In a country where a staggering 90% of homes are made from wood construction, deciding on what brand of backer board to use is crucial for your home improvement process. At the same time, it may seem like a dilemma reserved for contractors and builders, knowing the difference between the two most popular brands of backer boards will help you involve yourself in the decision-making process for an investment you will be paying your hard-earned money.
Homes built out of wood classify under lightweight construction, causing some disadvantages with the amount of load a structure can carry, which influences the material choices you can use to build. You are limited with lightweight materials such as plywood, wooden planks, oriented strand board, and the like in lightweight construction. Cinder blocks and brick are often not an option because they require a standalone structural system and footing. The question is, how do you prevent water from damaging your home’s structure in wet areas like your bathroom and kitchen?
The Backer Board Revolution
Most homes built with a wooden frame use drywall panels made of either gypsum board or plywood for their walls. These boards are nailed or screwed directly onto the skeletal framework of your walls, also known as the studs. These materials are known to rot and disintegrate when exposed to water, which leads to cement boards that resist water damage, popular today as what we now know as backer boards.
More than a century ago, during the birth of modern plumbing in America, mid-19th century, homes started to incorporate private bathrooms. Most Americans favored Victorian-style homes during this time in history, characterized by a wooden framework and intricate wood carvings. Since houses were made of wood, tiles were clad directly onto the wooden walls and floors. The absence of waterproofing solutions posed a significant problem to the structural integrity of a home. Water would creep from the tile and into the wooden backing, eventually making its way and damaging the studs and the foundation. This problem paved the way for the development of water-resistant backer boards.
What is a Backer Board?
Backer boards are thin panels, usually made of cement, silica, and limestone, reinforced with fiberglass or a similar material. It is explicitly designed to withstand and repel water, preventing it from warping when exposed to water. There are a lot of variations of backer boards depending on the type of material make-up it has.
What is a Backer Board for?
Backer boards are used in place of plywood as a base for tile installation. While it may be created from different materials, the purpose of backer boards is pretty straightforward: it serves as an alternative to plywood as a backing for tiles in wet areas of your home. The absence of organic matter in contrast with wooden boards prevents rotting and decomposition when exposed to water. Waterproofing can enhance the water-resistant property of backer boards by applying a layer of it.
Hardie® Backer Board or Durock®?
There are two contenders in the battle of the best backer board in the market: Hardie® Backer Board and Durock®. Two brands of cement backer boards with contrasting material make-up. Which one between the two is the best?
Hardie® Backer Board
A patented board by one of the most extensive fiber cement board manufacturers in the United States, Hardie® Backer Boards are made from 90% Portland Cement and Sand. It comes in both ¼ inch and ½ inch thickness making it an ideal choice if you need to work with thin layers of material when tiling to achieve a recommended finished floor level.
Recently, James Hardie, the manufacturer of Hardie® Backer Board, released its HydroDefense Technology. This technology prevents moisture absorption within the board, preventing even the slightest expansion and deformation due to humidity and water absorption, allowing Hardie Backer to repel water, giving it a competitive edge completely. It eliminates the need to waterproof the entire surface, saving you waterproofing costs. However, it is recommended that you apply waterproofing to the joints and fasteners.
Hardie® Backer Boards have a high flexural strength than its competitors, meaning they can withstand heavier loads at about three times more. To put it simply, the thinnest variant of Hardie® Backer Board is almost thrice as strong as a ½ inch backer board from Durock® in terms of psi. It specifically comes in handy when installing floor tiles wherein you have a minimal allowance for the grout and the tile thickness to achieve the desired finish floor level specified by the architect.
The score lines on the board provide a guide, making it easy to score with a utility knife. This is one feature that sets Hardie® Backer Boards apart from Durock®.
A product by United States Gypsum, the company behind the famous Sheetrock®, Durock® was developed as an exterior cladding material meant to withstand harsh weather conditions. Made from Portland cement and reinforced with a fiberglass mesh, Durock cement boards are known to be sold in both ¼ inch, ½ inch thick boards, and ⅝ inch thick panels. The fiberglass mesh and other aggregates in Durock® boards make it heavier than Hardie® Backer Boards and more challenging to install.
The fiberglass mesh reinforcement in Durock® backer boards allows it to last longer in specific conditions than Hardie® Backer Boards. The downside to this is it is more challenging to cut and score with the absence of grid lines.
The thing we love about Durock® is its trademark EdgeGuard™. When used as whole panels, EdgeGuard™ prevents moisture absorption at the seams, keeping the board intact when exposed to moisture.
Durock® cement board’s rough side is carefully designed to provide adhesion for your tile installation. It makes mortar stick better onto the surface of the tile backer, preventing it from falling off.