Confused about the different types of cement backer boards? Learn the difference between two of the most popular options – HardieBacker vs Durock so you know which one to choose for your next tile project.
When it comes to tiling projects, the foundation you lay is just as crucial as the tiles themselves. Cement backer boards have long been the preferred choice for providing a stable and durable surface for tile installations in wet areas like bathrooms, kitchens, and outdoor spaces.
Unlike gypsum boards (or even a fiber-cement board), cement backer boards are made from high-moisture areas because they are water resistant.
Among the leading contenders in this arena, HardieBacker and Durock have emerged as go-to options for both DIY enthusiasts and professional contractors alike. But how do these two backer boards stack up against each other? So let’s dive into HardieBacker vs Durock.
Table of Contents
This HardieBacker vs Durock guide contains affiliate links, but nothing that I wouldn’t recommend wholeheartedly. Read my full disclosure here.
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll dive into the realm of cement backer boards, comparing the features, benefits, and potential drawbacks of HardieBacker vs Durock.
Whether you’re working on your very first tile job or consider yourself an old pro, join us as we break down the strengths and weaknesses of Hardiebacker vs Durock. After learning more about the most popular cement backer boards, you’ll be able to choose the best product for you!
What about WonderBoard?
You may notice that in several of our tile installation tutorials, we’re using something called WonderBoard as our tile underlayment (specifically WonderBoard lite), so you may be wondering why I’m not mentioning anything about WonderBoard in this article. The main reason is that WonderBoard was discontinued in 2022. In fact, I didn’t learn that until I started writing this blog post and doing more research.
I’m not sure what happened or why…I asked the company that made it, Custom Building Products, and they didn’t have an answer for me. Either way, I figured it was not meaningful for me to discuss a product that is no longer available in stores. So I’ve revised it to just compare two types of cement-based backer board – HardieBacker and Durock so you can make the best choice for your next tile project.
What is HardieBacker?
HardieBacker is a cement backer board that is made by James Hardie. It can be used as a base for tiling projects on walls, floors, and countertops. HardieBacker board is made with 90% Portland cement and sand with no fillers or other abrasive aggregates.
The James Hardie company is most widely known for its Hardie Board siding, which is a horizontal lap siding used for exterior use. Unlike HardieBacker cement boards, which are simply used as tile underlayments that need to be covered, Hardie Board is a product that is installed on the exterior and does not need to be covered (just painted). It is made to look like wood once finished.
HardieBacker is made in 1/4″,1/2″, and 5/8″ thicknesses, which makes it work for both vertical and horizontal surfaces. Hardie Backer has both square and tongue-and-groove edges for ease of installation.
Is it Hardibacker or Hardiebacker?
You may see HardieBacker mistakingly misspelled as HardiBacker board or even Hardi backerboard, but the correct spelling is HardieBacker with the E included, as in James Hardies’ last name.
Benefits of HardiBacker
According to the James Hardie website:
- HardieBacker boards have 3x the flexural strength compared to the other competitive cement boards – meaning that the boards can bend a little bit more without breaking, which could definitely come in handy when installing HardieBacker
- They create less dust and debris when they are cut down to size.
- Named the most preferred brand of backer board by tile installers and contractors (according to the 2019 Tile and Stone Report conducted by ClearSeas research in partnership with the National Tile Contractors Association and TILE Magazine).
New HardieBacker Board weith HydroDefense
James Hardie has recently announced an all-new Hardie Backer Board with HydroDefense Technology that they claim is 100% waterproof. The new type of backer board has a mold block technology to protect the board and still cuts quickly and cleanly with an easy score and snap method.
What is Durock?
Durock cement boards are made by USG, another very reputable brand that makes drywall, ceiling and flooring. Durock backer boards can be used as a tile underlayment for floors, walls, tub surrounds and shower areas, countertops, steam rooms, pool areas, and even exterior finishes.
Durock is made with Portland cement, aggregate, and polymer-coated fiberglass mesh, which is resistant to mold and makes it a good choice for areas with moisture – like kitchens, bathrooms, laundry rooms, and other high-humidity areas.
Durock is available in 3×5 or 4×8 sheets in 1/4″, 1/2″ and 5/8″ thicknesses, just like HardieBacker. Although it is most commonly used with tile, it can also be used as a base for brick and stone. Note: the 1/4″ thick sheets should only be used under floor tile or countertops and are only for indoor use.
Benefits of Durock
- Durock is made with EdgeGuard, which is their enhanced, proprietary edging. It helps prevent spinout and crumbling, which can happen easily when handling and transporting the boards. The edges are made of polypropylene fabric.
- It is easy to cut, needing only just a simple score and snap
- Water-resistant surface and resists mold and mildew
- Approved for interior and outdoor use
- There is a smooth side and a slightly textured side for the Durock sheets. The smooth surface is designed for mastic applications because it bonds better with the tile glue and the textured side is ideal for thin-set mortar to provide slipping.
What’s the difference between HardieBacker and Durock boards?
HardieBacker is made with 90% Portland cement and sand with selected additives.
Durock is made with aggregated Portland cement slurry with a polymer-coated fiberglass mesh completely encompassing the edges, and back and front surfaces.
In terms of durability, because Durock has added fiberglass mesh, many claim that it lasts longer and is slightly more durable.
