the way of toxins.

Answered by Christopher Briley
Posted Aug 16, 2010 10:43 PM ET


I have used the Rigid fibre cement saw for cutting hardipanel. Does a good job of keeping the dust down.

An important note the fibre cement saw dust is toxic. The saw does a pretty good job of vacuuming up the dust, but you will still want to cut outside and wear a respirator.

See the following FHB article for more info...



Answered by Andrew Henry
Posted Aug 17, 2010 8:45 PM ET


Karen - what was it about FC that made you choose it?

We have both shears and the Makita shrouded saw. Shears are slow and make a ragged cut, but create no dust. The Makita, hooked to a shop vac, is faster and makes a better but but is still dustier. "Toxic" may be a bit of an overstatement, but the dust is definitely an irritant and prolonged exposure would be bad.

Answered by Dan Kolbert
Posted Aug 17, 2010 9:23 PM ET


Ridiculous . You are comparing apples to apples.

As to cutting.... stack 8 pieces, take deep breath, cut, grab your cut pieces, and walk briskly away from the cloud you just made.

Embodied energy.... ridiculous again. You want to save the planet, don't have kids. Now you are reducing you footprint!

Answered by Anonymous
Posted Aug 17, 2010 11:00 PM ET


why would you ever use either? they are both inferior products. if you are going w/ shingles, why not utilize cedar? it's green and if installed properly will last years and years. you could replace it 3x over and still have less embodied energy than the hardipanel. without the toxic dust.

Answered by mike eliason
Posted Aug 18, 2010 1:36 AM ET


Love the look of cedar shingles.. but worried about the maintenance (and maintenance cost) and upfront cost. Looking into other siding that is not as expensive.. really had my heart on shingles but have to cut costs. Have you heard to panel shingles.. wonder how that lasts long-term if it's on a panel?

Answered by Karen Miller
Posted Aug 18, 2010 7:24 AM ET


Karen, you could put up cedar shingles and just let them weather. My grandmother worried enough for you and I so that we can now live worry free. Easiest most fun siding to hang. DIY project. HD even has decent product. Your computer access here utilized more embodied energy than cedar siding will.

Answered by Anonymous
Posted Aug 18, 2010 8:24 AM ET


The Certainteed board looks so much better on the home because of their woodgrain. Plus it has the recycled content and made in the USA.

Answered by Anonymous
Posted Nov 15, 2010 6:00 AM ET


Several folks have referred to “toxic dust,” and one anonymous posters laughs it off and suggest holding your breath. Unfortunately for the anonymous poster, there is a very legitimate risk of physical toxicity when working with any cement product on an ongoing basis.

All cement based products contain naturally occuring Silicas. Respiration of silicas is a known carcinogen as established by the World Health Organization and the International Agency for Research on Cancer. As such, it is also specifically identified and regulated by OSHA in 29 CFR 1926 Construction Industry Regulations. There have been many documented cases of Silica poisoning and Silicosis which is what lead OSHA to develop and implement the regulation in the first place.

Granted it’s written by an attorney, but just the same, there is a good “layman’s description” of silicates and silicosis at this link. If you want to learn more, just go to YouTube and type “Silicosis” into the search field. There are dozens of videos which discuss everything from families that have lost their Dad’s to the disease (after years in the construction industry) to x-rays and autopsy results.

It is the dust which is the danger with these materials, and not the finished product once it’s on the house. Some shears cut better than others, but the higher end models are nice to work with and they make smooth cuts and no dust. The saws really should be a last-resort method even though they may seem faster. But anytime concrete products are going to be cut or mixed (thus creating dust) a minimum N95 dust mask should be worn.

There are some arguable durability benefits to these products; factory pre-finished; fire resistance; hail and high wind damage resistance; no rot; no termites or carpenter ants; thermal stability (when compared with vinyl); ability to be down-cycled at end of life; and possibly the recycled content angle (although I’m not sure I’m comfortable with some of the research on fly ash just yet...) For many areas of the country these can be really important factors. But like any product, you just need to be smart when & how you work with them. (... and holding your breath while you walk away from the cloud isn’t one I’d choose...)

Answered by Andy Ault, CLC
Posted Nov 15, 2010 8:32 AM ET


Iam a developer and contractor sense 1970. I always use safty glasses and and almost always use a dust mask. when working with any fiber concrete product I alway use a dust mask and sometimes a air filtration mast. Oh buy the watconcrete product are considered sustainable.

