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By: The Brennan Team

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February 26th, 2018

James Hardie vs. LP SmartSide - Siding Review

Windows | Replacement Windows

What is the difference between James Hardie and LP SmartSide? When you're looking for replacement siding on your home sometimes the choices can be overwhelming. In this article we will review two of the most popular siding products today, James Hardie and LP SmartSide lap siding.


What are the products made out of?

James Hardie

We will begin with a basic analysis of James Hardie products, generally referred to as "Hardie" or "HardiePlank." James Hardie products are often referred to as "fiber-cement" products because of the materials that they are made out of. The main/bulk ingredient in James Hardie siding products is silica dust. The silica dust is combined with other materials such as wood fiber for strength as well as a number of other proprietary ingredients that are a closely guarded trade-secret. One of the final ingredients is cement which is the binding agent that holds everything together. The actual cement content of the finished product is relatively low, similar to the cement content in concrete. The resultant product is a very hard, albeit brittle, exterior siding product. Please refer to the linked video below for more information on the James Hardie manufacturing process.

LP SmartSide


LP SmartSide is made out of what LP calls an "engineered wood" product. The first step in the process involves placing raw lumber through a wood chipper to create wood strands/chips that are somewhat uniform in shape & size. The wood strands are then fed through a mixing mechanism whereby all surfaces of the wood chips are coated in a mixture of waxes, resins, and Zinc Borate. The zinc borate acts as a preservative which wards off wood-rot & termites. After mixing/coating, the wood strands are layed down in interwoven orientations which results in dimensional stability in the finished product. The now loosely-interwoven mat of wood-strands is then fed into a press which does a few things simultaneously: it embosses a wood-like finish into the surace of the boards, it compresses the interowven-mat into the final thickness of the desired siding product, and it uses heat to activate the binding agent of the material. Please refer to the linked video below for more information on the LP SmartSide manufacturing process.


Board Lengths

This is one area where LP SmartSide excels. The boards are made in 16-foot lengths as opposed to James Hardie's 12-foot board lengths. The end result is 33% less seams on your home when the product is installed. 

LP SmartSide James Hardie
16-foot board lengths 12-foot board lengths

Lap Siding 6.jpg 

LP SmartSide Lap siding

Embossed Finishes

Both James Hardie and LP SmartSide offer a variety of different surface finishes on their prodcuts.

LP SmartSide James Hardie
Select Cedarmill
Custom Beaded Cedarmill
  Custom Beaded Smooth

Finish Color Choices

LP SmartSide James Hardie
Primed Primed
 Factory Pre-Finish through Diamond Kote Hardie ColorPlus Pre-Finish

A question that is often asked is whether or not the siding product will need to be painted after installation. Both James Hardie and LP SmartSide offer products with primed finishes that are ready for painting after installation. This painting would obviously need to be applied in the field.

James Hardie does offer a factory pre-finished product that they refer to as Hardie ColorPlus. This finish is applied directly by James Hardie in their manufacturing facilities.

LP SmartSide does not offer an official factory pre-finish however they do have partners that purchase the LP SmartSide product and then apply the factory finish themselves. One such partner is Diamond Kote. Diamond Kote offers a variety of standard colors (similar to Hardie ColorPlus) however they also offer a 2-tone pre-finish that they refer to as Duoblend Premium. The Duoblend Premium finish mimics the look of real wood, allowing one to sheath their home in a product that looks like wood yet has the additional insect & rot-resistance of the LP SmartSide siding product.

Lap Siding 19.jpgLP SmartSide with Diamond Kote Duoblend Premium finish 


LP SmartSide James Hardie
50-Year Limited Warranty 30-Year Limited Warranty


LP Smart Side Cons

Not every product is perfect, and here we will list a few of the items going against LP SmartSide.

  • LP SmartSide does have a 50-year warranty however that warranty is prorated meaning that by year 49 of the 50 year warranty, if there is indeed a warranty claim the payout will be almost negligible. The proration begins after 5 years/at the start of year 6. More info can be found in their warranty literature.
  • LP SmartSide is generally more expensive than James Hardie products.
  • LP SmartSide does not offer a factory-prefnish on their products. Any factory-prefinished LP SmartSide products are applied through a 3rd party.


James Hardie Cons

Here we will list a few of the items going against James Hardie.

  • As stated previously in this article, one of the main ingredients in James Hardie siding is silica dust. Just like asbestos, when silica dust is undisturbed/NOT airborne the material poses very little risk. And just like asbestos,  Silica dust is a known carcinogen. When silica dust becomes airborn it can cause a myriad of issues including but not limited to lung cancer. When James Hardie product is cut with a saw the silica dust becomes airborne. This is not necessarily a problem for homeowners getting the product installed however it can become a problem for the technicians installing the product. Best pratices dictate that a respirator be worn when cutting the product on the jobsite however this precaution is rarely followed. It is this authors' estimate that at some point in the future products containing silica dust will be banned, similar to asbestos.
  • James Hardie products are very hard however with that hardness comes brittleness. People commonly refer to James Hardie products as concrete siding however this is not true. One of the ingredients in James Hardie products is cement, an ingredient common in concrete but not the same thing as concrete. Finished James Hardie product is similar in its physical properties to those of ceramics. It is extremely hard but if hit with a sudden impact the material will shatter. This can be particularly troublesome in areas where hail storms are common. Hail damaged James Hardie products are NOT covered by their warranty.

Hardie Wylie Hailstorm.jpg

Hail-damaged Hardie from 2016 Wylie, TX hailstorm

  • Efflorescence. This is basically the migration of salt to the surface of a pourous material, where it forms a coating. There is really nothing that can be done to prevent this and it is not covered by the James Hardie warranty. Pressure washing or an acid wash to the material seem to be the only remedies and the material would then need to be painted after being treated for efflorescence. 
  • James Hardie products are notoriously difficult to deal with. Special (more expensive) saw blades are required to cut the product and wear out at a much faster rate than typical wood-cutting blades. Installation guidelines must be meticulously followed else any future warranty claims will be denied due to imrpoper installation.
  • Any field-cut pieces of James Hardie product must have the field-cut ends properly painted/sealed prior to installation. A typical residential structure can potentially have 100's of field-cut HardiePlank panels installed...and every single one of them must be properly sealed prior to installation.
  • Becuase of James Hardie's aforementioned brittleness, special care must be taken when handling the product. 12-foot lengths of HardiePlank siding snapping in two whilst being carried is a common occurence.

After seeing some of the product information side-by-side, we hope it's easier to make your decision. If you have any further questions or inquiries about product offerings, we'd love to help - give us a call!