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Thread: What is this fake-wood-siding product, and why is it failing so soon?

  1. #1

    What is this fake-wood-siding product, and why is it failing so soon?

    I own a <10yr old house that is sided and trimmed (basically, all exterior surfaces except the roof) with this fiber product that I don't know what is. It's like MDF, but it has some fake embossed grain, and if you cut it, it is kind of held together in "layers". It's like they pressed sheets of cardboard together under high pressure.

    The stuff is <10yrs old, but in some places, the paint on the "end grain" (chuckle) appears to be failing, allowing water to soak in, which causes the product to expand at that location. See the attached picture. If I press on that area, it's spongy and water droplets appear.

    Anyone know what this product is called, or what I should do? My house is in a large (200+ house) community, and I see this problem on many other houses, as well, but no one has yet repainted their houses or otherwise done anything (that I'm aware of).
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  2. #2
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    You're on the right track. It's masonite siding, and it, IMHO, is a lousy product for exterior use. It must be meticulously maintained, or you will see the types of failure you see on your house--delamination, swelling, crumbling, etc. Failure points are often nail holes and joints, as well as anywhere the paint film is breached. Sand down the swelled areas, patch the holes, caulk all cracks and joints, use a good primer and repaint. Save up for some real siding, like fiber-cement...
    Last edited by Bruce Page; 05-28-2011 at 4:42 PM.
    Jason

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  3. #3
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    I've got this on my house in sunny California. Most places are OK but, behind areas where plants are growing, (don't have to be touching, just not openly exposed to sun) the material fails as you describe. I don't know what they were thinking on this one.
    I always forget . . . Is it the letter "S" or the letter "C" that is silent in the word scent?
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  4. #4
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    You need to find out who made the siding and find out if there is an open class action lawsuit. Lots of different companies have made this stuff; Louisiana-Pacific, Weyerhaeuser, etc. They experience failure because of water ingression. Even if the action has been closed you can likely still apply for warranty resolution.
    Last edited by Bruce Page; 05-30-2011 at 2:52 PM.

  5. #5
    Thanks very much for the replies - I'll contact the original builder and see if they have any information.

  6. #6
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    More generically, it is hardboard siding. Masonite is one of a number of manufacturers. Another one was Abitibi aka ABTCO; G-P was another. Multiple manufacturers had class action settlements around 2000 +/-, and all are long-gone closed out AFAIK, but that shouldn't preempt subsequent warranty claims. If anyone around you pulls a section off, you might be able to get product info off the back - may be stenciled on there, as part of the manufacturing process. Or, perhaps you can see the inside surface from an uninsulated area. There were also issues with improper installation, just so you know - in which case it is not the manufcturer potentially on the hook - not pointing any type of fingers at anyone here, just passing that along.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Kent A Bathurst View Post
    .....There were also issues with improper installation, just so you know.....
    Please elaborate, Kent.

  8. #8
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    Basic common-sense low-tech stuff, Joe, that can be lost in the hustle of siding a bunch of houses in a new development....nail heads overdriven, ends and all unfinished edges improperly sealed/primed, exposed joints improperly sealed, installed too close to a hard surface [hard-rain spash-back] or vegetation [constant moisture contact]......stuff that allowed water penetration. And, as a fiberboard-type product, its easy to envision the effects of water absorption/penetration.

    Too casual an approach to maintenance also was a problem - the stuff definitely was not fire-and-forget. Well, almost nothing is [except maybe the cementitious siding common today - aka HardiPlank], but the hardboard siding required much more attention to detail than, say, traditional cedar siding in both installation and maintenance. The hardboard siding was lower-cost and [thought to be] easier and cheaper to install, and didn't look like the vinyl siding that is still on the neighbor's house today. Oh, well............

