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Fiber Cement Siding Job On A Historic Home In Northern Virginia

The client in this inspection only wanted me to look at a fiber cement siding job on a historic home in Northern Virginia.

The house is listed in a national registry of antebellum historic homes, and near a Civil War battlefield.  This homeowner is in the process of trying to bring it back.  And it's a beauty - an old "I" house with an original, oak staircase, newel post and railing that is gorgeous beyond anything you would normally see done today.

An I house is basically a design where you walk in the front door to a room on the left and right, a long hall down the center, and two side-by-side rooms in the rear.  The design is in the shape of an I.  The upstairs is like the downstairs.  Sometimes upstairs the I house has another front door, above the first-floor door, that opens to air!  The upstairs door is there merely for design.

This homeowner had selected James Hardie fiber cement siding and trim because it looks like antebellum clapboard and meets the restoration criteria for these homes.  Fiber cement is a composite product, made from sand, cement and cellulose and is very long lasting.  It does not warp or crack, and is manufactured for different climates and conditions.

The first question I asked him over the phone was whether he had checked to see if the contractor (and installers) were James Hardie certified.  He had not.  He did not know about that.

James Hardie is serious about their products, AND those who install them.  They train and certify those who do, and demand compliance to on

"every James Hardie project installed by a Preferred Remodeler using GuildQuality."

They demand adherence to their stated "Best Practices," shown on their website (click here) which location contains well over 100 pages of how to install their various products in every application imaginable.  If an installer has a question he can merely click on one of the pages and view the diagram.

 

Looking first at an area beside a rounded portico over the front door I noticed an area that was stained with whatever and a seam not installed according to anything James Hardie likes to see.  I counted 15 brads haphazardly shot around that seam, but there may have been more too close to count.

Behind every James Hardie product should go a house wrap.  They recommend, but I am not sure demand, their product, called Hardiwrap.  They want it everywhere.

Dangerously leaving this live electrical box to the weather (it was raining/snowing the day of the inspection - weather happens) I can clearly see that there is no house wrap behind the siding here.

Is house wrap everywhere?  Is it anywhere?

And I don't know how that box will be re-installed.  Maybe glue?  Duct tape?  Am I kidding?

My recommendation:  when you do it, do it right!  And get informed and trained before you do it!  And before hiring a contractor to do whatever it is you want done, do a little research to make sure you are treated with the best.  And calling a home inspector to help is always a Best Practice.

 

Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

Office (703) 330-6388   Cell (703) 585-7560

www.jaymarinspect.com


Comment balloon 35 commentsJay Markanich • February 16 2014 03:40AM

Comments

Yes, James Hardie does take pride in their product and certifying their installers.  They even chip in to help fund their way at home shows. 

Posted by Debbie Gartner, The Flooring Girl & Blog Stylist -Dynamo Marketers (The Flooring Girl) over 4 years ago

 Good morning, Jay. Does anybody install fiber cement board the way that it is supposed to be installed? If they do, it is news to me. Especially on rehab jobs. Most the time, the contractor installs the material over the old siding.

Posted by TeamCHI - Complete Home Inspections, Inc., Home Inspectons - Nashville, TN area - 615.661.029 (Complete Home Inspections, Inc.) over 4 years ago

They are pretty serious about it Debbie.  And they should be!  Their name is on the line!

Michael - it's hard to get the right angle when installing it over something else.  That's what it looks like behind that electric box opening.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 4 years ago

Hi Jay,

I remember when this product first came onto the full markets. I had to go to training with myself and my crews just to install it. Then after about four months they recalled the materials we used to side a two story farm house. Tear it off and start over. Talk about a lot of work. When was this material installed? This may be some products that were recalled back in the late 90's.

Have a good day in Bristow.

