Is your clients hardboard siding showing signs of warping, rotting or not holding paint? They are not alone!! Hundreds of thousands of homeowners all over the U.S. are in the same boat . . . same product . . . different manufacturers.
This newsletter is about helping you be better equipped to serve your clients needs selling and buying homes. One of my goals is to help provide timely information relative to issues you face on a daily basis. One of the services we offer, of which many are not aware, is responding to E-mailed questions concerning conditions you or your clients may have questions about. If you are faced with an issue relative to the condition of a home send an e-mail to
Form with as much detail about the issues as possible. I will respond as quickly as possible with enough information to help and, if the topic has not been covered previously in one of the newsletters and would be of interest to others, follow up on the topic in more detail in a later newsletter. The cost for this service is very reasonable. IT'S FREE.
Recently, one of you sent and e-mail asking if I knew anything about Masonite siding. This was not enough information for a quick response, although a good topic for a newsletter. I responded asking for more specific information and was advised that the agent was listing a home where the siding was swelling up and rotting at the bottom edges and asking if this was a "cosmetic issue or what?" This is typical of many Realtors to think positively, hopeful that the issue in question may be cosmetic. As an example of how I deal with these requests, here is my response:
Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but your listing has a serious problem and it is not cosmetic. It sounds like the siding is the type, which is not protected by a paper coating on the bottom edge. This is the siding we see with the worst problems. Water runs down the wall over this edge and it sucks it up like a sponge. This can be prevented by maintaining a good coat of paint on the bottom edge, unfortunately this is seldom done during the original painting let alone over the life of the siding. This constant bombardment of water at the unprotected edge causes the board to swell, which is what you are seeing, and ultimately rot as it sounds like is happening.
This may be a major issue discouraging potential buyers and even killing the deal if the buyer has this home inspected. I recommend as a first step that your client determine if this siding is part of the national lawsuit settlement. It so, they may qualify to receive money to help with its replacement. If what you are describing involves most of the home the siding should be removed and replaced. If siding of any type is installed on top of this damaged siding, all of the rotten or wet areas should be removed. These areas are like a beacon calling out for termites to attack. After the siding is covered it will continue to rot and draw insects if the wet areas are not removed.
"Masonite" is a manufacture and there are many others. This may not be "Masonite" siding. There is lots of information on the Internet. Go to a search engine like Yahoo and put in "Masonite siding" or "hardboard siding" and you will find a good starting point. I hope to write a more detailed article for the newsletter this weekend provided I have the time.
Hope this helps. I will be glad to perform an inspection and write up a report on this and other issues if you and your client think it might assist in preparing the home for the market.
Hopefully this blunt brief response was what this agent needed to understand the issue and give appropriate direction to the client. If so, I have accomplished my goal.
Hardboard siding is a topic that you as a real estate agent should know enough about to inform and provide direction to your clients. Be very careful to never downplay issues with this product. Be assured that if the hardboard siding looks bad, other than for needing painting or caulking, there most likely is a problem, which needs to be addressed, and may have already been addressed by a class action lawsuit. Unless it simply and clearly only needs caulking and painting, never refer to hardboard siding issues
as "cosmetic" unless you like the inside of a courtroom and enjoy helping pay for siding repair and replacement. Your safest position is to recommend that a professional home inspector be employed to determine what the issues are causing the siding deformities and what actions should be taken.
What is hardboard siding?
To begin with, Masonite is a manufacturer not the product. Hardboard siding is made by many manufactures although Masonite is the leading and most recognizable manufacturer.
Hardboard siding is made from wood fiber, wax and resins and is made in both lap (board) and panel (sheet) applications with external textures designed to look like lumber siding. The different companies make hardboard in roughly the same way. Hardwood chips are heated with steam and hot water and then passed through two rotating discs to create the fiber that is eventually pressed into board stock. During this process an interested thing happens. When the wood fibers that were sheared apart are hot-pressed into boards, lignin normally found in wood cells begins to flow. In a sense the wood fibers are coated by their own lignin. Lignin is a naturally occurring "adhesive" that holds wood together. Brown rot fungus does not attack lignin. And many scientists believe that it is this fact that causes hardboard to be a little more resistant to decay than some untreated species like spruce, pine and fir. When shredded wood is used the product is usually known as
O.S.B., which is what you see used for roof, floor and wall sheathing. When sawdust is used the product becomes fiberboard. Wood pulp mixtures become hardboard. When these composites are intended for use as siding an embossed paper overlayment is often added to simulate the look of wood.
What problems are associated with this product?
Paul Fisette, Material and Wood Technology, University of Massachusetts Amherst explained it this way in an article titled "Alternatives To Solid Wood Exterior Trim":
"Thickness-swelling is a problem. Wood fibers are compressed in the hot-press when the boards are made. Some of this compression stress is relieved over time. This causes the swelling that is observed around nail heads and at the ends of some boards. Hardboard is more likely to absorb moisture and swell where unprotected fibers are exposed to weather. The forces associated with thickness swell are so great that they cause paint coatings to fail along the edges of boards. Water enters cracks and unprotected penetrations (like overdriven nails) in the paint surface accelerating the degrade process. Even if the claims of rot-resistance are accurate, softening, swelling and delamination of fiberboard is an undeniable concern."
