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Problems With James Hardie Siding Installations

By In James Hardie Siding On August 25, 2009


James Hardie lap siding is great product, but it only performs as well as it’s installed.  I’ve heard several complaints about this product from various home buyers, mostly anecdotal evidence about how the material deteriorates, but I’ve found improper installations on every damaged section of siding I’ve ever seen.  James Hardie siding is a fiber-cement product that comes with a 30 or 50 year warranty, but any warranty will be void if the product is improperly installed.  James Hardie isn’t the only manufacturer of fiber cement siding, but it’s certainly the most popular.

Listed below are a few of the most common installation defects that I find.  The funny thing about these installation defects is that the installation instructions are very clear and very specific – the diagrams below all come directly from James Hardie.  The other manufacturers of fiber cement siding have nearly identical installation instructions.

Improper Clearances

  • Must be kept 2″ away from roof surfaces, decks, driveways, steps, and other similar hard surfaces.
  • Must be kept 6″ above the finished grade.
  • Gutters must be kept 1″ away from the siding, and kickout flashing needs to be installed.
  • Must be kept 1/4″ above flashing above windows, and not caulked here.

Hardiboard clearance to roofHardiboard clearance to deckClearance to stepsHardiboard clearance at gutter end capHardiboard caulked at window flashing





Improperly Attached
  • Must be blind nailed or face nailed, but not both.  The photos below show blind nails and face nails used together, and clearly shows what happens.
  • The proper size nails must be used (6d or siding nails).  Framing nails (16d) were used in the photos below.
  • The nails must be driven in straight, and must not be over-driven or under-driven.  The nails pictured were driven at an angle or driven in too far.
Blind Nailed and Face Nailed

Blind Nailed and Face Nailed

Hardiboard wrong nails

Wrong nails, Face Nailed and Blind Nailed, Nailed at an angle

Hardiboard overdriven nail

Overdriven nails

Hardiboard angled nail

Angled nail

What Do These Defects Mean?

If you’re buying a house with improperly installed James Hardie siding, be aware that damage caused by an improper installation will not be covered by their warranty, and your siding will be subject to premature damage and deterioration. If the proper clearances haven’t been met, they can often be fixed.  If the siding has been improperly attached to the house, there isn’t any practical way to fix this.  You’ll have to take your chances and hope it doesn’t turn out like the photos above, or you’ll need to have the siding redone.  For a full list of current installation requirements for the HZ5 plank, click here.

If you have an existing installation and you want to know if it was properly installed, you can view some of their older installation manuals here:

There may be other editions of installation instructions published in-between these dates, but I don’t have records of them.

Reuben Saltzman, Structure Tech Home Inspections – Email – Minneapolis Home Inspector

        



About the Author

Reuben

Reuben is a second generation home inspector with a passion for his work. He grew up remodeling homes and learning about carpentry since he was old enough to hold a hammer. Reuben has worked for Structure Tech since it was purchased by Neil in 1997, and is now co-owner of the company. Reuben’s favorite customers are the ones who have a lot of questions; he grew up thinking he was going to be a school teacher because he enjoyed teaching others so much. In a sense, that’s a lot of what home inspections are about, so Reuben truly does what he loves. Reuben has an A.A. degree in liberal arts and has attended most of the Building Inspection Technology classes at North Hennepin Community College. Reuben and his wife are the proud parents of two young childen, Cy Alexander and Lucy Nicole, and have a German Shepherd named Stanley. With two young children Reuben doesn’t have much free time, but he still tries to play disc golf as often as possible during the summer. Reuben lives in Maple Grove, MN. Professional Qualifications / Memberships: *ASHI Certified Inspector *President, ASHI Heartland Chapter *Member, Minnesota Society of Housing Inspectors (MSHI) *Licensed Minneapolis Truth-in-Sale of Housing Evaluator *Licensed Saint Paul Truth-in-Sale of Housing Evaluator *Licensed Maplewood Truth-in-Sale of Housing Evaluator *Licensed Hopkins Truth-in-Housing Evaluator *Licensed Robbinsdale Point of Sale Evaluator *Affiliate Member, Southern Twin Cities Association of Realtors