Best, Clint McKie

Posted by Clint Mckie, Desert Sun Home, Comm. Inspection 1-575-706-5586 (Desert Sun Home, commercial Inspections) over 4 years ago

Most of this has been up less than a month Clint.  They are not done.  The homeowner noticed some funny stuff and called me.  You know it's wrong when the homeowner sees things.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 4 years ago

Jay, Interesting to read about the detailed info available and the training for installers.  Good to see Hardie take such steps to ensure their reputation is protected.

Posted by Liz and Bill Spear, RE/MAX Elite Warren County OH (Cincinnati/Dayton) (RE/MAX Elite 513.520.5305 www.LizTour.com) over 4 years ago

Many manufacturers do Bliz.  Faux stone, EPDM roofing, shingles - they have reputations to maintain!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 4 years ago

Jay,

Looks and sounds like the contractor has no knowledge of how to install the HARDI BOARD the correct way. But then the workers used may be the issue as well. Less than a month. Oh BOY. The fun is just beginning on this home.

Have a good day in Bristow.

Best, Clint McKie

Posted by Clint Mckie, Desert Sun Home, Comm. Inspection 1-575-706-5586 (Desert Sun Home, commercial Inspections) over 4 years ago

haven't read all the comments but I believe given what I have read thus far they will make it right

Posted by James Dray, Exceptional Agents, Outstanding Results (Fathom Realty AR LLC) over 4 years ago

All true Clint.  And he said there were two separate crews, front and back.  When I looked at the job I could see differences in installation front and back and asked if there was more than one crew!  These guys were never trained.

These crews will not make it right James.  They have no idea how to install this, and fixing it now will be a big operation.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 4 years ago

Good morning Jay,

As with any job or position; training is a key ingredient.

Make yourself a great day.

Posted by Raymond E. Camp, Licensed Real Estate Salesperson Greater Rochester (Howard Hanna Real Estate Services) over 4 years ago

And here they are Raymond, without any, working away.  And getting paid...

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 4 years ago

Jay, that looks like the primer color---was it even painted?

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) over 4 years ago

My experience with Hardie board is pretty limited. I don't see a lot of it here. I was however involved in an inspection on a multi building project where the Hardie board was failing. My conclusion, installation errors galore. The interesting thing about that inspection were those installation instructions. I was able to obtain from Hardie installation instruction from the time the buildings were constructed. They have changed quite a bit from then to now. I am fairly certain that has to do with issues from improper installation by contractors like the guys who did the house you inspected. I'm sure the changes were also driven by lawyers. Aren't they almost always. 

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) over 4 years ago

Here we call it Hardie Plank...cutting corners on installation is a huge no no.

Posted by Sally K. & David L. Hanson, WI Realtors - Luxury - Divorce (EXP Realty 414-525-0563) over 4 years ago

Jay, we live on five acres and have a Cape Cod type house that resembles an old farmhouse. We built it seven years ago and put Hardie Plank on the sides because it was the "look" we desired. Our experience has been outstanding with this product and would highly recommend it...if it is installed properly!

Posted by Tom White, Franklin Homes Realty LLC, Franklin TN (Franklin Homes Realty LLC (615) 495-0752 or www.FranklinHomesRealty.com) over 4 years ago

It hasn't been painted yet Charlie.  The home owner noticed some funny stuff and called me.  The job isn't quite complete.  I wonder what it was to be painted with!

You're probably right Jim.  The siding installation instructions link is dated Sept 13.  But it was available for these guys.  This job is only about 6 weeks old.  Some really recently done too.

That's what it's called here also S&D.  They have different products with different names.

I think it's great stuff Tom.  And made for different climates.  Likely what you have differs from this somewhat.  This stuff meets the local historic-home restoration criteria, and looks good overall.  Even better when done right!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 4 years ago

I learned a long timew ago that the cheapest contractor is not really the cheapest contractor when it has to be done again correctly. Also, thank you for introducing me to an I House, I had never heard that term before.

