HardieBacker with HydroDefense: A New Option For Waterproofing Shower Walls

James Hardie HardieBacker HydroDefense cement backer board

Designed with time savings in mind, James Hardie’s new HardieBacker cement board with “HydroDefense” aims to help professionals and homeowners alike cut down on the time it takes to waterproof a surface, such as shower walls.

The first waterproof cement backer board on the market, HardieBacker with HydroDefense Technology provides the same strength, ease of use, and great tile adhesion as the HardieBacker cement board you already know…But, with waterproof composition throughout, you can eliminate the extra step of applying a waterproofing membrane (like Schluter Kerdi membrane) on top of the cement board.

The caveat is, with the new HydroDefense cement boards, you still need to waterproof all joints and points of fastener penetration, which could be done with something like Kerdi Band.

Angled HydroDefense Technology Board from James Hardie

HydroDefense Product Details…

These boards are made of 90% Portland sand and cement, along with some proprietary ingredients, and contain no glass fibers or fillers. They come in the same size as the typical HardieBacker cement boards, 3 feet by 5 feet, with a .42 inch thickness, and a 2.6 pound weight. The HydroDefense cement boards are also rated ASTM E136 non-combustible.

Just as with cutting typical HardieBacker cement board, HydroDefense boards can be cut with a carbide-tipped scoring knife, or a shear (I have an electric shear that I just love and makes this process super quick, easy, and without all the dust of using a circular saw or grinder).

Tile shower wall with rainhead and HardieBacker HydroDefense behind tile

Where Can I Buy HydroDefense Boards?

You can find these new HydroDefense cement boards at your local Lowes and Home Depot home improvement stores, for roughly $20 per board, which is about double the $10 price of a standard 1/4″ cement board.

Mockup of Bathroom with custom tile shower and HardieBacker HydroDefense Board

My Two Cents: Comparing the Pros and Cons

While I think this is a great new innovation, and I’m always open to eliminating unnecessary steps, because you still have to waterproof joints and fastener penetrations, I have my doubts on how much time-savings using this product would actually provide.

At about twice the cost of normal cement board, and still having to purchase a waterproofing product, and take the time to apply it to joints and over fasteners, I’m just not sure there would be enough time savings there to make it worth it.

I’m always excited about new innovations. That’s what helps move the home improvement industry forward. So I’m totally up for giving it a try. But right now, I think the standard method of installing a backer board and then applying a waterproofing membrane onto the whole surface would be just as fast.

If you’re up for the adventure of trying new things, you’ll spend a bit more money, but maybe you’ll save some time. Who knows!?

Otherwise, if you’re a Do-It-Yourselfer who just wants to learn what we already know works, and works well, then simply apply typical 3×5 HardieBacker cement boards to your shower walls, and then apply a waterproofing membrane on top – like Schluter Kerdi – and in corners with Kerdi Band.

You can go here to learn more about James Hardie and their new HydroDefense product.


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