Hardibacker vs. Durock: A Comparative Look at Two Top Backer Board Options

Hardibacker and Durock are two popular options, known as tile backer boards, that provide the support your tiles need to stand the test of time. But is there any silver lining that sets one apart from its counterpart? We will see in this article. 
Comparative look, Hardibacker vs. Durock: Two Top Backer Board Options.

We will compare both products based on some key features that are compulsory for a tile backer board to possess. At the same, this article will present you with a clear picture, helping you make a better and more informed decision for your next tile installation.

What is Hardibacker? 

Manufactured by James Hardie Building Products, HardieBacker cement board is an underlying panel that supports and creates a strong, stable, and sturdy base for any tiles or stone flooring. HardiBacker boards protect the underlying structure from moisture and water as well because it is formulated using highly water-resistant materials.

The key ingredients used to build Hardibacker tile underlayment are cellulose fibers, crushed sand, and Portland cement. These components are combined proportionately to create strong, durable, and moisture-resistant substructures for tile installations and other construction applications. Moreover,  the cement and cellulose fiber agents in its formation help prevent the growth of mold and mildew.

What is Durock?

Durock is also a tile underlayment product made by the United States Gypsum Company. This is also a strong, water-resistant board designed for use in floors, walls, tub and shower areas, and other tile installations. It is slightly more versatile in application than Hardibacker.

The primary materials used in the formation of Durock are Portland cement aggregate and glass mesh, all of which collectively add strength and stability.  

Difference Between Hardibacker and Durock

Now, we will uncover the main differences between Hardibacker and Durock. 


Hardibacker cement board is slightly lighter in weight than Durock because of its unique formation with cellulose fibers, crushed sand, and Portland cement. This composition contributes to its lower density compared to other cement boards. Its lighter weight makes it easier to handle for technicians during installation. Also, this feature helps reduce the load on the structure. 

Durock cement board is also relatively lightweight compared to some other construction materials like solid concrete. However, the difference in weight and density is not very significant between Hardibacker and Durock. It mostly depends on the specific dimensions and thickness of the board. 

The reason for Hardibacker being Less substantial and heavy is the presence of cellulose fibers. Cellulose fibers along the cement and sand mixture enhance tensile strength without making the object bulky and reduce the risk of cracking. The glass mesh in Durock gives the Durock a slightly heavy structure. 

Suitable Environment

Hardibacker cement board is mostly used in inner spaces, particularly for tile installations in areas such as kitchens, showers, and bathrooms. Despite being highly water-resistant for its concrete fibers, it is not recommended for exterior and open-air environments, not even as a backer board in balcony parapet walls or balcony railings. It is mostly appropriate in inner damp areas like toilets and kitchens. 

On the other hand, Durock is evenly compatible with both interior and exterior applications, including being used as a tile substrate on floors, countertops, and wet locations. Durock is suitable in excessively wet environments. However, it is always recommended to consult the manufacturer’s guidelines and recommendations for the specific project or application to ensure proper usage and installation.

Ease of Installation 

Both Hardibacker and Durock have their own advantages regarding this matter. Durock boards are easier to cut compared to the Hardibacker, even using common tools such as carbide-tipped scoring blades or utility knives. 

A potential downside of Durrock is that the handling and cutting of Durrock backer boards make the work environment dirty and messy. The main culprit behind it is the presence of glass fibers in its composition. 

On the flip side, Hardibacker cement board being lighter offers the installer the convenience of installing it with ease. Another advantage of Hardibacker boards is they have an EZ Grid pattern, which can provide a visual aid to the installer to make straight and accurate cuts and ensure clean edges.

Durability and Resistance 

Hardibacker and Durock both offer a durable foundation for tiled surfaces. They are both reliable for wet areas such as bathrooms and kitchens and help protect the underlying structure from moisture damage. 

While both underlying panels show great resistance to mold and mildew, Durock is considered more impervious to these fungi’s growth. 

