Cement board has poor insulating qualities on its own. If you need your home to be well insulated, you should not depend on cement board to provide that. Its R-value, or measure of its insulating qualities, is around 0.50. This is very low when you consider that the fiberglass matting, used for insulation in walls and ceilings, can typically have an R-value of R-19.
Vinyl on its own is no better than cement board, when it comes to insulation qualities. However, it is now possible to buy vinyl with built-in insulation. This makes it a more rigid and stronger material to work with. It also made it possible to produce the material in a wider reveal.
Vinyl definitely has the advantage when it comes to maintenance. It never needs painting, and in fact, cannot be painted. Cleaning can be performed through simply washing down with a garden hose. One drawback is the fact that you are stuck with the color you buy for the lifetime of the product. This is unlikely to be a problem for most people, however. Additionally, vinyl will never rot or disintegrate.
Cement board needs painting every five to ten years, or so. This has the advantage that you can change the color of your house at this time if you choose to. Because cement board contains wood fibers, it can degrade over time if it is not installed properly, or not properly cared for through regular painting and caulking.
Vinyl is certainly the less expensive of the two materials, which is probably why it is the more popular. Vinyl prices vary, but should be at least 10% lower than cement board. However, cement board is generally recognized as having the greater overall quality, and is usually chosen with the long-term view.
Vinyl is usually the easier of the two materials to work with and install on a building. Cement board is heavy and it requires at least two men to handle a board. Cutting cement board is also more difficult. It releases a toxic dust when sawn, and should be cut with special cutters. Vinyl, on the other hand, is very easy to work with.
Both vinyl and cement board have their advantages and disadvantages as a siding material. Both offer special benefits that the other lacks, so it really in many ways comes down to personal choice.
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