Installing Hardie Trim on an Old House?

By Scott Sidler • September 10, 2018

installing hardie trim on an old houseIs Hardie trim and siding something that is compatible with the look and style of an old house? I am a relative purist when it comes to restoring old buildings. That largely comes from a desire to make things look the way they were originally intended and a desire to work with quality materials that perform well and last for the long haul. Usually, that means rot-resistant woods and other original materials that would have been on an old house.

Sometimes, I do embrace new technology when I find a better product that does the job more effectively than the old school stuff (like phillips head screws). Those times are few and far between, but today I want to talk about one of those items- Hardie Trim. If my grandfather were still building houses today, I honestly believe he would be using the stuff, and while that’s not a very scientific approach, it’s the rule of thumb I use when judging a lot of products.

In full disclosure, James Hardie is sponsoring this post and video. So, give them some social media love if you think their products might be right for your project! This was a project of mine that was already in the works before their support was offered, and I selected and purchased all the materials myself. The opinions, as always, are entirely my own.

The Problem

Working in rainy Florida, I deal with rot at levels that other folk only see in their nightmares. Honestly, it’s awful down here! And most historic buildings I work on are made of wood. That means I have to find creative ways to deal with wood rot.

The biggest problem areas I encounter are down near ground level where splash back and plants create a breeding ground for rot and mildew. It’s always the bottom couple courses of siding and trim that are constantly being replaced down here and I get tired of the callbacks and frankly, I hate doing work I know won’t last very long.

This specific project is the trim back door of my house that empties out onto the craftsman style deck I built last year. The problem is that we get torrents of water pouring over the awning in our summer rains and things just don’t have a chance to dry out.

The wood trim around the door was rotten enough that I could put my hand right through it and I had already replaced it a few years ago because of the same problem. This time I wanted to replace it for the last time and use something that wouldn’t rot anymore.

The Solution

For the project I’ll be using 4/4″ Hardie Trim Boards in smooth texture to match the existing trim boards on my 1929 Bungalow. One of the things I like about this product for old houses is that it also comes in a 5/4″ version so you can match the thicker trim styles that are common on historic buildings.

I’m using the pre-primed Hardie Trim because my house is was recently painted and I need to match the existing paint color precisely, but you can get Hardie Trim factory painted in dozens of colors with their ColorPlus® Technology if you want to skip the expense of painting afterwards.

James Hardie claims that their ColorPlus® Technology is fade resistant and comes with a 15-year limited warranty that covers paint and labor, protecting against peeling, cracking, and chipping which is a lot better than any warranties I get from my painters today.

I don’t have any experience with the ColorPlus finish, but as a contractor that warranty eliminates the risk of callbacks on my dime and helps me sleep better at night.

Why Not PVC Trim?

Here’s why not- PVC is plastic and plastic is possibly the least green building material on the planet. Couple that with the fact that PVC expands and contracts greatly with temperature changes (sometimes up to 1/2″) and that makes PVC something I would never use in one of my projects.

I can’t have trim joints opening up and letting water inside wall cavities. Some pros who use PVC swear by screwing and gluing their joints to prevent them from opening up, but that is a lot of extra work to make the product do what it ultimately should do. With Hardie Trim, I get to cut to length and caulk the joints just like wood.

Installing Hardie Trim on an Old House

Check out the video below to see how I handled swapping out the rotted wood trim with the new Hardie Trim. It’s pretty straight forward, but you’ll definitely get some tips and tricks to make your install a little easier.

If you’re a contractor, you might also want to look into their free Contractor Alliance Program which can provide you with extra training and marketing help to make you a better installer. The resources available are pretty great including sales support, rewards for contractors who are serious installers, and they’ll even send you leads from their site for homeowners who are interested in having Hardie products installed on their house. It’s definitely worth a look.

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8 thoughts on “Installing Hardie Trim on an Old House?”

  1. Hi Scott – what are your thoughts on Hardie siding? It’s 1/8″ narrower than wood siding and not beveled. I always wonder if hardie is supposed to be a replacement for clapboard why it’s not designed to look like clapboard. Additionally it has the grooves on it to look like vinyl siding thinking some people will think it looks like wood. I’ve always told my readers to avoid the hardi clapboard.

    1. Ken, I like it and I don’t. You can get it in both the cedarmill (wood grain) version and a smooth version so you have options there. I think it performs well, but like you mentioned, it is so thin compared to regular wood clapboard or bevel siding it won’t match up against wood siding. Performance wise I feel like its head and shoulders above any vinyl or aluminum siding. I do wish they could make it a little thicker to capture the dimensionality of true wood siding though. Their shingle siding is pretty great as it’s roughly the same thickness of shingles (not shakes).

  2. We have a 1892 Victorian home. We are adding a cottage on the property using Hardy Board siding to match the bigger house. Our Architect recommended we use Hardy Board and it looks like a match to our historic home. This is a good article.

  3. Your situation in Florida also sounds like a good reason to use larger overhangs, to keep the water and splash as far from the house as possible (not to mention keeping that midday sun out in the summer!)

  4. Thanks for this post. I have to replace the cheap ranch style casing trim that the prior owner installed on the exterior around the back door (from the kitchen to the rear porch) on the 128 year old house I purchased to set up as a rental here in Pittsburgh. Rainwater drips down through the shade pergola above for one thing, meaning the framing gets wet a lot and is likely doomed in short order to rot. And for another thing, I need to add a screen door, which will require me to extend the trim framing the door to provide a recess to install that. I was going to reluctantly use PVC boards, but after seeing this endorsement of the Hardie products I am going to seek them out for this project.

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