A bathroom before tiling is done, revealing the cement board base.

Cement Board

Originally contributed by • last updated 2/25/2021

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When you’re dealing with building and construction materials, it’s not uncommon to have multiple options to work with in order to get to the finished product. However, not all materials are created equal and it’s important to choose the right one for the right job. Take, for example, a sheet of drywall compared to a cement board, also known as hardiebacker, Unlike drywall, hardiebacker contains no organic fillers, making it much more resistant to mold, rot, warping, and deterioration. So, why don’t homebuilders use cement backer boards in every situation?

Definition

Cementitious backer units (CBUs) or cement boards are typically used as tile backer boards as an alternative to other options such as drywall. They are commonly referred to as hardiebacker by many people in the building and construction industry. They are basically cement bonded particle boards, made from combining cement with other reinforcing materials, that are formed and cut into sheets of varying thicknesses and sizes. They are commonly used during the construction and repair of bathrooms and kitchens due to their water-resistant composition.

What Is Cement Board Used For?

Despite its reputation for being strong and durable under most conditions, it’s a wonder why cements boards aren’t used more frequently in building and construction projects. However, in most residential situations, bathroom and kitchen projects may benefit from hardiebacker, but it’s probably not the best options for every renovation:

  • On one hand, cement boards are stronger than a typical drywall board and tiles adhere to them better. They won’t warp, they’re resistant to mildew and moisture, and they can provide more strength and stability to the structure of the room.
  • On the other hand, cement boards are heavier than typical drywall boards, making them more difficult to lift and causing unnecessary strain on the structure of the house. They can also be more difficult to cut and drill because of their composition.
  • Lastly, cement backer boards tend to be more costly upfront. But those costs can be recovered over time if used for the right projects, as less repairs means more savings. However, not all projects require the strength, resistance, and price of cement backers, so plan accordingly.