4 Common Ways St. Louis County Contractors Botch James Hardie Siding
Hardie Fiber Cement Siding Requires Ultra-Precise Craftsmanship…
Which Is Why Some Hardie Installations Go So, So Wrong.
By Jason Quillman, Owner
I’m not a fan of trash-talking other contractors. So when I say more than a few siding companies in the St. Louis metro area routinely botch James Hardie installation, I’m not doing it to badmouth anyone. That’s not me, and it’s not what I stand for.
But I do feel it’s my duty to educate you as much as possible if you’re thinking about investing in James Hardie. James Hardie siding isn’t exactly cheap, so it’s the last home-improvement project you want in the hands of anyone other than a fully capable and qualified pro.
Because here’s the truth: James Hardie installation is TOUGH. It’s brutally unforgiving. It’s highly technical. And it takes two to three times longer than vinyl siding installation. For picture-proof of the many ways Hardie installation can go wrong, check out my post here.
With this in mind, I want to reveal to you four of the most common Hardie installation mistakes I see siding companies in the St. Louis metro area make.
Some are because the company intentionally cut corners. Others are simply because the company’s installers just didn’t know any better. Either way, it results in James Hardie siding failure on YOUR home. And that’s a shame because, when installed right, Hardie is hands-down the best siding on the market.
Let’s get started…
Hardie Installation Issue #1: Ground-Level Installation
Hardie siding MUST be installed six inches above ground grade—it’s non-optional. James Hardie doesn’t want water sitting on its product… and you don’t either.
A common problem I see is contractors installing Hardie right to the ground. Here’s an example…
In this instance, James Hardie will void the warranty because the siding wasn’t installed to their specifications, which would leave YOU to foot the bill if an issue arises.
At XteriorPRO, we ALWAYS adhere to proper ground clearances. We even take an extra above-and-beyond step by using a special trim board called TruExterior®. It’s a premium, state-of-the-art trim with powerhouse water-resistance and a beautiful look that can replicate the appearance of real wood.
Hardie Installation Issue #2: Neglecting Flashing & Getting Caulk-Happy
James Hardie siding demands lots of flashing. One example is aluminum head flashing above windows. Proper Hardie installation requires a small gap between the window and siding for this flashing because it makes water come out from behind the siding, thereby preventing moisture from stagnating underneath.
Where I see a lot of contractors get this wrong: using caulk to seal the gap rather than installing aluminum head flashing. If the contractor caulks the siding right to the window or horizontal trim, there is no place for water to go if it gets behind your siding (via a leak in your roof, for example) because there is no flashing. As a result, water gets trapped, and costly problems like rot can occur.
Here are two examples of improper Hardie siding installation—notice the lack of gaps:
And here are two instances of this flashing done right—notice the gaps:
Another flashing faux pas I often see is a lack of kickout flashing. Kickout flashing is used to divert water away from the exterior of the home and into your gutters. A lot of St. Louis metro area siding companies butt the gutters right up against the siding without kickout flashing. This, once again, can lead to water infiltration under your siding.
Here is an example of what can happen if the contractor doesn’t install kickout flashing:
At XteriorPRO, we install kickout flashing in every possible area that it’s required. Period. Here’s an example of what that looks like…
Kickout flashing may be a “small” detail… but, as you can see, it can make a WORLD of difference.
Hardie Installation Issue #3: Whiffing On Wall Studs
This one’s a real chin-scratcher.
A lot of contractors just plain miss the wall studs when they’re attaching Hardie siding to a home. Maybe they’re in a hurry. Maybe they THINK they know where the studs are. Maybe they just don’t care. Regardless, missed studs can lead to loose siding. I’ve actually had to fix a Hardie job a nationwide builder did because the installer missed the studs… causing the siding to actually FALL OFF just a year later!
Something we do that I don’t see other contractors doing is snapping chalk lines vertically for every wall stud as well as horizontally for every single row of siding. I typically see contractors snap chalk lines every fifth or sixth row if they are even doing it at all. This can lead to crooked and unsecure siding, since the contractor isn’t measuring every panel with precision. The way we do it not only makes sure that we hit every stud, but that your siding is 100% perfectly straight.
Here’s an image of our how we snap calk lines for every row—notice the perfectly symmetrical, grid-like pattern:
Hardie Installation Issue #4: Mismatched Paint Dilemmas
No one has yet invented completely fade-proof siding. Because of their ColorPlus® Technology, James Hardie makes the most fade-resistant siding on the market, but even Hardie does fade at a slow rate.
Fortunately, James Hardie siding is ultra-easy to paint—no scraping or sanding is required. The issue is when contractors try to do a touch-up job on pre-finished Colorplus James Hardie siding with a simple paintbrush and store-bough paint. James Hardie siding needs Hardie-specific touch-up paint and tools/techniques that require more finesse. Otherwise, you’ll get a blotchy result and siding that looks like it has a case of measles.
My crew is currently fixing a Hardie siding job another contractor touched-up with the wrong paint and techniques. Once that’s done, I’ll share the before and after images with you in a future post.
A quick note: While specific paint is needed for touch-ups, you can paint Hardie siding top to bottom with over-the-counter paint brands. I always recommend the Duration® line by Sherwin-Williams to my customers because it’s the longest lasting exterior paint on the market.
Bottom Line: Hardie Installation Requires Absolute Precision…
But The Results Are Worth It
James Hardie installation is a project you want in the hands of a company with encyclopedic knowledge of and extensive experience with the product. It’s too technical, too demanding, and too involved for anyone other than an unconditional expert.
At XteriorPRO, James Hardie fiber cement siding is ALL we install. Our siding crews do Hardie 24/7/365 and know the product inside and out. As a result, we can install James Hardie on your home with the laser-beam precision and attention to detail it requires.
If you’d like more info, get in touch today. Thank you!