How to Clean Fiber Cement Siding

How to Clean and Maintain Fiber Cement Siding

You may or may not have heard of it, but fiber cement siding has actually been around for more than a century. Invented in Austria in 1901, and originally marketed under the name “Eternit“ — which spoke to its long-lasting nature — fiber cement siding first gained popularity in Australia as a way to protect homes from that country’s heavy brushfires. You began to see it more and more on American homes starting in the 1980s.

There was a good reason for that. Fiber cement siding lasts a very long time. Some manufacturers, such as the popular James Hardie fiber cement board siding, offer warranties as long as 50 years. Depending upon where you live, installing fiber cement siding on your house may cost more than vinyl or wood, but it’s likely you’ll have to replace both of those types of siding long before you would need to change fiber cement siding.

There are some real tangible benefits to fiber cement siding:

  • It lasts a very long time.
  • It is completely insect- and rot-resistant. Carpenter bees or termites, for instance, will find very little to work with when dealing with fiber cement siding. Moisture, which is the biggest problem for almost any other type of siding, also has little effect on fiber cement. It’s an ideal type of siding if you live next to the ocean because it can also deal with salt spray very well.
  • It looks good. Board siding by James Hardie can be constructed to mimic the finish of other sidings such as cedar shingles, wood shakes or even wood lap boards. In other words, you can have a long-lasting siding that also looks great.
  • Fiber cement siding stands up exceptionally well to fire. Since it is composed of about 90 percent sand and cement, it does not burn. Remember, its ability to stand up to Australian brushfires was what first brought it to worldwide attention.
  • Mother Nature can throw anything that you can think of at fiber cement siding, and the siding will fend it off. Whether you’re talking about damage from a hurricane or a hailstorm the size of golf balls, fiber cement’s concrete fibers will sustain little damage. You won’t find big dents in fiber cement siding after a storm like you might get with vinyl siding.
  • If you live in an area of the United States with intense weather conditions, fiber cement siding is a great choice to keep your house protected.

How to Maintain Fiber Cement Siding

How to Maintain Fiber Cement Siding

Another one of the real benefits of fiber cement siding is that it does not need as much maintenance as other types of siding. This does not mean it is maintenance-free — all kinds of siding need proper maintenance to maintain their look and the protection they offer to your home.

But with fiber cement siding, most of the maintenance required is straightforward and easy to do. In most cases, you can do it yourself very easily with materials that are available in your home.

Remember, it’s always essential to use safety apparel when you do any cleaning, especially if you’re trying to remove bits of exterior mold or mildew. You’ll need eye goggles, good gloves and appropriate respiratory gear. You don’t want to inhale anything unhealthy or let particles or debris make their way into your eyes or onto your skin.

It’s also a good idea to cover up plants or shrubbery located next to your home. While it depends on the chemicals you use to clean your fiber cement siding, you likely don’t want them making their way into your flower bed. It’s a good idea to use a tarp when cleaning.

Here’s how to clean fiber cement siding depending on the stain:

1. Dirt, Chalk or Construction Debris

The only liquid solution you need to clean these materials is water. Along with the water you will need:

  • A cloth, preferably a soft one
  • A soft paintbrush
  • A chip brush
  • A siding brush or a horsehair brush
  • A garden water hose

Never use a hard or abrasive brush to clean cement fiber siding.

Take your soft brush and use it along the siding to remove the dust or chalk that you want to clean. Then rinse with the hose. If you prefer to use a soft cloth to handle the debris, wet it and wipe the siding until it is clean and once again rinse with the hose. It’s probably a good idea to have more than one cloth ready or be prepared to rinse the cloth often because you don’t want to use a dirty rag.

2. Natural Contaminants, Oil or Grease

Suppose you were working on your car in the driveway, and you’ve accidentally spilled some grease or oil on the siding. Don’t worry. You do need a solution to remove it, but it’s a solution that can be found in every kitchen. Just use some mild liquid dishwashing soap and mix it with water.

Never use an abrasive cleanser when cleaning fiber cement siding.

All you need once again is a soft cloth and your garden hose.

Get your cloth wet with the soapy water and clean the siding. When you’re finished getting it nice and soapy, use your hose to remove the suds and rinse the area clean.

3. Mold and Mildew

If you find mold and mildew on your cement fiber siding, do not blame yourself. Almost every home will at some point be targeted by mold and mildew, especially if you live in a warm climate with high humidity or your house is in an area with a lot of shade. And unfortunately, if you have one, you’ll no doubt have the other.

This is the one time you will probably need to use materials from outside of the kitchen to do a proper job cleaning. You should go to your local hardware store where you can buy a safe and non-damaging fiber cement siding cleaner. Simply mix the cleaner and water together in the proper amounts according to the instructions. Don’t overdo it. Too much of this cleaner can damage your siding. You only want to clean it, not worsen its condition.

Remember to wear the proper safety apparel — you don’t want to breathe in spores from mold or mildew as you are removing them, and you also don’t want the chemical from the cleaner on your skin or in your eyes.