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107 Comments

  • JD 12 MONTHS AGO

    As Reuben said at the very top of this page..."I’ve found improper installations on every damaged section of siding I’ve ever seen." Though now that I've read all the horror stories on service from Hardie, I'm considering insulated vinyl instead, Heartland CedarMAX to be specific. Slight cost savings, a bit more because I am self-installing. I really like the look and concept of fiber-cement, and especially the details provided in the JH Best Practices guide. But FC siding still seems to me to be just as risky as in the 1990s when I saw mushrooms growing from it.

  • Louis Patrick 12 MONTHS AGO

    Brian, If you are in the Dallas / Ft. Worth area I can provide a great JW dealer.

  • Brian Serle 12 MONTHS AGO

    Griffith, where are you located? Who was your installer? We are considering Hardie for our new house.

  • NGriffith 1 YEAR AGO

    I had Hardie ColorPlus lap siding installed on my home in February 2011; that's nearly 2 years ago. It was installed by a certified and approved James Hardie ColorPlus installer. I also had the JH wrap, flashing and trims installed with the siding. At first, I thought that the sidings were missing caulking where the cut ends of boards met but I learned that they should NOT be caulked for ColorPlus. About 2 months after the installation, James Hardie inspectors came to inspect the work done by the installer. They said it was done properly and looked good. The only pointer they gave me was that, to avoid discoloration, I needed to wash off or brush off any dirt on the lower boards from mud splashed onto them during rains. I do that regularly. I am quite happy with the installation and the follow-up inspection by James Hardie inspectors.

  • Laura McCracken 1 YEAR AGO

    I left above question and to add on the rest of the siding that I don't want to replace is also been installed wrong and does have a lot of problems with it don't get me wrong! It just isn't falling off like the frount and dosnt need immediate attention ! It has been calked around all the windows and calking is turning black ! They realy did a poor job of installation ! Truly I'm not sure I who installed it! And just recalling our home was built 16 yrs ago we moved in 13 yrs ago!

  • Laura McCracken 1 YEAR AGO

    I am a home owner and we have this siding on our home. The siding is 13 years old but the only place we are having a BIG problem is the frount of the house. It is awful! We (neighborhood ) have sump pumps that run all the time due to natural spring under homes ! Bad idea to build over! The frount stays damp and shaded. Our siding is falling off in peices it's molded, black mold, as well as coming away from the nails! It's soft and mushy. After reading this article it was realy installed improperly as well calked around window that leaks horribly ! I don't want to have to replace siding on whole house tho . And don't want to put it back on frount and have same problem either! Will my homeowners cover replacement and if so will they allow replacement of another product ? Desperate because it is affecting the way the house looks from the street ! It's awful !

  • susan susan 1 YEAR AGO

    We had JH siding installed a couple years ago by their own people and are still fighting to get defects taken care of. Dealing directly with the company has been a severe pain in my ass!!!! It's as difficult as pulling teeth, the old fashion way!!! I would sincerely recommend looking for another product or company who can give you better service and doesn't have as many negative reviews online as this company. DO NOT GET JH !!!! They bow, warp, peel.... need I go on? Their field reps tell you they'll have someone out, call back, take care of it.... then they forget about you until you call them again, and again, and again.... then not answer your calls or reply at all !!! Call the main office, file ANOTHER report, same shit, same shit, same shit!!! DO NOT GET JH SIDING !!!!!! Once they have the money, you're f'd !!!

  • Louis Patrick 1 YEAR AGO

    If James Hardie representatives declare siding problems are due to incorrect installation by the contractor thus not covered by the James Hardie warranty what recourse does the homeowner have? What actions should be taken by the homeowner?