They are pretty similar in price but differ based on where you buy them. For example, Durock selling for roughly $2.10 more per 1/2″ sheet at The Home Depot, and HardieBacker selling for $6.00 more per 1/2″ sheet at Lowe’s at the time of writing.
Because Dorck has the EdgeGaurd system, it is only made with square cut edges, whereas HardieBacker is available with square edges or tongue-and-groove.
HardieBacker claims to be easier to clean up because there is less dust due to the difference in materials.
HardieBacker has higher flexural strength, which means that it can withstand heavier loads. HardieBacker has a flexural strength of 2100 psi for 1/4″ sheets and 1700 psi for 1/2″ sheets. Durock is >1000 psi for 1/4″ and >750 psi for 1/2″ sheets.
When you read other articles comparing HardieBacker and Durock, many claim that HardieBacker is much lighter than Durock because there isn’t any glass mesh in it (like Durock has). In those articles, weight is considered to be a major difference between the two products.
But I wanted to get specific in this article, so I went digging on both brand’s websites looking for the specific weight for the popular backer boards. Do you know what I found?? I was shocked to learn that they are actually almost identical in terms of weight.
If you want to get into specifics, Durock 1/2″ sheets are 1.9 pounds per sq ft, 1/2″ sheets are 2.4 pounds per sf and 5/8″ sheets are 3.0 pounds per sf. Whereas, HardieBacker 1/4″ sheets are 1.9 pounds per sf (same), and 1/2″ sheets are 2.6 pounds per square foot (0.2 heavier).
What are the similarities between HardieBacker and Durock?
Although there are some definite differences between the two sheets of cement board, there are also things that are similar.
Waterproofing / Vapor Barrier
The instructions are a bit vague when it comes to whether or not the backer boards need any other waterproofing.
- Durock: If waterproofing is desired, use a liquid waterproofing membrane.
- HardieBacker: A vapor barrier is needed if required by local building codes. However, if using the new Hardie Backer Board with HydroDefense, you don’t need to use a waterproof coating, you just need to waterproof the joints and fasteners.
Both cement backer boards can be cut in the same manner. You simply score it with a carbide-tipped scoring knife, utility knife, or cutting shears 2 or 3 times and then snap it along the cut line. It helps if you place a hand or your knee along the score line to keep one side in place while pulling the other side upward to snap it.
When it comes to cutting the boards, one difference is that HardieBacker is the only type of cement board that has a grid pattern (called the EZ Grid pattern), which can make cutting a bit easier, but there are no promises that the line you need to cut will fall on one of the grid lines. Also, there will be less dust and debris with HardieBacker because it does not contain the fiberglass mesh.
The installation process is virtually the same whether you’re using Durock or HardieBacker. So much so that when I wrote our tutorial about how to install Durock I titled it “How To Install Durock and HardieBacker”. Learn more about the whole process here.
Table summary: Hardiebacker vs Durock
Whew, that was a lot of information..right? I made this quick table to sum everything up for you in the Hardiebacker vs Durock comparison.
|Made by||James Hardie||USG|
|Made with||90% Portland cement and sand with no fillers or other abrasive aggregates.||Portland cement, aggregate, and polymer-coated fiberglass mesh|
|Availability||The Home Depot and Lowe’s||The Home Depot and Lowe’s|
|Sizes available||3×5 sheets in 1/4″,1/2″, and 5/8″ thicknesses||In 3×5 or 4×8 sheets in 1/4″, 1/2″ and 5/8″ thicknesses|
|Edges||Hardie Backer has both square and tongue-and-groove edges for ease of installation.||Made with EdgeGuard, which is their enhanced, proprietary edging to prevent spinout and crumbling, which can happen easily when handling and transporting the boards. Edges are square.|
|Finish||There is a smooth side and a slightly textured side.||There is a smooth side and a slightly textured side..|
|Added durability||Durock has added fiberglass mesh, many claim that it lasts longer and is slightly more durable.|
|Cost||Similar in price, depends on where you buy.||Similar in price, depends on where you buy.|
|Clean up||HardieBacker claims to be easier to clean up because there is less dust due to the difference in materials.|
|Load||HardieBacker has higher flexural strength, which means that it can withstand heavier loads. HardieBacker has a flexural strength of 2100 psi for 1/4″ sheets and 1700 psi for 1/2″ sheets.||Durock is >1000 psi for 1/4″ and >750 psi for 1/2″ sheets.|
|Weight||HardieBacker 1/4″ sheets are 1.9 pounds per sf (same), and 1/2″ sheets are 2.6 pounds per square foot (0.2 heavier).||Durock 1/2″ sheets are 1.9 pounds per sq ft, 1/2″ sheets are 2.4 pounds per sf and 5/8″ sheets are 3.0 pounds per sf.|
|Waterproofing||A vapor barrier is needed if required by local building codes. However, if using the new Hardie Backer Board with HydroDefense, you don’t need to use a waterproof coating, you just need to waterproof the joints and fasteners.||If waterproofing is desired, use a liquid waterproofing membrane.|
|Cutting||Score and snap with utility knife. HardieBacker is the only type of cement board that has a grid pattern (called the EZ Grid pattern), which can make cutting a bit easier.||Score and snap with utility knife.|
Do you have any other questions about Hardiebacker vs Durock?
Let us know in the comments below.
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