What is the difference between Masonite, T-111, and LP SmartSide

by andrewodom on May 3, 2012 · 4 comments

As many of you know we have gained a wonderful sponsor in LP Building Products. Without getting into a long story but in the interest of disclosure, LP is sponsoring 75% of our tiny house exterior. They have provided us with 5 very specific products:



By definition (albeit user-generated definition) masonite is a type of hardboard made of steam-cooked and pressure-molded wood fibers in a process invented by William H. Mason.1

Invented in 1924 in Laurel, Mississippi, by William H. Mason mass production started in 1929. It gained great popularity though in the 1930s and 1940s being used for a number of applications including doors, roofing, walls, desktops, and even canoes. Post-war (WWII) it began being used for house siding. Similar “tempered hardboard” is now a generic product made by many forest product companies.

So How Is It Made?

Masonite is formed using the Mason method, in which wood chips are disintegrated by saturating them with 100psi steam, then increasing the steam or air pressure to 400psi and suddenly releasing them through an orifice to atmospheric pressure. Forming the fibers into boards on a screen, the boards are then pressed and heated to form the finished product with a smooth burnished finish. The original lignin in the wood serves to bond the fibers without any added adhesive. The long fibers give Masonite a high bending strength,tensile strength, density and stability. Unlike other composite wood panels, no formaldehyde-based resins are used to bind the fibers in Masonite.

So What Is The Problem?

On the outset, there is no problem. However, masonite swells and rots over time when exposed to the elements, and may prematurely deteriorate when it is used as exterior siding. In fact, in 1996, International Paper (IP) lost a class action suit brought by homeowners whose Masonite siding had deteriorated. The jury found that IP’s Masonite siding was defective.


T-111 siding is a wood based siding product that reached its height of popularity in the 60’s, 70’s and early 80’s, when a more natural, wood-grained look was popular. Its widespread use has dwindled as other siding materials, including steel, aluminum, composite, and vinyl siding have taken over the siding market. It is still produced though but is typically used for shed and barn projects.

Said to be the most environmentally friendly of siding products T-111 siding comes in two types. The first type is known as the T-111 plywood siding and the other is known as Oriented Strand board (OSB). T-111 plywood siding is more expensive than the wafer board sidings or OSB sidings.

So How Is It Made?

Quite simply, T-111 is made from engineered wood (wood products and other materials pressed together), and is a type of plywood siding that comes as T-111 wood siding, or T-111 cedar siding.

So What Is The Problem?

The maintenance of T-111 siding is very important as it has to be protected against water, sunlight, and heat. Painting or sealing is mandatory and must be repeated every few years. T-111 siding is strong and does have a long life as compared to other sidings. However, it is thought of as cheap in the building community, is considered a barn material, and has been shown to have a high moisture absorption rate on the edges after being applied.


LP® SmartSide® products deliver all the warmth and beauty of traditional wood, plus the durability and workability of engineered wood. The SmartGuard® manufacturing process actually improves upon nature, creating products that are engineered for strength, performance and protection against fungal decay and termites. The LP SmartSide family features four distinct product collections, all backed by an industry-leading 5/50 Year Transferable Limited Warranty.

So How Is It Made?

The manufacturing process of SmartSide ensures that all LP® SmartSide® products deliver outstanding strength and durability. The process begins with either wood strands or wood fiber. A zinc borate compound is then applied throughout the substrate to help protect against fungal decay and termites. Superior exterior-grade resins are used to create extremely strong bonds within the product. LP SmartSide Panels with SilverTech feature a finish-grade radiant barrier that resists flaking and peeling. The panels also help reduce the sun’s radiant energy.

So What Is The Problem?

There are a number of websites that boast “reviews” by builders, contractors, etc. that claim SmartSide is little more than an OSB and that the panels warp, weather, shred, etc. What I personally have come to find though is that the material is only as good as the installation. When put up with improper care (screws instead of nails, no caulking, exposure to direct moisture, etc) SmartSide – while still quite smart – is subject to a bit of stupidity.