  • Art Palmer 1 YEAR AGO

    I'm looking for the installation specifications for Hardie Panel siding from time period of 2005 / 2006. I can see they are available for Hardie Plank, but not Panel. Any idea where I can locate them?

  • Alex 1 YEAR AGO

    We use James Hardie siding on most of our projects and did not find any difficulties with it. As author mentioned, problems start only when it is installed in not a proper way.

  • Marge 1 YEAR AGO

    We are purchasing a new home, still under construction, but in the final stages...we recently noticed the siding (JP hardiplank) on both sides of the house is bowed and appears to have a "rippled" effect. Can someone advise the possible causes of this? Water? Improper framing? The on-site sales agent said the house was "wrapped" before the siding was installed-therefore caulking was not needed. We were surprised the seams were not caulked and thinking maybe rain has caused this? Any suggestions on how to fix this-we meet with the construction mgr. Monday am. Thanks.

  • Lou Ann 1 YEAR AGO

    I am taking bids, now, to repair wood rot on our 21 year old home. All are bidding with James Hardie except one, a well-known contractor with a great resume, who uses Smart. He is not impressed with Hardie. Comments on Smart, please...

  • MR 2 YEARS AGO

    I self installed Hardie Colonial Roughsawn on my house in 2001. I now have built a garage and can't get matching product up here in the north without a "Product Exception" which says I can get it, but it carries no warranty due to JH having their 'zones'. Would have to be trucked up her from South Carolina adding tremendous costs to it. Siding, properly installed, blind nailed,using stainless steel screws using the specs they had at the time lasts at least 12 years. No complaints, no problems. But a real hassle and slow down to get more to do the garage. I'd caution homeowners to buy a different brand due to the moving target that JH has put in place.

  • Clint 2 YEARS AGO

    Our home was finished and we took possession December 2011. We have a one year warranty. We have cemplank which I believe is Hardie board planking. I noticed that the seams where boards met were at 16" spacing from one another. Ok BUT the studs are at 24" spacing. I brought this up to the builder and they at the time last winter before the year had run out said they would re-side. Now they have come back and are saying that siding was blind nailed on the studs with blind nails to the underlying plywood between the studs. They say that falls within Hardie guidelines. they also surface nailed using finishing nails at the bottom of some of the joints. The builder is coming next week and will pull selected boards so we can see the nailing pattern. Do you agree with their assessment? How many boards would you suggest we pull to find the real nailing patter. I would prefer not to remove all the siding then reside the house.

  • Sandra 2 YEARS AGO

    Hello, I am a homeowner who purchased a house in Virginia. There is Colonial Blue Hardie Plank on the house. It was prepainted. It is peeling in 2 areas. One spot above the garage and another on the second story next to a window. I am wondering how to deal with this. The construction was finished and we purchased the house in December of 2006. I was not expecting to have to paint or replace siding for a long time and am disappointed. If this siding only fails when istalled incorrectly, and the guidelines for installation have changed since 2006- then how does JH determine if they will honor a warranty? And if they do not, is the homeowner simply out of luck or is the installer liable?

  • Sarah 2 YEARS AGO

    Billy C., don't be passive aggressive. Reuben has done a great job on this site. Cut him slack. Who knows what has happened.

  • Billy C 2 YEARS AGO

    To bad Reuben Saltzman has gone underground.

  • Ken 2 YEARS AGO

    There seems to be "chalking" or leaching on some of the planks. The work was completed in July/August 2012 and I noticed the chalking about two months ago. What would cause this and is there a solution?

  • Roland 2 YEARS AGO

    How do you install Hardie on round structures, waht is the minimum radius it can be applied onto I wonder.

