People used to come up to Terry Stamman's home show booth and ask if fiber-cement siding was another kind of vinyl. These days — 10 years after he started installing it — most homeowners know what fiber-cement is. What they often don't know, says the owner of Twin Cities Siding Professionals, in St. Paul, Minn., is how important it is to install it the right way. With more contractors now installing the material, he sees more failing jobs.

“There are a lot of people out there who don't know what they're doing,” says Dan Merrifield, vice president of sales for Lakeside Exteriors, in O'Fallon, Mo., which also specializes in fiber-cement. Merrifield points out that the product's 50-year warranty is only good if installed to spec. “You [the homeowner] have to pay attention to who you have put it on,” he says.

SELLING EXPERTISE With more companies installing, those that specialize in fiber-cement increasingly position themselves as the professionals. Scott Barr, owner of Southwest Exteriors, in San Antonio, says his argument to consumers is that his company's 11-year history with the product translates to expertise. “If all you do is fiber-cement, you become very good at the quality and tightness of the cuts, caulking, setting the nails, and making the finished product look good.” He also sells his process, which includes a pre-construction conference with homeowner and crew leader, a midpoint job inspection, and a final inspection with the crew leader and the homeowner. Merrifield, similarly, says that a company project manager visits every site every day to ensure a quality of install that meets warranty requirements.

SEEING IS BELIEVING Stamman sometimes gets calls from homeowners bewildered because their fiber-cement siding job installed five years ago is already coming apart. “Some guys don't flash at all,” he notes.

That gave him the idea to begin photographing jobs he sees and the jobs he installs, to give prospects a side-by-side comparison. A “battery” of pictures that show butt joints caulked where slip sheet flashing should have been used, or where the tops of windows and doors are caulked shut, allowing water in, make the point. A job may look fine the day it's finished — “No one will hang it crooked,” he says — but fall apart in seven, five, or even two years, as was recently true at a home Stamman was called to for the express purpose of redoing the siding. “We sit down and show the homeowner how it's required to be installed,” he says.