Fiber cement products engineered by James Hardie are a popular choice among building professionals and homeowners for the variety of aesthetics they can achieve with unparalleled durability. That starts with a first-class installation, and to make that happen you’ll need to have the right tools on the jobsite.
If you’re new to exterior solutions by James Hardie, this list is a good starting place to make sure you have everything ready to go. If you’ve been installing our products for a while, consider this a refresher to ensure you’re using the best tools and techniques for the job.
You can find complete details, along with more technical information, in our best practice guides. As with any siding job, we strongly recommend carefully reviewing the installation instructions before starting any work.
The very nature of siding installation requires a fair amount of cutting. A pair of electric or pneumatic shears can make it a cinch to cut your boards to size with little to no dust. For the smoothest cuts with shears, make your cuts with the board face down. Keep in mind that shears aren’t recommended for products thicker than 7/16” and as such cannot be used on HardieTrim® boards.
Circular or Power Miter Saws
Power saws are efficient for cutting quantities of Hardie® siding and trim products on the jobsite, provided you follow the proper techniques. Both options should only be used outside and in a well-ventilated area. Regardless of type, if you’re purchasing a new saw be sure that it has a port so you can connect a vacuum to safely collect cutting dust and help comply with OSHA rules.
HardieBlade for Saws
Equipping your saw with a HardieBlade® saw blade is the best choice for cutting Hardie® fiber cement products. The blade has a unique pattern that’s specifically designed to cut fiber cement with less dust than traditional or continuous rim diamond blades. Unlike shears, the HardieBlade saw blade can be used on James Hardie’s full range of exterior products. Pro tip: you can extend the life of the blade by reserving it only for cutting fiber cement.
This may be a handy tool to have, especially if you’re working with older houses, or ones with a lot of details. Many tools aren’t built to cut irregular shapes, but a jig saw with a fiber cement cutting blade can work magic on curves, scrollwork, service openings, and more. Jig saws should only be used outdoors and for limited, more detailed cutting purposes.
Masonry Bits and Carbide-Tipped Hole Saw
Because Hardie® siding and trim is made of Portland cement, sand, cellulose and water, you should use masonry bits if you need to drill holes. For larger holes, you can consider using a carbide-tipped hole saw. This is best when you purchase one that’s specifically designed for cutting fiber cement.
While there are several methods to ensure the correct spacing and overlap of lap siding, the siding gauge leads all other alignment devices in ease of use, speed, and effectiveness. A lap gauge can be used as a second set of hands by supporting the next course of siding for nailing. Many of these products adjust for different siding widths and reveals.
James Hardie’s portfolio of fiber cement products can be hand-nailed or fastened with a pneumatic tool, but the latter is highly recommended. Siding guns or roofing nail guns can be used to fasten HardiePlank® lap siding, HardiePanel® vertical siding or HardieShingle® siding, provided they are adjusted to the appropriate settings and use the fasteners specified in the installation instructions. Use a finish nail gun to attach HardieTrim® boards (with the same caveats as siding and roofing guns). You can find a list of commonly used nail guns inside our best practice guide. Pro tip: if you do choose to hand nail, or need to make fine adjustments, use a smooth-faced hammer only.
Useful Hand Tools
To be fully prepared for the job there are some essential hand tools that will make the process easier. Most construction crews will already have these tools around as a matter of course, but here’s a useful checklist:
● 25-foot contractors tape measure
● Torpedo level
● Writing utensil
● Smooth-faced hammer
● Speed square
● A level at least 4’ long
In addition to a little preparation, heading to the jobsite with all of the right tools will help you be efficient and deliver the high-quality results that homeowners demand.
James Hardie has plenty of other resources to help you be safe on the jobsite and successful with your clients. Explore these articles to help round out your business:
● 10 Fundamentals for Siding Installation Efficiency
● How to Address 5 Critical Construction Hazards and Safety Issues
● 6 Ways to Elevate Exterior Design with HardieTrim® Boards
● How to Productively Problem Solve with Customers