    The balloon went up in the mid-to-late 90's, and when Masonite lost the initial [and large] class aciton suit, all the other manufacturers immediately went from litigation and depositions to settlement negotiations. I'm pretty certain that, if you research the whole thing, the installation error details as put forward by the manufacturers is a longer list than the bullet points I noted. And whom do you look to for relief in those cases? The siding subcontractor that owned an air compressor, a miter saw, and three nail guns [carried in a pickup owned by the bank]? Rotsa ruck with that one.

    EDIT - re: maintenance - The exposed edge in Dan's first photo is an example of the maintenance issue - sometimes it almost seems those exposed ends need to be inspected/repainted each spring. Dan - not picking on you at all, just giving an example - put the gun down, please . I personally know of no salvage options once the fiberboard has wicked water to the inside....it's the pry bar and claw hammer, unfortunately, but some pro reno/repair guys here might have some insight on that angle.
    Last edited by Kent A Bathurst; 05-29-2011 at 8:21 AM.

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Kent A Bathurst View Post
    EDIT - re: maintenance - The exposed edge in Dan's first photo is an example of the maintenance issue - sometimes it almost seems those exposed ends need to be inspected/repainted each spring. Dan - not picking on you at all, just giving an example - put the gun down, please . I personally know of no salvage options once the fiberboard has wicked water to the inside....it's the pry bar and claw hammer, unfortunately, but some pro reno/repair guys here might have some insight on that angle.
    No, no - it's my fault for not being more vigilant about this stuff.

    So, Kent, you don't think the trim shown in the picture is salvageable? In the longer term, I need to pull it off and replace it? Would filling nail holes and repainting be worth it at this point, or is it a lost cause?

    Aside from my own house, it's frightening to think about the other 200+ homes in close proximity to mine that are showing this problem even worse.

  10. #10
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    Well, Dan....I guess my thoughts are along these lines:

    1] Find out - somehow - who the manufacturer was, with the goal of seeing what the warranty options are. If you google hardboard siding, and siddown with a couple beers, you can wade through some stuff that should help in the ID. Pursue it with the builder also. I don't know the first thing about that company, of course - if there is an entire sub of 200+ homes they built with this product, you may be giving them an "acid-forthrightness-test". The builder's warranty and obligation is no doubt well-expired, so you are looking to peel back a couple layers on the onion. If there is some warranty relief available, might be best to understand what that entails before starting any repairs.

    2] Having said that - the end game is clear, in my mind. It's simply a question of when, not what. If you can walk around and easily push a plain-old pencil [not a freshly-sharpened scratch awl] into the trim, you'll have an indication of how far things have gone. Not to turn you into a stalker or peeping tom or anything, but maybe get an idea of what's happening with the neighbors as well.

    3] The important question probably should be: Are there places where deterioration is to the point that the underlying home components might be in some risk? [ie, is the window sill in the photo starting to decay?] I'd put on the gardening pants, and crawl around the house, inspecting the bottom edges of the bottom-most courses of siding, and also check out what's happening at the corners of the house, where the siding should be tightly caulked against the corner trim boards. Are there places where the installers used waaaay to much pressure on the air gun, andthe nail heads are well-buried - what's happening there? Stuff like that would concern me more than the short-term action plan on the specific trim boards. But - you're in the "get out in front of the curve" mode if there are frame issues looming.



    EDIT - Dan - just a note to better explain my comments...The "when not what" comments was pointed only at those sections where the water absorption has deteriorated a perticular piece/section.
    Last edited by Kent A Bathurst; 05-29-2011 at 12:13 PM.

  11. #11
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    Did you get a home inspection prior to buying the house? A competent HI should have told you about the siding, about the class action law suit settlements (all closed now) and what to do about it before it got to the level it is now. One of the installation issues that Kent didn't mention is that there should be NO exposed nails. The proper way to nail this stuff is at the top. Most builders never read the manufacturer's directions on installation and just did it the way they'd always done it. Kent is pretty right on with what he says. Once the stuff swells it will never go back. When it is delaminated to the extent in your picture, the only option is to remove and replace. This stuff soaks up a lot of water and definitely can damage the underlying structure. Maintenance is a very ongoing issue, often on a yearly basis if you want it to last.

