Hardboard siding or Masonite, was a popular siding option for many years. An alternative to wood or Richmond vinyl siding, hardboard is a composite material made to look and feel like real wood. And while it has improved dramatically over the years, it’s often still plagued with problems, particularly after it’s been up for a while. The fact that it’s a low cost option drove many people to install it early on, before many of these issues came to light. So if you’ve had hardboard siding installed on your home, you may want to take a look at some of the newer products on the market, particularly if your hardboard is experiencing any of the following.
Rotting and Deteriorating
Masonite was supposed to be a low-maintenance, low cost version of real wood siding. It’s made of a mixture of wood and resin or wood and glue, and is usually formed in a mold made of actual wood to give it a natural looking texture. Unfortunately, it turned out to have many of the same problems that actual wood did, plus a few more.
While today’s hardboard is a little more forgiving, the early stuff usually begins to rot after a while, as well as deteriorate. You can sometimes find large chunks of it missing from each board, or a touch will find it crumbling beneath your hands. This is because once the glue or resin begins to wear out, the wood can now decay and fall to pieces. It can also become susceptible to things like insects, and if you don’t keep up with the priming and painting, moisture can get in there and cause a number of problems as well.
During a yearly inspection of your home’s exterior, look for boards that seem to be deteriorating, missing pieces, or falling apart. If you see these signs, it’s a good indication that you ought to yank it all and start over with something new.
Buckling and Blistering
Rotting and deteriorating boards are probably the most obvious problem, but there’s a couple of other issues that can crop up before these happen. Buckling and blistering are two conditions that affect a lot of older hardboard siding. These typically take place before the deterioration and rot set in, so if you find them, be prepared for your siding to begin falling apart in the near future. So while you have a little more time to get your siding replaced if you see these issues occurring, you’ll still need to schedule an appointment with a contractor fairly soon. Not to mention the fact that while you wait, your home is going to look unsightly.
Buckling is the warping of the boards due to moisture and expansion. What you’ll see is the boards no longer laying straight and flat against your home. So not only is your siding going to begin deteriorating soon, it’s going to look kind of funky in the meantime as well.
Blistering is the condition where the interior layers begin to fail and separate. This causes blisters to form inside the boards. If you feel your boards and they aren’t uniformly hard, it’s probably due to blistering and the beginnings of deterioration.
The High Maintenance
You were probably told that hardboard was a lower maintenance option than wood. Unfortunately, this just isn’t true. Hardboard siding needs to be primed and painted just like wood. Failure to do so can lead to moisture and insect infiltration that will in turn lead to rotting and deterioration of the boards.
You also need to stay on top of the caulking. The spaces between each piece of hardboard and along the edges need to be filled with caulk. Caulk has a tendency to crack over time, particularly if your house moves or settles a lot. So if the caulking is cracking or coming out, you need to take the time to dig it out and replace it. Failure to do so can lead to moisture and insects getting into your boards. Even newer types of hardboard still need to be coated and caulked, although they may last a little longer than the older varieties.
If you want a truly low maintenance option, you need to look to vinyl or to wood coated in a vinyl-based “paint”, rather than sticking with what you’ve got.
Out with the Old
If you have hardboard siding on your home that is showing signs of eventual rot or deterioration, or you’re having trouble keeping up with the maintenance, consider replacing it. There are a lot of great new siding options on the market today that don’t have the same problems, and can even last for as long as you own your home. So consider getting rid of your old hardboard siding today to find an option that truly works for your home.
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