Answered by Julian Starr
Posted Mar 11, 2014 8:12 PM ET


Have you you look at LP Smartside. Its a wood based product. The lap siding comes in 16 foot lengths so fewer seams. It is lighter and more stable. It is work considering.

I have heard that Hardie will shrink and has a problem with the seams of the lap siding pulling apart.

Any siding has to be installed properly, cut edges need to be primed and sealed. Hardie will absorb water and will have water related problems if not properly installed and maintained.

When we looked at siding the lumber yard told us about the hardie shrinking. They said a high dollar house was being resided with smartside and hardie was being removed due to water intrusion from the seams.

Answered by Robert Hronek
Posted Mar 11, 2014 9:02 PM ET


Every one of the products mentioned here has its own forrm of toxicity. If it is not an assault on the ozone (during some point in its life cycle), it is toxic to the installers, or both. Fiber cement particulates are bad for the lungs. My best friend, a plumber/builder, died of mesothelioma: caused by breathing particulates associated with fiber cement pipe products.

You might want to read the health effects and warnings on Hardy products here:


Cedar has it risks too. The oil of cedar inhaled during sawing/ cutting and absorbed through skin during handling is toxic. Equal protection must be used for it as working with fiber cement products.

If chemical inertness, maintenance-free and ease of working are your objectives, try Certainteed's line of polymer shakes: Single and Double, 7" and 9", Staggered Rough-Split or Smooth Shakes and Shingles

The rough split shakes and shingles are made of a high end polymer, very easy to install in mild weather, will not fade, and are tough as nails. They have the darkest colors in the market.

The profiles and colors do not look at all like vinyl. The newest Cedar Impressions and Northwood lines are made by Vytec, The vinyl material is over 1/8" thick at the shakes and shingle perimeters. They cut easily with a chop saw and proper shears.

With polymer trims from Mid America or Certainteed, the look is very respectable. They also add some insulation value to the envelope.


This may have a little industry bias:


Answered by flitch plate
Posted Mar 12, 2014 10:48 AM ET


Robert, Lumberyards are staffed by a diverse group of workers some of which get their knowledge from experience and some from the neighbourhood gossip. It's best to confirm what you hear from them with some other knowledgable third party. Hardi products have their shortcomings but shrinkage isn't one of them. Hardi siding can have water intrusion problems, just like any other siding, but it isn't inherent to the product, but rather the poor installation.
To the posters concerned about the health risks of installing cement-based products. You can install virtually dust free by using shears for cuts, or simply take the reasonable precaution of using a dusk mask. Again when evaluating materials it is important to distinguish between whether the dangers are part of their properties or your own inexperience.

Answered by Malcolm Taylor
Posted Mar 12, 2014 12:27 PM ET


Yes, shears are close to being dust free ... this product is even fun ...


... but I still suggest reading Hardi's own MSDS before buying and working with it... these are the material's properties at issue, minimized but not eliminated improved installation technique ...


Answered by flitch plate
Posted Mar 14, 2014 10:57 AM ET


Fitch Plate, Those are the sheers I use. The other advantage is you can cut a 1/16" slice off the board and still leave what looks like a factory edge. Once you have used them you won't go back to a saw.

Answered by Malcolm Taylor
Posted Mar 14, 2014 10:03 PM ET



This was a Lumberyard and not a big box store. I find the guys her knowledgeable, They sell Hardie and Smartside.

I looked on line and found some reports of what people claimed was shrinkage.

This home owner states the gaps grew with time. Any wood or composite siding will absorb water and have water problems if not properly instaled.


Answered by Robert Hronek
Posted Mar 18, 2014 10:25 PM ET


Robert, I buy from two great lumberyards and I'll bet you not one in five of the staff at the contractor's desk knows the difference between an air and a vapour barrier or that galvalum should never come in contact with ACQ lumber. They are salesmen - it's not their thing. Similarly, asking homeowners what they are seeing isn't all that helpful in evaluating the cause of the siding problems. As you say any siding will experience problems if not properly installed, but that tells you nothing about the inherent properties of the material. Is there any material that shrinks when it takes on water?

Answered by Malcolm Taylor
Posted Mar 19, 2014 12:58 AM ET

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