    As an aside, Kent, the cementicious siding is NOT bomb proof. If not kept up it will also deteriorate quite rapidly. Paint . . . paint . . .paint!

  12. #12
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    That trim is junk. Period. Strip it off and replace it. It should never be put on a house in Michigan. That swelling is letting water back into your house. I refuse to put it on in my business.

    The stuff in the picture is OSB trim and I would say masonite sideing. I have seen masonite sideing last a long time with propper care and a good house design, but that OSB trim is absolute trash. Start replacing it with Azek if you do not want to repaint, and a good grade of wood if you don't mind painting. In the end Azek wins, paint it correctly and it will hold paint until the paint just wears out.

  13. #13
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    Dan - that is a lot of good info, advice, and opinions in the posts above. We have that siding on our house built in 1996 and it's just about time to replace it all. We managed to keep it in relatively good shape by keeping it well painted but I think the good coat of paint also kept slot of moisture in it. out neighbors house has not fared as well, mostly due to lack of maintenance. Much of the neighborhood had it and there was a lawsuitclass action in 1998 or so but by then the manufacturer was bankrupt and not much chance of getting anything. Another neighbor did follow up and managed to get a small amount, but basically pennies on the dollar for what replacement would cost.

    My current plan is to replace it all with hardiplank (a cement board if I am not mistaken) and all trim with Azek.
    I wondered why the baseball was getting bigger....then it hit me.

  14. #14
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    Dan;

    A salvage option.........as others have noted, the water can enter the ends of the boards at the butt joints. So......how about replacing the trim boards with a wider board. Make it wide enough to cut back the existing siding to sound material. You can use a Fein multimaster to cut the siding, by laying the oscillating blade up next to the side of your new trim board. Once the siding is cut back, I would pull off the old trim boards, paint the butt ends of the silding. Then I would run a strip of tape used for house wrap. This will seal up any slits in the housewrap resulting from your cutting. Run the tape like you would a corner if you were doing an inside corner on a drywall job. Install the new wider trim board, trim off the excess tape, and carefully caulk.

    Do the same thing if you have corner boards. This could extend the life of your siding by perhaps another ten years.

    This will take some time and effort, but you could do a little at a time. If you did a window or two on a weekend, and then repeat as often as you need to in order to finish, that is a sensible pace.

    If it were my house, I would pick a nice weekend and do one window. Then decide if it was worth continuing on to the next window. If you do keep going, your productivity is bound to improve with each succesive window or door you do.

    This could save you some money and allow you to do it at your own pace.

    Most of the settlements people were getting for the OSB siding involved replacement of the defective material. Basically the manufacturer gave you a pallet of the same material (but not enought to redo the whole house, because they only were replacing the sections that failed). So if you don't like the OSB product and want to switch to something like the cement siding, the replacement material won't do you much good.

    The AZEK solution that was mentioned for trim boards is a good albeit expensive route to go. But there are some primed finger jointed cedar trim boards available if you want wood instead of AZEK (which is pvc similar to pvc drain pipe). There are also primed finger jointed pine trim boards available, but pine will fail if the paint fails and you will be dong this all over again before you will want to.

    I have replaced lots of pine trim over the years. When possible I will use cedar as the replacement material. If I was redoing a porch, I would seriously consider the AZEK, since porches take a beating with water and sun.

    Hope this helps. Good luck with your project.

    Let us know what you decide to do.
    Last edited by Mike Archambeau; 05-30-2011 at 6:12 PM.

  15. #15
    We are making a warranty claim to Masonite for the very same problem for a house built in 1996 in Carrollton, GA. They instructed us to take a sample off the house and send it to them. The siding on this house will have to be replaced. Anything we get from the warranty is better than a stick in the eye. The process is complicated and that turns off a lot of people who give up. Don't give up. Find out who made it and make them make it good. There is a ton of evidence and court cases that prove this stuff is junk.

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