  • Bill King 2 YEARS AGO

    Recently bought a house built in 2005. The house has hardie siding, but the 1x4 trim around the windows is wood. The trim wood is rotted and needs to be replaced. I want to replace the trim with hardie trim, but the original installers ran the siding all the way to the window frame, and the wood trim boards were placed on top of the siding. According to the hardie trim installation instructions, the siding should not run under the trim boards but should butt to the trim board with a minimum of 1/8" gap. Can instill use hardie trim boards with this? Thanks and please advise

  • Larry Rogers 2 YEARS AGO

    I have Hardie Siding on my manufactured home (7 years, so far no problems). I would like to attach a trellis to the back of my home. Is screwing or nailing something to hardie siding asking for trouble?

  • Janine Consiglio 2 YEARS AGO

    The builder asked If I want the "fixing" (attachment of planks) to be 1 nail at the top (which will be concealed) or 1 nail top and 1 nail at the bottom. The lower nails will be visable. Which is best? I would think one at the top and bottom would be stronger. But would not look as nice..

  • Siding Seattle 2 YEARS AGO

    Wow! Lots of good discussion generated from this blog post. I'm a siding contractor and for the most part like JH siding but regard it as the lower end of what is desirable. JH is a difficult company to deal with but their products if installed right are an attractive and relatively inexpensive option. Thanks for the thought provoking post and discussion. Lots of good info here. Siding Seattle

  • Canadian Contractor 2 YEARS AGO

    I was doing some research on potential siding options for my shed company in Quebec. This blog has been a real eye opener! Just read the 85 comments that began in Aug 2009! I have to say, I understand the many benefits of a fiber cement siding, but I now know the risks in a poor installation. More importantly however I try to make ethical decisions on the products I sell and install. Based on the history of this company and the immoral practices read about here and elsewhere on the net I can't in good conscience use this companies products. The final nail in the coffin was based on the book that was mentioned by 'KillBill' above on the nasty corporate past of James Hardie in regards to it's beginnings in the Asbestos industry in Australia. Wow. Just wow. Check out this short interview with the author. http://youtu.be/s55tyQmF0wM Thanks for the great blog Reuben!

  • Billy C 2 YEARS AGO

    I have just started the process for having my home resided. I thought Hardie was going to be the best product, now I not sure. Can anyone comment on a product called Celect by Royal Building Products. Thanks.

  • michelle 2 YEARS AGO

    We have pretty big gaps between our hardiplank siding and our roof. It looks awful because all you see is this huge line of silver flashing. We are trying to get our builder (Horrible DR Hortong) to do something about it, but they claim that they are backed by the hardi instructions even though NO other home in any of their developments have the amount of flashing that our home has showing. I call it our space ship house. HELP!

    • Reuben Saltzman 2 YEARS AGO

      Hi Michelle, it's a very simple cosmetic fix - a piece of bent-up aluminum or other trim at the bottom of the siding would make it look nice. The next time I come across this, I'll take a photo and post it here.

  • Sean 2 YEARS AGO

    I wish that I had come across this before. I recently had Titan Siding and Exteriors (www.titansiding.com) install James Hardie Siding at my home in Austin. They were very nice guys and seemed to do a great job, when I go out and look at it I don't see any of the issues above. I also don't really know anything about this. Would it be a good idea to pay a professional to come out and take a look at it now? I have only had it for a few months and so far have I have been very happy, but I don't want any nasty surprises 10 years down the line.

    • Reuben Saltzman 2 YEARS AGO

      Sean - I wouldn't. Take a look through the installation instructions for this product and compare that to what the installers did. If you don't see any issues, good.

  • Hardi Repair Guy 2 YEARS AGO

    I have steel on my home and love it!

  • cindy 2 YEARS AGO

    Wow..... we have been getting bids on a total residing job using HardiPlank and have, thankfully, discovered this blog before going any further. After all the negative comments, I am definitely thinking twice. If this is really the poor product it sounds like it is, what do you all recommend for siding?

  • Debby 2 YEARS AGO

    I am questioning the way Hardi distributes the product to a client. We had a delivery of the siding for our home and when the product showed up there was no Directions or Guide included. Why would they supply a product but no guide on how to install then expect someone to install properly? Is this an issue with Hardi or the supplier we used?