Posted by Joe Pryor, REALTOR® - Oklahoma Investment Properties (The Virtual Real Estate Team) over 4 years ago

Jay, Many of the builders here do not read the installation guide for our zone. So when it is done right people think it is wrong, go figure.

Posted by Donald Hester, NCW Home Inspections, LLC (NCW Home Inspections, LLC) over 4 years ago

You get what you pay for. Why do most Realtors make the same commission? Some are much better, right. Good stuff for a future blog.

Posted by Jeffrey Hogue, Berks County Real Estate Pro (Weichert Realtors Neighborhood One) over 4 years ago

Like what Red Adair said, Joe, something like if you think a pro is expensive try hiring an amateur.

Each zone has to be different Don.  And I understand the product is slightly different, with more of this or that.

Jeffrey - Milton Friedman said that about school teachers some time in the 50s and was derided for it!  He said some were over paid and some under paid.  He was right, of course.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 4 years ago
Are you referring to the product as Hardi board? Great product for life long project, Like anything else final product is the installation. The product is also fireproof correct? Makes a nice long term product with look alike lap siding. Sounds like the IHouse got an inferior contractor by the photos displayed. Great post and pictures tell a thousand words.
Posted by Rod Pierson, Northern California (Results Real Estate Inc) over 4 years ago

Rod - there are a lot of products - planks, trim, soffits, shingles, panel, wrap - the contractors say "board" as the clapboard it looks like, to refer to it all.  What you are looking at in the photos is Hardiplank.  The photos surely do!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 4 years ago

Jay, I always learn from reading your posts. Did not know about the I house or Hardie fiber cement siding. You see a lot of things not done right in your home inspections. 

Posted by Pamela Seley, Residential Real Estate Agent serving SW RivCo CA (West Coast Realty Division) over 4 years ago

Thanks Pamela.  I am simply trying to observe and report.  That is what this home owner asked me to do, and I did it!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 4 years ago

Jay, nothing beats a little education and research when finding a contractor. Great article!

Posted by Kevin Ray, REALTOR & U.K. Real Estate Consultant (Keller Williams Realty - Denver Southeast) over 4 years ago

Thanks Kevin.  Knowledge is everything.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 4 years ago

We see Hardie Blank a lot here because of its durability. Didn't know about the Hardiwrap. Makes me wonder if that is used here.

Posted by Bill Reddington, Destin Florida Real Estate (Re/max Southern Realty) over 4 years ago

They consider using the wrap to be consistent with their Best Practices, Bill.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 4 years ago

Jay - thanks for this post! I think people just try to get something done the least expensive way they can. I will say that I am sad that they are using a new product on a historic home; I realize it is a good product and undertand the rationale, it's just sad that they don't use something 'original.' They should be very glad that they found you and your expertise!

Posted by Susan Jacobsen, 20 Years Providing WOW Real Estate Service (The Alliance Group Realty) over 4 years ago

The original pattern of wood would have to be milled Susan, and that would be extremely expensive!  This is approved and used all over now.  One thing that is prohibited for restoration is vinyl siding, so at least that isn't used!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 4 years ago

It's a great product, but as a former siding salesman, I have seen it done wrong so many times. They just don't get it. Too bad for the homeowner, this will be a mess. 

Posted by Scott Seaton Jr. Bourbonnais Kankakee IL Home Inspector, The Home Inspector With a Heart! (SLS Home Inspections-Bradley Bourbonnais Kankakee Manteno) over 4 years ago

If the homeowner can see something is wrong, Scott, something is wrong!  And this is a bunch wrong.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 4 years ago

Your slogan is much better than Nike's. I think a lot of DIYers use the "just do it" slogan, but the "when you do it, do it right!" slogan really should be the one used for house projects and much in life.

Posted by Aaron Hofmann, aka Mr. Smyrna Vinings (Atlanta Communities) over 4 years ago

I hadn't thought of that as a slogan, Aaron, but will take it!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 4 years ago

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