Making Your Tiny House A Smart[Side] House

We were casually walking through Lowe’s sometime in early 2011 (as we so often did then) talking about our tiny house and what in the world we were going to put on the outside. We had long since determined we didn’t want to use lap siding or a cedar product that had (remember, this is 2011) become a staple of tiny houses but we also hadn’t determined a good substitution. My dad had once built a shed that he wrapped in T1-11 and I had personally seen an old hunting cabin that was dressed in Masonite®. Maybe one of those two would work. As kismet as it seems though, just one aisle over was the siding product where we caught our first glimpse of LP® SmartSide® 38 Series Strand Substrate Panel Siding (which shall further be referred to as LP® SmartSide® Siding). Lowe’s had a stack of 4′ x 8′ sheets that had a wonderful cedar texture to them and truly captivated us right then. The price seemed more than reasonable and as we started looking at the product specs we almost totally resolved that we were going to make our tiny house a Smart[Side] house.

LP sample

LP® SmartSide® could reportedly:

  • Withstand everyday impacts like baseballs or rocks from a lawn mower
  • Resist harsh weather (such as hail and strong winds)
  • Easy to install using standard woodworking tools
  • Take paint, delivering optimal adhesion and consistent application, due to its pre-primed nature
  • Withstand rot and termites by LP’s proprietary SmartGuard® manufacturing process

We ultimately went with LP SmartSide choosing to finish our 30ft., single-level, tiny house on wheels, to look like a beach cottage using:

LP on Tiny rEv

What about the “other” guys though? I’ve talked about the differences before but after having lived in a house for over two years and then watched from the sideline as another family has lived in it for two more, I feel infinitely more qualified to revisit the definitions of some comparative materials and make an educated recommendation. If we chose a brand like LP® SmartSide siding in 2010 and are going with it again for a full size barn project we call Tiny r(E)volution v.3.0, why did we not choose something like T1-11 or OSB or even Masonite®, then and now? What are those products anyway?


By definition masonite is a type of hardboard made of steam-cooked and pressure-molded wood fibers in a process invented by William H. Mason.1

Invented in 1924, Masonite gained great popularity in the 1930s and 1940s as a material for doors, roofing, walls, desktops, and even canoes. Post WWII it began being used for house siding.

How Is It Made? Masonite is formed using the Mason method, in which wood chips are disintegrated by saturating them with 100psi steam, then increasing the steam or air pressure to 400psi and suddenly releasing them through an orifice to atmospheric pressure. Forming the fibers into boards on a screen, the boards are then pressed and heated to form the finished product with a smooth burnished finish. The original lignin in the wood serves to bond the fibers without any added adhesive. The long fibers give Masonite a high bending strength,tensile strength, density and stability. Unlike other composite wood panels, no formaldehyde-based resins are used to bind the fibers in Masonite.

So What Is The Problem? On the outset, there is no problem. However, masonite swells and rots over time when exposed to the elements, and may prematurely deteriorate when it is used as exterior siding. In fact, in 1996, International Paper (IP) lost a class action suit brought by homeowners whose Masonite siding had deteriorated. The jury found that IP’s Masonite siding was defective.


T1-11 siding is a wood based siding product that reached its height of popularity in the 70’s and early 80’s, when a more natural, wood-grained look was popular. Said to be the most environmentally friendly of siding products T1-11 siding comes in two types. The first type is known as the T1-11 plywood siding and the other is known as Oriented Strand board (OSB). T1-11 plywood siding is more expensive than the wafer board sidings or OSB sidings.

So How Is It Made? T1-11 is made from engineered wood .

So What Is The Problem? The maintenance of T1-11 siding is very important as it has to be protected against water, sunlight, and heat. Painting or sealing is mandatory and must be repeated every few years. T1-11 siding is strong and does have a long life as compared to other sidings. However, it is thought of as cheap in the building community, is considered a barn material, and has been shown to have a high moisture absorption rate on the edges after being applied.


LP® SmartSide® products deliver all the warmth and beauty of traditional wood, plus the durability and workability of engineered wood. The SmartGuard® manufacturing process actually improves upon nature, creating products that are engineered for strength, performance and protection against fungal decay and termites. The LP SmartSide, is backed by an industry-leading 5/50 Year Transferable Limited Warranty. 2

So How Is It Made? The process begins with either wood strands or wood fiber. A zinc borate compound is then applied throughout the substrate to help protect against fungal decay and termites. Exterior-grade resins are used to create extremely strong bonds within the product. LP SmartSide Panels with SilverTech feature a finish-grade radiant barrier that resists flaking and peeling. The panels also help reduce the sun’s radiant energy.


LP SmartSide isn’t for everyone. I understand that. But it is time tested in my eyes. It was easy to install for even a novice as I was in 2010. It held paint well. It withstood scorching hot, Southern summers, and even a snowy winter. It never wavered in high winds and never once made us feel less than safe within its walls. I encourage you to at least have a look for yourself and see if you can make your tiny house a smart[side] house.


By Andrew M. Odom for the [Tiny House Blog]

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Rita - May 17, 2016 Reply

What an informative article. Thank you for your knowledge and sharing of what you have found to work and withstand the elements.

Susan - May 17, 2016 Reply

Great article. I am currently in the process of gathering all the information I can before having my tiny house built in AZ. I am almost 75, not quite ready to tackle a build myself, but will definitely control how it’s built and with what materials. Thanks.

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