  • Sue 2 YEARS AGO

    DON'T DEAL WITH JAMES HARDIE ! We had the company themselves, not a contractor or other, and they themselves couldn't install the siding correctly. They used so few nails in the boards that the centers have noticeably bowed around all windows. Within in the year and continuing into year 3. Twice the bowing caused the double-paned, gas filled windows to break their seals, leak or crack. The company moved out of the area and now we have to deal with the HQ office which service and warranty follow thru is lacking. Our advise, and a few neighbors as well, AVOID JAMES HARDIE ! ! !

  • Harvey W. Goolsby, Architect 2 YEARS AGO

    I am recently married and my wife has sold her house in the Masonboro Forest part of Wilmington NC. As part of the 'home inspection" requiring address, there was a report of a delaminating (HardiePlank) on four dormers together with deteriorating trim at the vertical corners of these same dormers. (Not all corners, not all base clapboards). Heretofore, (before doing the repairs myself) I should have responded, " Concrete!...isn't affected by water!" I was wrong...and now have site information.. . The Dormers are fake (not leading to any usable interior space-only to truss space). They were installed as follows: 1. Shingles run up to and hard against the "Tyveck" of the dormer sheathing. (NO flashing...and certainly no stepped flashing interlaced with the shingles_) 2. HardiePlank (installation vintage.2000-2001) is within 1/4 to 1/2' of shingles) . The cut, sloping edge apparently absorbs water readily, and lower edge delamination is occuring generally. ( On my replacement bottom planks, I first primed all edges and surfaces and backprimed with alkyd enamel to deter future wicking). 3. "Prefinished, "cornerboards" of composite wood trim generally had turned to thick "stew" below the paint. Paint, actiong in tension held it together. The cut/beveled bottom edge was the source of wicking. (I replaced trim with 'concrete" boards, after sealing the bottom surface with "Bondo". Merging was done with fibered fiberglass paste. 4. The fascia boards of these dormers, returned to meet the main roof shingles. Clearance varied from zero (0) to 1" +-. Where it was close, rot had begun; I had to replace the fascia board (again, priming/backpriming...including cut wood on the sloped-to-match-roof cut edge) I sank two copper roofing nails so Cu SO4 will be generated when wetted...a personal tool gleaned from observing "Nothing grows on copper". (I could not use treated wood, because all being sold was so wet I'd have been a month before painting.) 5. The soffits, inboard of these fascia-returning-to-main roof, were all open at the roof-slope end to 'scoop" the available splash, hence rot. Dry ones were invitations to squirrel nesting...or whatever appreciates an elevated, dry niche...once one moves away from main-roof surface splash). Now I had earlier harbored a distant, but considered respect for this county's building inspectors. After all, it was an Inspector from Wilmington NC (New hanover County) who first stopped Dryvit from installing vapor barriers on the wrong side of foam insulation, hence rotting wood below. (I'd never made sense of their construct...since '74 when their rep first called) Now I suspect that all the "one-page" specs builders submit with plans for building permits include reference to "SMACNA Architectural Sheet Metal"...most do. Men have been bending metal for a long time, and learned how to shed water by gravity- without sealant. It's a history of acumulated success..all written, referenced. in submitted specifications...and ignored. In this entire subdivision-high end houses-there is no evidence of SMACNA's precepts being honored. (flashing shows when hardieplank is held "up' two inches) This means that these houses will experience rot and deterioration far sooner than needed, intended, or promised by documents submitted for construction. Perhaps detailed inspection and enforcement would be locally considered "government meddling...intrusion". Local homeowners will bear the unneeded, unplanned costs. Wilmington is not alone. Shame...and sigh. Respectfully, Harvey W. Goolsby,III, Architect.