Scrub the area of siding where you can find the mold and mildew. Don’t do too hard. A light touch is always a good touch with fiber cement siding. Wait for the cleaner to do its work, clean the area once again, then rinse with your garden hose.

If you feel strongly about not using store-bought cleansers, another way to kill the mold or mildew is by either lowering or raising the pH level on your siding. If you are finding that mold and mildew are a regular problem, you can use a substance that lowers this pH balance such as:

  • Bleach
  • Baking soda
  • Ammonia
  • Salt

Only use one of these ingredients at a time and use a hand sprayer to apply it to your fiber cement siding. Give it a few minutes and then rinse with the garden hose. If it’s a stubborn stain after you’ve applied the solution, clean a bit with your soft brush. It may be necessary to do this two or three times to remove large areas of mold or mildew.

Fiber Siding Cleaning Tips

Fiber Siding Cleaning Tips

Regardless of the kind of dirt, contaminant or mold that you are removing from your fiber cement siding, here are some general tips to follow:

  • Try not to clean too big an area. Start small. Clean that area before you move on to another one. That way, if you must stop for any reason, you have a feeling of at least getting some of your cleaning accomplished.
  • Start at the top and work to the bottom. If you do the other way around you’ll find yourself having to deal with streaks and runoff from the boards above dripping onto the boards you’ve already cleaned below.
  • Regardless of the kind of cleaning implement that you’re using, always use it in the direction of the plank. Think of it as “going with the grain.”
  • When using a store-bought cleaner to clean fiber cement siding of mold or mildew, do not allow the solution to dry on the planks. Wet with water until you know all solution has been removed.
  • Do not use a high-pressure hose to clean fiber cement siding. This is one of the few ways that you can damage it. If you feel that you need to use a pressure washer, especially on harder to reach locations, only use it at a low pressure — under 1500 psi — with a wide tip. Only use a pressure washer at a distance of 6 feet or more.
  • Another good maintenance tip is to once a year inspect the caulking used by the contractors during the installation. It is waterproof caulking and helps to keep out any moisture. If you spot any cracks or gaps, you can easily repair them yourself. Just apply a little caulking and smooth it out to cover the holes.

What Can Go Wrong With Fiber Cement Siding?

What Can Go Wrong With Fiber Cement Siding

There’s not much that can go wrong with fiber cement siding if you take care of it properly. First, you should clean it about once every six months – say every spring and fall. Fiber cement siding really only has one Achilles’ heel – it will probably need to be repainted at least twice during its lifespan. Hardie board probably offers the best warranty in the business, covering paint and labor for peeling and chipping for 15 years.

That’s pretty good when you consider most paint jobs on wooden siding only last seven to 10 years.

Painting your James Hardie board can be done in one of two ways:

1. Buying Already Painted

In this method, the manufacturer bakes the primer and the paint onto the panels before they install them on your home. If you want to avoid the hassles of painting your home more often, this is the method to choose as it offers a better, more durable finish than painting by hand.

2. Primed and Ready for You to Pick a Color

If you want to make sure that your home siding has the exact color you want, choose this method. These boards are primed when they arrived for installation, but you need to apply the paint. True, it may not last as long as the already-painted boards, but you may gain greater satisfaction picking just the right color for your home. You can paint Hardie board with a wide variety of colors.

Is There Any Asbestos Involved in the Creation of Fiber Cement Siding?

Many decades ago, some of the earliest versions of fiber cement siding did contain asbestos fibers. But over time, fiber cement was designed to replace asbestos and create a safer working space for the people installing the product and a safer home for people living with fiber cement siding.

In 1987, James Hardie stopped making and selling any product or building materials that contained asbestos.

What Does Hardie Board Cost?

James Hardie board siding runs from about $0.70 to $5.25 per square foot. That’s a huge price fluctuation. But there are several factors to consider:

  • How much siding will you need?
  • How long will it take to install?
  • Will you need additional equipment or materials?
  • What will the size of the labor force be to install the siding?

These costs also vary widely depending upon the availability of materials, the climate in your region and the installer’s experience with fiber cement siding. It makes a lot of sense to work with a company like Sunshine Contracting who has a great deal of experience in working with this material. You want fiber cement siding installed the right way the first time.

Talk With Us at Sunshine Contracting About James Hardie Board

Talk With Us at Sunshine

Sunshine Contracting was chosen by James Hardie to be a preferred installer of their amazing fiber cement siding. They chose us because they know we have the qualifications and the training to install their products to a customer’s complete satisfaction. Our team of installers knows how to install this amazing product and works hard to keep up-to-date on all the latest offerings from James Hardie. Having a qualified crew from Sunshine Contracting install James Hardie board on your home is an integral part of the process in ensuring that it looks great and lasts for many, many years.

If you would like to talk to us about installing James Hardie board siding on your home, please call us at 703-935-4663 or visit our contact us page where you can leave us your contact information and some details about your interest in James Hardie products.

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