Siding the Garage: Fiber Cement vs. LP Smartside

There are a lot of siding choices on the market today, so it took us a while to sort through all of them and choose one for our garage (and eventually our house).  New vinyl siding can be done nicely and is pretty standard for our area, but we wanted to do something with a more authentic look. We also didn’t want to be limited to only the colors that vinyl siding comes in.

Our house was built in 1924. Currently we have 3 layers of siding. On the inside is a lap wood siding that would look so cool restored to its original glory… we just don’t want to deal with the high maintenance that comes with wood siding. Next is a layer of some fiberboard siding with who knows what in it (hopefully not asbestos). Finally, our house if capped off with a layer of aluminum siding that has seen better days. As I mentioned, we liked the idea of siding that looked like wood, but without the maintenance.

House Siding LayersAluminum Siding

Told you it is bad! Eek. I can’t wait until we can re-side the house.

After a lot of research, we eventually narrowed it down to two choices: Fiber Cement and LP Smartside. Here are the pros and cons of each:

Fiber Cement

1// Gave us that wood look we were going for.
2// Durable in most cases (very moisture resistant, fire resistant, etc.)
3// Can be painted in any color and doesn’t expand/contract like wood so the paint stays put.
4// Carries a 30 year limited warranty
5// Comes in several style options like vertical panels, shakes, etc.

1// Requires special tools to cut. You’ll also want to have protection from breathing in silica particles released when cutting.
2// Heavier.. Harder for Jerm and I to lug up a ladder.
3// Not as resistant to impact — Can break or crack.

LP Smartside

1// Gave us that wood look we were going for.
2// Impact and moisture resistant.
3// Can be painted in any color.
4// Carries a 50 year limited warranty and a 5 year full warranty (better than Fiber Cement)
5// Comes in several style options like vertical panels, shakes, etc and has matching soffit/trim.
6// We can cut it with a regular saw and it is easier to maneuver on a ladder.

1// Since it can expand, you need to leave a small gap where two pieces butt end to end. This means you have to go back and caulk all the gaps, which is more labor intensive.
2// Since it is made up of wood, it can burn.

In the end, we wound up going with the LP smartside, which we purchased pre-primed from Menards.

Here it is in all of its beige glory!

Siding is up

As far as installation went, it was pretty straightforward. Jerm began by trimming out the garage in the coordinating LP Smartside trim, and then we got started on the fun part. Once we nailed on the bottom two rows of siding, we used this super handy tool to help us position every row above it.  It is the PacTool Gecko Gauge, and we found it for about $70 on Amazon. First, it lets you set your “lap” or how much overlap you are leaving between the rows of siding. Then, you snap it onto your existing top row of siding.  Finally,  you can set your next row of siding into the grooves to hold it in place while you nail. I didn’t take any pictures of this, but here is one from the manufacturer’s site.

Gecko Gauge

We really wanted to add some kind of architectural detail in the tall peak. We debated board and batten, but ultimately decided on shakes. LP makes a random “cedar style” shake out of smartside, so we special ordered it from Menards.

Shakes are up

One funny story from siding the garage. Do you see our neighbor’s “no. 2 pencil yellow” garage peeking out on the right? Their house and garage were originally red. Last year we came home from Florida to find it painted this awful color. While we were starting to paint our new siding, the neighbor came out and said “Why are you painting it? I like that color” We explained that the beige was only primer. As it turns out, he thought that the color he picked was beige — just like our primed siding — and didn’t realize it was yellow until half of his house was painted….