  • Gil 2 YEARS AGO

    The City of Sydney, NS, Canada, promoted many downtown buildings to use cement board siding. Many business had it put on their buildings. I heard that it was mostly "Hardie" siding that was used. After about 3 years, you could walk past these buildings and see pealing paint on many buildings. I think most sidings ages, varied between 2 and 5 years. I just did a short walk and survey of the plank composite siding. 10 buildings seem good at this point. 10 buildings had various degrees of peeling, and obvious patch painting. One building in yellow color had some serious delaminating. The remaining yellow paint looked like shreds. Should anyone be in this area, take a walk down Charlotte street and check both the front and rear of buildings with the Hardie siding.

  • Lisa 2 YEARS AGO

    We are going to sign a contract to replace the James haridie siding. But the contractor could not do the job until Oct. After complete the job I need to paint the trim but I was told by painter that it would be too cold to paint in Nov. So we have to paint next Spring. My question is how much will my existing wood trim's paint will be damage during siding replacement (they will not do tough up paint). Can the trim go through the Winter without paint (Michigan)? Also, some of my wood trim needs to replace during siding repalcement. Could the newly wood trims (without paint) go throgh the Winter without paint? Thanks a lot! Lisa

  • Hardi Repair Guy 2 YEARS AGO

    killbill, I would agree. It is very dusty and dirty to work with.

  • KillBill 2 YEARS AGO

    James Hardi was an Australian company that ran off to Holland leaving a bankrupt asbestos litigation fund behind. An ethically challenged company to say the least. Read the book Killer Company: James Hardie Exposed is a 2009 book by Australian journalist Matt Peacock. Personal experience, my father has asbestosis while an uncle has died from mesothelioma. Two family friends have also died from Mesothelioma. While JH was probably not the the cause of the deaths in my circle, their unethical actions and treatment of of former employees is criminal. JH products no longer contain asbestos, but their business practices sound just like their old product—profitable for them, lethal to others.

  • Hardi Repair Guy 2 YEARS AGO

    Hi Steve, Sounds like it was not transported or stocked correctly. Best thing to do is not to use any of it and contact the regional Hardi Rep.

  • steve Sanow 2 YEARS AGO

    Just started siding a house after building a 600 sq. ft.addition. The whole house will be re-sided using 7 1/4 hardie plank with 6 inch exposure. Just opened a new unit and it appears the planks have a "crown" of 1/4 - 3/8" making it difficult to maintain a straight line over a 50 ft. run of siding. Have installed quite a bit of this siding and haven't run into this before. Do I have a "bad" unit of material? Thanks.

  • Rick Ruggles 2 YEARS AGO

    Great to come across this discussion group and topic. Anyone have experience with fiber cement shingles or shakes, by Hardie, Certaineed, or Nichiha? Thinking the individual shingles might not have as much trouble with water entry- no butt joints, less expansion/contraction but would love to hear what folks have to say. Thanks, Rick

  • SWhite 2 YEARS AGO

    Does anyone know who to call in the Dallas area for siding repair. My husband and I have the HardiPlank siding on the entire exterior of our home (purchased in 2001), and over the past year, we've noticed the siding is literally peeling away from the house. I have pending letters into the home builder, James Hardie Corp., and our insurance company - waiting for some kind of answer. But in the meantime, I am not sure if I should be worried about water getting in between the areas that are peeling away. Could that ruin our exterior walls or cause mold issues? I have read enough to know that for their warranty to be good (supposedly a limited 30-year-warranty), everything has to be according their instructions and standards. I am not sure what to do.....have it repaired, or replace everything (which I really cannot afford). We are totally frustrated and confused about where to turn for information. Anyway, if anyone has had feedback from them or results, let me know. I see most of these posts were a year or more ago. Thanks!

  • Jenny 2 YEARS AGO

    My house is seven years old and has hardiplank siding. The paint is peeling in many areas and other areas the siding is covered with midew. Is the a paint problem, installation problem? Should the builder replace the siding? We were told that the painting was does at the manufacturer when we had the house built but was told today by Hardi Plank that the builder had the siding painted. Now what can we do?