The company I work for builds seven to ten spec and custom homes per year on the Kitsap Peninsula, just west of Seattle. Our crew frames and does most of the siding and exterior finish work. Wood siding is popular in this area, but it's too expensive for spec houses. We used to side with L-P's Inner-Seal, an engineered wood product with an OSB-like substrate. We switched to fiber cement in 1996, when Inner-Seal became the subject of a class-action lawsuit. Although improved versions of engineered-wood sidings are available, we now side almost exclusively with fiber cement. Our customers like it because it looks like wood, and they are reassured by the fact that it comes with a 50-year warranty. We happen to use James Hardie's lap siding (Hardiplank), but I've talked to carpenters who use other brands and hear they have similar results.

It wasn't easy switching to fiber cement. We had gotten used to engineered siding, which is light, cuts like wood, and comes in 16-foot lengths. Fiber cement, on the other hand, is heavy and creates a lot of obnoxious dust when you cut it with a saw. It also takes more pieces to cover a building because it only comes in 12-foot lengths.

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