Large Scale Central

Rehabilitating a HardieBacker Home

We took a break for personal travel, business, school, and other hobbies, but it is time to get back at teh Triple O - 2023 Plans & Objectives. One of our first buildings, a small house, has descended over the last 3 or more years from this…

…to this…

Along the way, the original roof of sandpaper rotted off, we experimented with solar lighting, and made our first attempt at corrugated metal roofing. As the picture shows, the craft stick cladding had begun to rot away and fall off, to the point the building had passed from quaintly dilapidated to simply “broken.”

Yesterday, the 1:24 gang, Kid-zilla, and I decided to attack the project.

Prying by hand did not work, so we switched to a putty knife.

I finished what he started, and I left the debris for the 1:24 gang.

The results showed that the HardieBacker core (with its foam fillers!) had largely held up, with only one small chunk by a door falling away.

Too bad I don’t need flats for a 1:24 scale WWII diorama!

Oldest Daughter had suggested we keep this house in its Hawai’i plantation motif, and proposed making a foundation out of foam into which we could carve the supports that still hold many Hawaiian homes above ground level. The supports would get paint. The hollowed-out areas would be black to give the impression of empty space under the home. This would help set the building in time and place and take advantage of our foam skills. Golden!

The harder part is the house itself given the hodge podge of materials, and I was hoping for “vector checks” or alternatives to my thoughts below.

  1. Repeat the Past. Part of me wants to grab the craft sticks and get gluing, but there must be some reason that the craft sticks did not hold up as well when glued to HardieBacker than those glued to foam or wood.

  2. Clad in Plastic. Some years ago, someone had refurbished a rotting car shed by re-building it over a plexiglass core, and I am wondering if something similar could be used here, gluing the plexigalss to the HardieBacker, masking off any windows, scribing the wood paneling, and then affixing door frames and windows. I’ve no idea what glues to use here, either to affix the plexiglass to the hardiebacker or the detail bits to the plexiglass.

  3. Clad in Wood. I am even considering wood (shudder) as the cladding to gain mastery of Sabre Saw and then scribing and gluing over that.

I’ve got a rocket to finish while this is in the ponder stage, but I hope by next weekend to start out in one of the directions above.



You shall overcome Sabre Saw! I have confidence in you !!!

Wood is the direction I am leaning, actually. It would hide the imperfect window openings and be a natural surface for craft stick siding, window sills, and door sills. Also, I do need to get better with the whole Saw family.


I have had mixed results using hardibacker board. It is tough to work with and very dusty to cut. It looks like you used the thicker type which makes it even tougher to cut. Moisture is the problem. The material is water resistant not water proof. I used some pieces on the backside of a retaining wall on the RR and with ground contact it became brittle after a few years. The same happens if you use it on the ground as a base for a building. Don’t step on it after a few years.
I do use it for my roofs. I paint it on both sides and glue it on to the wood building with E6000. I have some roofs that are now 10 years old and doing well.

I think you should scrap your building by collapsing the roof and lighting it on fire then tuck it away somewhere on you layout as a burned out building.
Rebuild with wood but use a strip of plastic trim as a foundation to keep it away from ground contact.


All your observations are why we abandoned it as a possible “go to” material after this one attempt. We have used scraps for temporary foundations for our various other projects, and we have had the same results you observed. Unfortunately, it HardieBacker is also the foundation for our mill complex. We’ll see how it holds up.

As for this project, I will put your idea to a vote with the 1:1 crew. Sentimentality may have no place in a real railroads cost analysis, but it has been a guiding factor on the Triple O since Day One!



We’ve been hashing this around over the last couple days. There are no good places for a burned-out building, but I acknowledge Todd’s ( @capecodtodd ) that the material itself poses challenges. A true “plantation house” needs to start from scratch, but we all felt that this core had something left to teach. The plan now is to make some frames for the doors and windows from strip wood, cover the walls with “stucco” (in this case, concrete patch) and relocated the building to our sugar mill “town” where stone buildings predominate already. In this capacity, it will fit in architecturally and could simulate a bunk house or supervisor’s house. We’ll still mount it on a foam base, but we will carve it to look like stone. Stucco side and half-timber buildings, while certainly an exception did and do exist here, so we are still in the realm of plausible.

As for the Saw Family, Kid-zilla and I plan to make a couple more flat cars, so we will get a chance to continue our feud!

Updates as progress merits!


In agreement with OD I think it would make a great tobacco drying barn just like it is and add another industry to the RR? You would just have to lock it up so the kids aren’t rolling stogies while your at work!


Good idea, but the glue required to make sure the core holds together has already dictated we move past “repurpose what’s left!” I’ll see if I can get some progress done…and some pictures up…tomorrow!


Down for the count with the crud, so nothing to do but take to the lanai, watch trains, and putter… Part of that puttering included this project.

As I believe fresh air and sunshine are key to recovery, the first thing to do was to stumble about and rig the Triple O.

