Picture-Proof That Some St. Louis County
Contractors Shouldn’t Touch James Hardie Siding
James Hardie Fiber Cement Siding
Installation Is Highly Technical.
Here’s Why You MUST Choose A Contractor Who Will Do It Right.
BY JASON QUILLMAN, OWNER
James Hardie fiber cement siding is a beast to install. Hardie installation is HIGHLY technical, and much more complex than vinyl siding installation—the Hardie best-practices manual alone is 130 pages. And if even one little detail isn’t followed exactly the way Hardie wants it, the warranty is voided.
This is why James Hardie fiber cement siding installation should be left ONLY in the hands of the most qualified experts. It’s also why I go into a lot of detail about my company’s Hardie-installation process during sales appointments.
I typically explain to homeowners that buying James Hardie siding is the opposite of buying a Cadillac. All Cadillacs of the same model will be identical right off the lot. They’re all put together the same exact way—in a factory on an assembly line by trained Cadillac employees adhering to strict specifications—so they all perform the same exact way.
The performance of James Hardie siding, on the other hand, can vary DRAMATICALLY depending on the contractor who installs it. I tell homeowners that they can probably find contractors who will install Hardie for cheaper… but only because those contractors will skip mission-critical installation steps.
I remember a particular instance a few years back where my warning fell on deaf ears.
I was performing a sales appointment for a homeowner who contacted me for a quote on James Hardie. As I was discussing the XteriorPRO Hardie-installation process, the homeowner—an engineer, no less—stopped me and asked, “Why is this important to me?”
His question surprised me, considering his line of work is all about precision. But I explained the Cadillac analogy and how he’s not going to get quality installation if he goes with a contractor who quotes a cheap price.
The result? He went with a contractor who quoted a cheap price.
No big deal. You can’t win them all.
But here’s where things get interesting…
A few months go by. One of my Project Consultants was out and about giving a presentation to a homeowner. He called me and said, “Jason, you’ve got to see this house across the street from where I had the appointment. They’ve got Hardie siding, and it’s BAD. It’s straight-edge shake, but it’s installed so crooked it looks like staggered shake!”
The installation was awful enough to compel my Project Consultant to take pictures. When he got back to the office, he showed me the photos.
My jaw about fell through the floor—it was the homeowner who chose the cheap siding contractor over us!
My Project Consultant was right—it was a total hack job. It not only looked awful, but I could tell just from the pictures that the homeowner was in for some MAJOR performance issues… and sooner rather than later.
I wasn’t surprised that this homeowner’s project ended up so poorly. I see bad James Hardie installation jobs ALL THE TIME. People are constantly calling me to fix their Hardie siding issues that another company’s installation caused.
Here’s an example…
I received a call from a homeowner in the St. Louis metro area with James Hardie fiber cement siding on July 12, 2019. The homeowner was experiencing multiple problems since having the siding installed just six years prior, and they wanted me to take a look at it.
Before I even got to the home, I knew the problem was installation-related. In my 20+ years in this business, I have NEVER seen a problem with Hardie siding when the installation is done right. (Vinyl siding? That’s a different story.)
When I arrived at the home, my suspicions were confirmed. The other company had made numerous mistakes and drastically cut corners.
Here are a few pictures of their work…
In the image above, you can see the siding going all the way to the ground. Hardie specifications require the siding to be installed six inches above the ground. When siding runs all the way to the ground like it does in this picture, moisture can seep under the siding. Not good.
In this photo, you can see that some of the planks are loose and falling off. This means the contractor missed the wall studs and hammered the nails directly into the sheathing. Hitting the wall studs is especially important with fiber cement siding because it’s heavier than other kinds of siding. If the contractor misses those wall studs, the weight of the siding can cause the planks to loosen and even fall off.
This photo is like one of those Hidden Picture puzzles from Highlights Magazine—you can spot at least four “out of place” items if you know what you’re looking for.
- For starters, the siding is brought directly to the trim board and caulked to it. Hardie requires a quarter-inch gap between the siding and trim board, with flashing in the space to prevent moisture damage.
- The ugly seam pattern is the result of the contractor cutting corners and pinching pennies by not adhering to a more aesthetically pleasing (but more cost- and labor-intensive) “step seam” pattern.
- The dryer vent and hose valve should have custom mounting blocks around them. Instead, the contractor used vinyl siding accessories. Vinyl!!!
- Above the French door, the contractor caulked the siding directly onto the head flashing. This defeats the purpose of head flashing, as the caulk can trap moisture behind the siding, thereby causing water damage and mold issues.
Bottom Line: You Get What You Pay For
James Hardie fiber cement siding is by far the best siding you can get in St. Louis County. But if you don’t invest in the installation, you will pay the price in the long run.
My company might not be the cheapest you can find to install Hardie siding. But you don’t want us to be… especially when going “cheap” on the front end will ravage your wallet later on.
Visit our Siding Installation page for details about our above-and-beyond Hardie-installation practices.
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