"Buckling can be a problem too. As we go from solid wood to hardboard during the manufacturing process, we tear down the grain structure of wood, randomize the fiber direction and put it back together as a homogeneous material. The low longitudinal expansion of solid wood is averaged out with the higher tangential and radial potentials. As a result, hardboard shrinks and swells more along its length than solid wood. But manufacturers blame improper application, detailing and maintenance for swelling and buckling problems."
Here are the issues taken from one of the lawsuits:
1. Thickness swell exceeding a specified tolerance percentage
2. Edge checking exceeding specified limits
3. Fungal degradation, which results in soft board in which moderate thumb pressure deforms or punches a hole in the board
4. Buckling exceeding specified limits
5. Wax bleeding, or raised or popped fibers or fiber bundles
6. Delaminated or cracked primer or primer peel or peeling, blistering or cracking of siding finish
7. Surface welting, or swelling around nailheads
If you have ever seen any of these issues, they are unmistakable, unsightly and left unattended may progress into total siding failure and rot.
What is the truth as I see it?
Hardboard siding has developed a bad reputation among builders and homeowners. In my last newsletter I talked about synthetic stucco and how I didn't like it, not because of the product, but because of my background with brick masonry construction. Well, I could say about the same about hardboard siding. Many in the construction industry, myself included, like to refer to hardboard siding as "sawdust, paper & glue". The truth is my house, which is over twenty years old, has hardboard siding. Other than for the fact that it needs painting, the siding has never been a problem. It's interesting to note on my own home that the hardboard siding holds paint and is in better condition than the adjacent wood trim and plywood
soffits. Many of the homes I inspect with hardboard siding are similar to my own home. There is not a problem. Unfortunately, I can't say the same about all of the homes I inspect. What is the difference? Is hardboard siding a bad product?
The truth is no mater how much it may be disliked, bad mouthed and yes, even with the problems that have been experienced, properly manufactured, properly installed and properly maintained hardboard siding is a good product which, it appears, will perform well over the long term. Millions of homes have hardboard siding and are not a problem. Have there been manufacturing problems and shortcomings? Yes. Has a lot of this product been improperly installed? You can believe it, and the problem is a major issue on past installations and, in spite of all the problems and bad press, it is still being improperly installed today. Is this product properly maintained? No, most homeowners and painters have no conception of what is required to properly maintain this product.
Not to say that there have not been manufacturing problems, but most of the problems I see are not from manufacturing problems but from improper installation and lack of maintenance. In order to understand the problems you will witness on homes with this product, you must understand what is required for proper installation and maintenance. If you see a home where these procedures have not been followed you can be assured that if there is not a problem now, there will be later.
1. The product must be stored in an unheated area off of the ground, covered and protected from the elements. On homes under construction, how many times have you seen this product exposed out in the elements?
2. The wall must be straight, flat, of seasoned lumber no more than 16" on center.
3. Ideally there should be a non-vapor barrier weather resistant barrier below the siding.
4. Exterior quality flexible caulking is required at trim, windows, doors and all openings. Never use hard-setting caulking.
5. The structure must be vented and dry. Attics and crawl spaces must be cross ventilated. Crawl spaces must have ground cover. The product should never be installed in contact with masonry.
6. If installed on top of foam sheathing nails must still have 1-1/2" stud penetration and building paper is recommended.
7. Nail spacing must not exceed 16", nails must penetrate 1-1/2" into the stud, nail heads should not be countersunk, butt joints must fall on studs, both sides of the butt joint must be nailed, fasteners must be corrosion resistant (hot dipped galvanized are best), nail head must be ¼" box, nails must be driven perpendicular, staples, T-nails or any type of countersinking or taper-head fasteners should never be used.
8. Trim should be 1-1/8" thick. The first course needs a started strip or shims and should be 6" above finished grade, decks and other horizontal surfaces. Manufactures lap recommendations must be followed. Shims should be used above windows and doors. Doors, windows, trim and all openings must be properly flashed. Maintain 2" clearance from plane of roof.
9. Field edges must be painted. Before painting the surface must be dry, clean, free from dirt, grease mildew or loose material. The paint manufacturer's instructions must be followed.
Proper maintenance by the homeowner must include: Annual inspection, caulk, paint, mildew control, keep sprinklers off of siding, divert water away from house, maintain 6" clearance at grade and at vegetation.
In most instances the siding I inspect which has been properly installed and maintained does not have problems. The siding where I have witnessed the most problems are the ones, which are manufactured with the paper covering on the face only and not wrapped around the bottom edge. It appears that the exposed bottom edge tends to not be well maintained and may even deteriorate much faster than the face. When this edge is exposed unprotected it appears to absorb moisture, swell and rot.
It all boils down to one simple issue. Keep the moisture out and the hardboard siding is fine, allow it to enter and be prepared for expensive repairs or replacement.
Mosonite Corporation has two brochures and a video, which are great information for you and your clients.
The brochures are:
"Stamp out siding application sins … it's money in your pocket" (about proper installation)
"A fitness guide for your home's siding" (about proper maintenance)
The video is:
"Hardboard Siding: Maintenance Tips for Homeowners"
Masonite Phone contact: 1-800-255-0785
Masonite Address: Masonite Corporation
South Wacker Drive
Chicago, IL 60606
Thought for the week
"Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity. And I'm not sure about the universe." -- Albert Einstein
Useful household hints
Ants, ants, ants everywhere ... Well, they are said to never cross a chalk line.
So get your chalk out and draw a line on the floor or wherever
ants tend to march. Borax acid powder also works if you spread a thin line
in the crevices that are not visible within the cabinets.
See for yourself.