Initially we were most interested in LP SmartSide Panels with SilverTech for several reasons:

  • LP SmartSide products are made from wood – a renewable, natural resource.
  • The entire log is used in the manufacturing process. All wood waste is repurposed or used to help fuel the LP mills.
  • SmartGuard® manufacturing process utilizes zinc borate to help protect against fungal decay and termites which ultimately means less pest control and potentially toxic anti-bug sprays.
  • SilverTech coating acts as a radiant barrier.
  • Panels accept all water-based paints which means they accept zero VOC paints with ease.
  • Are strong enough to be attached directly to the studs meaning less material use and less weight on our tiny house trailer.


In Conclusion

The three products mentioned above all have their appropriate arenas. And it should be noted that as building techniques and experience on the American front progressed so did the materials; strength, absorption rate, look, etc. We are using LP® SmartSide® products because they make the most sense to us for all the reasons listed above. The true important nature of this discussion though is that each dreamer, each tiny houser, each builder, each DIYer, has to make their own decision about product integrity and product usability. We have made ours and we hope to have further opportunity to show why we feel confident in our use of the SmartSide family versus other possibilities.

1 Masonite entry

  • Jay C. White Cloud

    Hay Andrew,
    Love getting your updates!  On today’s, I have a question?  Why not use good old simple wood.  I am a Timber Framer, I have a special niche, in the fact that I specialize in Asian and Middle Eastern styles, (not a lot of us around in North America.  I have helped build small timber frames out of Cedar,(Cypress) on trailer chases as weekend retreats, workshops, etc..  We would insulate with foam then cover in some form of wood in most cases.  You can even have a local mill rip out 15 mm thick planks, put them on with staples then recover with same overlapping joints.  Put it on in the oblique and it look quite unique, (not trying to be poetic.)  Slather on some “Land Ark” and away you go, done in a day.  You can reapply with a common bug sprayer if it looks a bit worn after a season or two, and that usually takes less than an hour.  Product is natural, UV and Fungal inhibitors mixed in.)  Give me a shout if you have questions.


    Jay C. White Cloud

    • anotherkindofdrew

      Hey there Jay C. So great to hear from you. Thank you so much for the encouraging words. I certainly appreciate it. 

      Good old simple wood is always the preference. However, when building a tiny house trailer the #1 concern is weight. We chose to use SmartSide because the panels are both the skeleton and the finish lowering the weight of the walls considerably. 

      If we were building a cottage or a cabin or a “sticks n bricks” we would be interested in timber framing, for sure. We have in fact talked about it several times; beautiful inspiration. For this project though we just felt it wasn’t the right fit. 

      Great information though. Thank you!

      • Lory

        We have a new Tuff Shed with SmartGuard siding with Silvertech coating on the inside of the siding. We live in Minnesota and this shed is a studio which I will insulate and heat in the winter. Will the Silvertech coating cause moisture buildup if I use fiberglass batt insulation with no air space between the batt and the Silvertech? It is cold here most of the time so I am not concerned about the reflective properties of the Silvertech. I just need to know if the coating will breathe or if I will need to score the inside of the siding. We have a continuous ridge vent and soffit vents for air flow. thanks, Lory

        • http://www.tinyrevolution.us/ anotherkindofdrew

          I am so sorry it has taken so long to respond Lory. We have been on a family camping trip. So…..the Tuff Shed….all of the siding products that LP manufactures with SilverTech are recommended for non-residential (non-occupied) applications,tools storage buildings, out buildings, etc., with open-to-the-interior wall cavities.  That being the case, the SilverTech facings are perforated to allow for vapor transmission.  However, I don’t recommend insulating and sealing the wall cavity with a vapor retarder on these structures because there is no housewrap or weather barrier on the exterior aide, which could lead to bulk water buildup in the wall from wind driven rain, etc.  With the wall cavity open, any potential water
          intrusion can dry to both sides of the wall.

          Does that help?

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