Moreover, the inclusion of fiberglass in Durock boards helps prevent cracks and improve the product’s durability. Therefore, Durock boards have a slight advantage over Hardibacker in terms of crack prevention. 

That said, the mold and mildew resistance of Hardibacker remains strong and active. Especially because Hardibacker is designed with MoldBlock technology, which enhances the production against mold and moisture damage, this makes Hardibacker one of the most suitable for wet areas like kitchens and bathrooms.

Besides, the rough surface of Durock can cause potential scratches, scuffs, or wear to soft materials like vinyl and porcelain. Therefore, Hardibacker is more suitable considering this fact.  

Factors that can make them more durable include –

  • Expected load
  • The environment where the board will be installed (such as wet areas like bathrooms)
  • Type of tiles you’ll be using
  • The installation method 

Both products are engineered to be durable, strong, and resistant to water, but the choice between them should depend on your project’s requirements and your own preferences.

Fire Resistance

James Hardie Backer Board, or HardiBacker, is primarily made from cement, sand, and cellulose fibers. Meanwhile, Durock is also manufactured using cement and glass fibers. This makes it clear that both Hardibacker and Durock are cementitious in nature and serve the purpose of acting as fire barriers.

On top of that, Hardibacker undergoes a chemical composition process called calcination. This chemical process helps the Haricaker board maintain its structural integrity and acts as a barrier against the spread of fire. Conversely, in the case of Durock, the inclusion of glass fibers bolsters the board’s ability to withstand high temperatures without breaking down or igniting.

HardieBacker backer board remains non-combustible when tested to ASTM E 136. In comparison, all Durock cement board products meet ASTM Standard E136 for noncombustibility. Now the question is, which one is better fire-resistant? 

Both Hardibacker and Durock meet different noncombustibility standards and demonstrate their ability to resist combustion. Moreover, knowing that both boards are asbestos-free is important, making them safe from health concerns. Numerous manufacturers employ asbestos to confer fire resistance to their products, which has a potential risk of asbestos-related diseases.


The prices of Hardibacker and Durock are competitive, and you will find the price gap quite modest between these two. Plus, keep in mind that the cost of these two products can vary depending on factors such as the manufacturer, your location, the size and thickness of the boards, and any current market conditions. 


Can I use a Hardibacker on shower walls?

Answer: Yes, you can use Hardibacker on shower walls. In fact, HardieBacker is designed to be used in the area of bathroom and kitchen fixtures such as tub and shower enclosures.

Can I tile directly on Hardibacker?

Answer: HardiBacker boards act as stable and durable substrates for tile installation. HardiBacker boards as underlayment ensure proper adhesion and prevent issues such as tile cracking or detachment. So, HardiBacker is made to be a layer or substrate for tiles. That’s why,  you can tile directly on them. 

Why use HardiBacker or Durock under tile?

Answer: HardieBacker and Durock are commonly used as underlayment or backer boards beneath tiles for several important reasons. These backer boards offer stability, durability, and moisture resistance and also create a solid foundation that helps prevent tile cracking and shifting.

Besides, their cement-based composition ensures they can withstand tiles’ weight and foot traffic pressures. Importantly, they are moisture-resistant, which makes them ideal for areas prone to water exposure, such as bathrooms and kitchens. And especially for HardiBacker and Durock underlayment panels, these are also fire resistant, adding an extra layer of safety.


In the end, when it comes to choosing Hardibacker vs. Durock for your tile project, both options offer distinct advantages that cater to different needs. Hardibacker shines with its moisture resistance and user-friendly installation, making it a great choice for DIY projects. On the other hand, Durock’s enhanced strength and versatility suit various indoor and outdoor applications.

While they share similarities in providing a solid foundation for tile installations, your decision hinges on your specific requirements. Consider factors like project scope, environmental demands, ease of handling, and budget constraints.

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