The 1:24 gang was my sole help, as they are not susceptible to viruses. The previous evening, we had sealed and reglued what will be the core.

We chose the glue based upon what was open and in the caulking gun. We had last used this in 2020, so that little plastic cap was worth the price!

Next, I rummaged about our scraps (The Triple O wastes nothing!), and I found suitable HardieBacker bits for the roof.

I will need to cut these, and I don’t have a cutting wheel for my saw. Going to a hardware store and blowing crud on customer is contraindicated, so all stop.

The 1:24 lads and I then sorted our pile of timbers to find some that could serve as window and door frames. Naturally, I don’t have enough of the proper size to proceed. All stop. We proceeded on to marking out its new foundation…

…which I stupidly tried to cut myself with the foam cutter instead of calling in O.D. who, with the rest of the 1:1 crew, was off from school for Prince Kuhio Day. Despite this misjudgment, I got a decent foundation.

I stopped to think about how best to mount the building to its foundation and my order of operations. After sleeping on it, I plan to dig a shallow groove to fit the building, then carve the “stones” into the sides of the foundation like we did for the 2022 Mik ( Mik 2022 - Hale o Waihona Lanahu). That way I can carve and texture and paint away using the groove as a guide and avoiding or at least minimized the inevitable issues of getting paint, quickcrete, and glue where I do not want it!

Off for more garden therapy.

Have a great day!


That base is going to be great, carve away everything that doesn’t look like stone and “Bob’s you uncle”. I have heard that expression many times and have no idea where it came from but BD or Bob Cope are now your uncles! LOL

Pete (@Pete_Lassen ) , Thanks! I regret the need to stay away from family is thus far making it a solo project. Y.D., in particular has a talent for making foam look like stone!

I have proceeded alone for something to do, interspersing progress with other minor repairs on the Triple O. The 1:24 gang got out a jackhammer to help me carve out a groove for the house to sit in.

This naturally revealed the core never sat level to begin with.

We will fix and make sure that the end product is true!

Next, we carved out the “stones” with our HotWire engraving tool.

I then used a wire brush to remove the strings of molted foam and to texture it. I gave it a thick wash of black acrylic last night, then touched it up this morning. It is a humid, rainy day, so I think that will halt progress. When it does dry, I , or maybe Y.D., will start dry brushing the base so that each stone stands out a bit. The goal will be to approximate the colors and shades of the gravel that covers most of the Triple O.

I have said it before, and I will say it again: I really like foam. It is relatively cheap, it is durable, and it is very forgiving. The wire brushing gives it a texture almost indistinguishable from lava stones, which is a plus when you live on a volcanic island and want to model at least in flavor the era of high cane and high iron! If I could find a way to emulate a wood texture, I’d probably relegate the Saw family to car building.


Man, I sure like all of your helpers!

Great stuff.

Thanks. Posing them helps me slow down, think about the problem, and visualize an answer. Because they have to work and live in the world of the Triple O, this usually means answers that are also more in scale and visually appealing.



A little black paint and a little drybrushing with various shades of grey…

…and I think we are on our way! With luck, this weekend I’ll be able to get the strip wood I need to frame the doors and windows and a cutting tool to shape the HardieBacker subroof.


I had no idea… Up in Smoke: The Rise and Fall of Kona’s Tobacco Industry — Kona Historical Society

I already read that when I was looking for a good picture of a Hawaiian tobacco drying barn. I figured you knew about it?

Nope. Hawaii island may as well be a different state. The land mass there is so much larger relative to the other islands, that it has a unique agricultural history all its own. Interestingly, the Hawaii Consolidated Railroad Company on that island proved relatively short-lived in contrast to the OR&L and doesn’t seem to have the same legacy in people’s memory.

Back on topic. AI first had to figure out how turn HardieBacker scraps into sub-roofs, I visited a big-box store to find something that would turn my drill into a HardieBacker cutter. No joy. Likewise, I didn’t see an obvious blade for my nemesis, Sabre Saw. I did, however, find some nice pre-cut poplar strips that will become shoddy, badly cut window and door frames in short order. Sunday, between Easter Services and Easter dinner, I tried scoring and snapping. That didn’t work. I must not have scored it deep enough at the edges for clean break. I verified I still had enough useable material on hand and proceeded to rummage through my collection of nearly worn out Dremel doo-dads (The Triple O wastes nothing!). A cutting disk proved decent at removing small chunks, but the Dremel proved to awkward a device for actual long cuts. I had a beverage that prompted a memory of one of those “as seen on TV cuts anything pruning saws” lurking in the shed. Beverage done, saw located, and cuts completed. Both slabs await their exterior latex paint.

Updates as progress merits!



I got the sub-roof painted in exterior latex in between bouts of overseeing the boys’ other projects (a rocket rehabilitation and the submarine). I thought about starting to cut the window and door sills, but opted for beverage drinking and train watching instead. I thought I had pictures of the train running. Nope.

Tomorrow is packed, so I imagine those sills will wait until later this week if not next weekend.