In mid-2011 we were fortunate enough to enter into a partnership with LP Building Products. The relationship came about after a cold call I made to one of their project managers. He was extremely interested in the burgeoning tiny house movement and was also interested in what we could do for his company and product in the social media world. Without getting into non-disclosure information, LP sponsored 75% of our tiny house exterior with their SmartSide product. They specifically provided us with 5 very specific products:
- LP ProStruct Flooring with Smartfinish 19/32″ x 4’x8′ No Groove, Square Edge
- LP ProStruct Roofing with Silvertech 19/32″ x 4’x8′ No Groove, Square Edge
- LP Smartside Panel with Silvertech 3/8″ x 4’x8′ 8″OC Shiplap Edge
- LP Smartside Reversible Fiber Trim 4/4″ x 3″x192″ and 4/4″ x 6″x192″
- LP Smartside Cut to Width Strand Cedar Soffit 3/8″ x 12″x192″
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.
T1-11 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 T1-11 siding comes in two types. The first type is known as the T1-11 plywood siding and the other is known as Oriented Strand board (OSB). T1-11 plywood siding is more expensive than the wafer board sidings or OSB sidings.
So How Is It Made? Quite simply, T1-11 is made from engineered wood (wood products and other materials pressed together), and is a type of plywood siding that comes as T1-11 wood siding, or T1-11 cedar siding.
So What Is The Problem? The maintenance of T1-11 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. T1-11 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.
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. Four years ago we chose to use LP® SmartSide® products because they made the most sense to us for all the reasons listed above. As of a few weeks ago the SmartSide® looked every bit as good as they did when we first applied them. The true important nature of this discussion however is that each dreamer, each tiny houser, each builder, each DIY’er, has to make their own decision about product integrity and product usability. We made ours and never looked back!