Although Hardie Backer board is a very good choice for tile jobs, there are people looking for alternatives to HardiBacker for many reasons (cost, availability, ease-of-installation etc).
In this article we will discuss and describe 6 very good alternative products that you can use for your project.
Hardie Backer Board is a Portland cement and sand-based tile backer board that is devoid of fillers and loose aggregate.
Hardie Board has very high flexural and compressive strength compared to some of the other cement backer boards on the market, making it a solid foundation for your thinset-based tile application. This product offers an excellent stable surface for tile adhesion.
To install Hardie Board, you simply score it and snap along the clean cut line with minimal dust. It can be cut to any size and angle.
The imprinted 1-inch x 1-inch grid makes measuring for cuts super easy. After that, you simply nail the boards to your framing using the clearly marked fastener locations.
While this board has the James Hardie patented MoldBlock technology, it is recommended that you install a 4 mil thick plastic moisture barrier behind the board when using it as a substrate in swimming pools and tubs of any kind.
It is important to note that HardieBacker is approved for internal use and should not be used in exterior applications.
Alternatives to HardieBacker
There are plenty of tile backer boards on the market to choose from. Though, they are not manufactured equally.
Some are cement based, while others have polyiso or polystyrene cores. They also require different installation techniques and have a variety of applications.
Let’s explore a few more popular backer boards and see how they compare to HardieBacker.
Note that the list below is in no particular order.
Allura Backer provides a dense, non-porous surface for tile application in moist interior areas, such as kitchens and bathrooms. The core of the Allura Baker and Baker 1/2-inch boards are lightweight fiber cement, making them easy to handle and install.
It is suitable for all sizes of ceramic tile and stone. Allura Backer is moisture-resistant. It won’t decay, delaminate, or swell in the presence of moisture. It is a good defense against mold, mildew, and rot.
Installation does not require specialty scoring and cutting tools. Allura can be fastened to framing or plywood with either nails or screws. Tile and stone are adhered with thinset adhesive mortar.
Like HardieBacker, Allura Backer Board is only suitable for interior applications. Because the core is made up of cement, silica, and wood fibers, it is not recommended that you use high-speed power tools to cut the boards.
Doing this will result in an excess of air-borne silica that will require wearing a mask and clean up with a HEPA filter vacuum system.
GoBoard is an ultra-lightweight and completely waterproof tile backer board. This product has a polyiso foam core. It is extremely light and easy to handle.
GoBoard can be cut with a standard utility knife with minimal dust. The boards are available in 3×5 foot and 4×8 widths and lengths.
You also have the option of 1/4-inch and 1/2-inch thick boards that are ideal for residential applications. 5/8-inch boards are well-suited for floors and commercial applications.
GoBoard tile backer boards offer a stable surface on which to adhere the tile. They can be used on floors, walls, ceilings, and countertops where a waterproof substrate is needed. Polyiso foam boards are perfect for wet areas, such as showers, steam rooms, and pool decks.
This particular product does not need to be waterproofed. However, the cut edges, seams, and fastener locations must be sealed to protect the entire system. The manufacturer recommends using a polyurethane joint and fastener sealant.
Polyiso foam tile backer boards are attached to wood or metal framing with screws, nails, or staples.
One drawback of GoBoard is that it can be more expensive compared to cement and cement fiber boards for all materials.
The advantage of using foam boards is that you can save time and the cost of labor because you can bond the tile or stone over it the same day that it is installed.
Durock brand cement board comes with the manufacturer’s patented EdgeGuard for enhanced edge performance that prevents crumbling of the cement core.
Durock is moisture and mold resistant. It is also non-combustible, like other cement boards. This substrate is suitable for countertops, floors, walls, and shower surrounds as a substrate for tile or stone finish applications.
This particular cement board cuts easily and installs quickly with tile backer screws, nails, or self-drilling fasteners.
While Durock is a reliable cement product, it does contain glass mesh and is commonly referred to as Glass Fiber Mesh Board.
This combination of cement and glass mesh makes it a heavier material than some of the other cement boards. That said, Durock brand boards are approved for interior and exterior applications.
Schluter Kerdi-Board is an extruded polystyrene foam panel with a fleece webbing surface material on both sides.
This material offers a good surface for the adhesion of thinset mortar and tile. Kerdi-Board is appropriate for multiple interior applications as a tile substrate and a building panel in areas that are exposed to moisture.
Panel thicknesses range from 3/16 inches all the way up to 2 inches. The variety allows the designer and installer to create a broad range of building elements and surfaces into which to adhere tile or stone to form bonded waterproof assemblies.
There are gridlines printed on the board surfaces to aid in cutting with a standard utility knife.
It should be noted that Kerdi-Boards is not intended for use in exterior applications.
WonderBoard is a lighter cement backer board with a fiberglass mesh reinforced surface used mostly as a substrate for ceramic tile, stone, and brick veneer applications.
The boards are porous but they do not degrade in the presence of moisture. This product is available in 3×5-foot sheets in either 1/4-inch or 1/2-inch thicknesses.
These cement-based sheets are ideal for use as a substrate in wet areas. WonderBoard is installed with screws. The seams are taped and coated with compound, similar to gypsum wallboard.
The entire surface is then coated with a waterproof finish. Thinset adhesive mortar is troweled onto the surface of the boards to allow for the adhesion of the finish tiles or stone.
WonderBoard is great for shower enclosures, pool areas, and steam rooms when properly installed. WonderBoard Lite boards are lighter weight than some other cement boards.
However, the cutting process does produce a crumbly dust. An advantage to using this product is that it is suitable for exterior finishes when properly sealed with waterproofing.
Wedi building boards have a polystyrene rigid foam core that offers a waterproof base for tile or plastering applications. Polystyrene is lightweight and offers good insulating values.
This product comes with a proprietary Wedi 610 joint sealant that completes the waterproofing between boards.
It isn’t necessary to apply a waterproof finish or membrane over the boards to further protect the substrate. The surface of the boards is cement-based, making them dimensionally stable and a strong base for tile adhesion with thinset mortar.
Wedi boards are relatively easy and quick to install. The insulating foam core is an added advantage and offers good protection from mold.
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