Installing Vinyl Siding

This project covers installing vinyl siding.


Vinyl siding cuts easily, goes up quickly, produces uniform reveals almost automatically, and needs minimal caulking and no painting. But don't take the job lightly: The walls must be well-prepared and the pieces installed correctly to prevent leaks and siding failure.

With vinyl siding, some moisture will seep behind the siding and must be allowed to escape at the bottom around weep holes, much like those in a brick wall. Seepage won't be a problem if you correctly install building wrap and flashings or if the underlying siding is in sound condition.

The higher the vinyl gauge -- that is, the thicker it is -- the better it will perform: 0.048-inch-thick vinyl is significantly stronger than 0.040-inch-thick vinyl. Vinyl siding does not need to be painted.

The basic rule is "hang loose." Because vinyl expands and contracts with changes in the weather, nails should not be driven fully tight, and pieces should be cut so there are 1/4-inch gaps between panels and trims.

Prestart Checklist

With a helper, 600 square feet per day

Hammer, miter saw or circular saw, tape measure, clamps, chalk line, drill, pry bar, square, level, story pole, caulking gun, utility knife, T-bevel, tin snips, staple gun, snap-lock punch tool

Measuring, laying out a job, cutting

Apply building wrap, trim, and flashings.

Siding, trim to match (inside and outside corner posts, J-channel, starter strip, window and door starters), flashing, stainless-steel or galvanized nails, caulk

Step 1

Apply building wrap and prepare the walls. Apply self-stick flashing to corners and around windows and doors and apply flashings as needed. If you live in a damp climate, consider using the rain-screen method. You may choose to install strips of felt at the studs. Snap chalk lines indicating the centers of all the studs. Use a story pole to determine where to start at the bottom; adjust the layout up or down as needed to avoid narrow slivers above or below windows and doors. (There is no need to mark for the courses; they are automatically determined when you snap the siding pieces together.) Mark the bottom of the layout all around the house if needed.

Step 2

Chalk a level line indicating the top of the starter strip. Align a strip about 3 inches short of the corners and drive nails into the centers of the slots. Drive the nails loosely (see Step 14). Where two strips abut, leave a 1/4-inch gap.

Step 3

Cut an outside corner post to run from 1/2 inch below the bottom of the starter strip to the eave or gable underhang. Hold the post 1/4 inch below the underhang (so it will be 3/4 inch below the starter strip) and loosely drive a nail at the top of the top slot. Slip the post flanges behind the starter strip flanges. Drive the other nails loosely (see Step 14) into the centers of slots.

Step 4

If the corner isn't long enough, cut the lower piece 1-1/2 inches longer than the distance to the bottom of the starter strip and make a splice: Cut 1 inch from the flanges of the lower piece and slide the lower piece under the upper piece by 3/4 inch. (This will leave a 1/4-inch gap in the flanges, and the post will hang 3/4 inch below the starter strip.)

Step 5

Install inside corner posts in a similar way, with a 1/4-inch gap at the top and hanging 3/4 inch below the starter strip.

Step 6

Install J-channels around a window with trim. (If the window has no trim, you may want to install wider casing.) Cut each sidepiece to the height of the window plus the width of the top and bottom channels. Cut the flange and back even with the trim.

Step 7

At the bottom end of each sidepiece, make a miter cut in the face of the channel. Nail the channels in place.

Step 8

Cut the top piece to the width of the window plus the side channels. Snip and bend the tabs to fit down into the sidepieces (next step) and miter-cut the faces at the corner.

Step 9

Install the top trim piece by slipping the bent tabs down into the side channels to provide a downward path for moisture. At each end, the miter-cut face of the top piece fits over the face of the sidepiece.

Step 10

Cut the bottom piece as shown so the sidepiece's tab can slip down into it. Install the bottom piece so its face is under the miter-cut face of the sidepiece.

Step 11

Install J-channels along the underside of a gable. Miter-cut only one of the faces and then slip it over the face of the other piece.

Step 12

To flash along a roof, snap a chalk line and install J-channel 1 inch above the shingles.

Step 13

Once all the trim pieces are in place, the siding panels can go up. Cut the panels to fit loosely, with 1/4-inch gaps at the trim pieces. Slip a panel into position, then push up firmly at the bottom until it snaps onto the lower piece's flange (or the starter strip). Keep pressing and slide your hand along the bottom to ensure that the joint is secure all along its length.

Step 14

Always take care to have a 1/32- to 1/8-inch gap (about the thickness of a dime) between the nailhead and the vinyl. You should be able to slide the strip side to side a bit.

Step 15

At a seam, overlap the panels by 1 inch. Cut back the flange of one piece if necessary to maintain at least a 1/4-inch gap between flanges.

Step 16

Shut off the water and remove a spigot. Use a drill with a hole saw or a utility knife to cut a hole that is 1/4 inch away from the pipe at all points. Caulk around the pipe and reinstall the spigot.

Step 17

Where you cannot remove an obstacle, use wraparound boxes. Install the box, cut a hole in the siding and attach it, and snap on the trim. Or make a seam joint at the obstruction and cut notches in the ends of each piece.

Step 18

Trim light fixtures and receptacles using snap-on utility boxes or custom-cut pieces of J-channel or other trim to fit.

Step 19

When marking for cutting around a window, allow a 1/4-inch gap between the panel and the J-channel or other trim. Holding the panel in place, mark the two sides, then measure for the depth of the cutout by determining how far the panel needs to come up so it can snap into place.

Step 20

Cut the notch and use a snap-lock punch tool to make a series of indentations. The indented flange can now snap into a channel, eliminating the need for nails. Install the flange.

Step 21

Slip the siding into the flange until the indentations along the notch are captured.

Step 22

Use a straight board or a siding panel to mark for cutting an angle along a roofline. You may have to cut a rough angle first for the panel to set close enough to the roof to mark the angle. Make the angle cut.

Step 23

Check the angle cut before cutting the panel to length. When you are satisfied with the cuts, snap the panel into the flange and slide it into the J-channel.

Step 24

To capture the angle for a gable, hold a board against a scrap piece as shown and scribe the angle. Measure for the length of the bottom edge of the panel and subtract 1/2 inch. You may need a helper to bend the panel into place.

Step 25

At the very top of a gable, you may need to drive one nail. Cover the nail with exterior caulk and paint the caulk to match the siding.

Step 26

Apply caulk only to the joints between channels and wood trim; do not seal the joints between the panels and vinyl trim.

Comments (6)
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