Masonite siding is still used on the exterior of homes and businesses, but it has been through growing pains and has lost popularity in recent years as vinyl siding has become more common. If a person is purchasing an older home that needs exterior refurbishing, or if he is remodeling the outside of his present home and doesn't want to use vinyl, it's possible that he'll be working with Masonite. Before doing so, he should be sure to learn about the problems that Masonite siding can have so he can make an informed decision about using it, and so he can care for it properly.
Difficulties with Masonite siding started in 1929, which was the first year for mass production of Masonite boards. Throughout the 1930s and 1940s, the boards were used for roofing, walls and doors as well as for exterior siding applications. They were also used on other kinds of projects unrelated to home construction, such as desks and guitars. Extensive use, unfortunately, brought with it extensive problems. Early on, the most common of these problems was moisture issues. Both liquid and humidity were damaging to Masonite siding.
Both the early period of the 1930s and 1940s and a later period in the 1980s and 1990s were fraught with difficulties for the makers of Masonite siding. When the boards were reintroduced on a large scale in the 1980s, it was believed that any moisture concerns from the past had been addressed and that contractors who installed Masonite siding knew how to seal it to prevent problems. However, there were problems with swelling of the boards, and also with mold. The boards were often not installed correctly--and sometimes not even made correctly--which resulted in deterioration. The siding boards were recalled, and a class action suit was filed. The lawsuit was successful, and some companies that previously produced Masonite siding stopped manufacturing it. Other companies still make products under the Masonite name.
Since the 1990s, companies that still manufacture Masonite siding have worked to improve the quality of their product. The boards no longer warp, swell and come apart, and there are no more mold issues when the siding is installed and maintained properly. The siding must be sealed and taken care of correctly, though, to avoid these kinds of issues. Proper care means that the Masonite siding should last for the life of the home. Poor care or no care can result in siding that must be replaced after only a few years.
The biggest benefit of Masonite siding is the initial price. It costs less than vinyl siding, and it certainly costs less than brick. It's also easy to find and work with and can be installed by almost any contractor. Where that benefit is reduced is in the long-term cost of the siding, because it must be maintained. If paint starts to peel from it or it's otherwise damaged or unsealed, water and humidity can get to it, resulting in the same kinds of problems that were seen in the past--warping, swelling and mold, followed by deterioration.
If a person plans to use Masonite siding, a commitment to having it installed properly and maintained correctly must be made. Repainting the siding every few years can be a hassle, but it's nothing compared to the need to replace large sections of it because of moisture damage or mold. As long as it is properly handled from the beginning, today's Masonite siding has few problems to concern a home or business owner.