The terms “hardboard siding” and “pressboard siding” refer to any type of home siding that is made by mixing wood fiber with waxes, glue, fillers or resins and then compressing the mixture so it has the appearance of natural wood.
The goal was to create a product that was consistent throughout and was attractive, easy to install, easy to paint, and durable. In life, three out of four isn’t bad. Here, it can be a problem. These products proved to be less durable than anticipated, especially if installed incorrectly or if used in wet climates.
There are several manufactures of this type of product, many of which are involved in or have settled class action lawsuits.
Hardboard siding started to show problems in areas of the country where the climate is wet. Among those homes affected in Alpharetta, the most common problems are:
- Swelling along the edges
- Swelling around the nails
- Bowing or waves in the siding
- Discoloration or wax bleed
- Coming apart or soft to the touch
- Fungus and mold growth
Once the siding starts to soak up moisture, it is difficult and sometimes impossible to stop the deterioration. The bottom edge of the siding starts to split and makes it easier for more water to penetrate, creating a self-perpetuating problem. Sometimes if you catch it early enough you can caulk the edges and have them hand painted.
Maintaining hardboard siding is critical:
- Paint it at least every five years (hand paint the edges if necessary)
- Check and re-caulked seams
- Check the nail holes to make sure they are caulked properly
- Keep you gutters clean and functioning properly
- Do not let sprinklers continually spray the siding
Jeff’s Note: Most painters spray exterior paint. Usually, this means the underside edge isn’t properly protected. It will cost more to have the edges painted by hand, but doing so will ensure the edges aren’t missed and the siding will be protected where it is most vulnerable.
Additional Information About Hardboard Siding
It is critical that your home inspector thoroughly evaluate the condition of the siding. Often they will identify the manufacturer. Moisture is the enemy of this siding and the majority of damage to the siding will occur where it is exposed to water. Pay special attention to:
- Lower portions of a two story home
- Any joint or seam that is not well-caulked
- Nail heads driven through the surface of the siding and not caulked
- Any spot where a sprinkler system may spray regularly
- Any location where a gutter may overflow
Jeff’s Note: If an area of the siding is significantly damaged and moist, you need to be aware that there may be mold growing inside the wall. See the mold section of this site for more information.
Possible Associated Costs
It is expensive for a homeowner to buy a home in need of corrective siding:
- The cost to replace the siding on a home varies widely depending on the size of the home and the type of siding selected
- For a standard sized family home, costs are approximately $6000 for vinyl and $10,000 for cement-based siding including painting
- If only a small section of the siding is damaged, partial replacement and repairs are possible and will cost much less
Since 1997, area builders have moved toward the use of cement-based siding or vinyl siding. Some vinyl siding products are good and some are not. Pay close attention to quality and realize that inferior vinyl siding will not be better than hardboard siding. The cement-based products are outstanding. They hold paint well, they resist fungus, and are extremely durable. Some brands offer fifty-year warranties.
Class Action Lawsuits
Many of the hardboard siding manufacturers are in involved in, or have settled, class action lawsuits to reimburse owners of homes with defective siding. The following is a partial list of these companies. The first four on the list made the siding most commonly used in the Alpharetta area.
- Louisiana Pacific
- Georgia Pacific
- ABT Canada/Canexel
- Jefferson Smufit
You will find the conditions for settlement qualifications on these companies’ websites.
The Home You Love Has Hardboard Siding — Now What?
If hardboard is installed properly and if it is maintained consistently then it can hold up well. Virtually all homes in the Alpharetta area built prior to 1997 will have some type of hardboard siding on them. Understand that not all homes that have this type of siding exhibit problems and often any existing problems can be addressed. Make sure you check the responses to questions 12(c), (d) and (e) on a Seller’s Property Disclosure Statement. These questions should let you know the status of any claim by current or previous homeowners. Do not purchase a home with damaged siding in anticipation of a class action settlement. There are many factors, which may prevent a successful claim.
It is imperative to get the home inspected by someone well-versed in the potential problems associated with hardboard siding before you purchase.
If the home you want to purchase has damaged siding, it should be addressed during the negotiation of your original contract. Failing to address this issue during the buying process is risky and ill advised.
Most importantly, with this type of siding it is imperative that you practice excellent maintenance.