Hardboard siding: as bad as they say?

By: Conrad Neuf , Contributing Writer
In: Old House Inspection, Old Houses, Old House Construction, Home Improvement Tips, Old House Musings

The few days of warm weather we had last week have me ready for spring.  I have cabin fever and I’m chomping at the bit to get back outside and resume the exterior painting of my old house.  One of the items on my “things to do” list is ordering some wood siding.  My house has its original beveled wood siding and quite a few boards on the south side are in pretty sad shape.  I also have a fairly large shed/workshop in the rear yard that I want to side with wood.

Proper Installation?--photo from activerain.com

Proper installation?--photo from activerain.com

Unfortunately, I have discovered that wood siding has gotten fairly expensive and local lumberyards don’t stock it any longer.  The best price I was able to find for Red Cedar was 85 cents a linear foot.  That was in Tennessee and may sound reasonable, but when several thousand feet are needed and delivery charges to Virgina are included–it adds up quickly.  I was a little happier when I found some pine at 55 cents a foot, but then my father mentioned hardboard siding.

I hadn’t thought about hardboard siding in years.  My last recollection of the product was seeing rows of homes having their siding replaced during the late ’80s and early ’90s.  A number of different manufacturers made variations of hardboard siding during the ’80s, and it became popular with builders due to its low cost and wood appearance.  That popularity came to an abrupt end when the siding began falling apart after several years.  It was much the same as the problems with vinyl siding I mentioned a few weeks ago.  Homeowners blamed the contractors and builders who installed the siding, and the builders claimed the product was defective.  The manufacturers countered that the product hadn’t been prepped and installed correctly or maintained properly after installation.

Hardboard siding and old houses

Proper Maintenance?--photo from paccrestinspections.com

Proper maintenance?--photo from paccrestinspections.com

Class action lawsuits resulted, and the manufacturers ended up paying a lot of money for siding to be replaced on homes. That was the last I had thought about hardboard siding until my father mentioned the product and I was very surprised to find out he had used it on the addition to his old house during the ’70s.  He had started with Cedar, but his supplier ran out of wood siding and rather than wait, he switched over to hardboard siding.  It was also on all of the outbuildings he restored, and he’s never had a problem with any of the siding.  Perhaps the manufacturers had a point that if the product was prepped and installed properly, the siding would last many years.  It has been on my parent’s house for about 40 years and has held up as well as the cedar siding he began to use.

So if you purchase an old house with hardboard siding, it may not be as bad as all the horror stories you might hear.  I can state for a fact that some hardboard siding will last at least 40 years with proper preparation, installation, and maintenance — and I have the evidence to prove it.