How to Install Vinyl Siding

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Remove things that would get in the way of your work.

While most people hire contractors for the job, knowing how to install vinyl siding can be an important skill for the homeowner. This ability allows you to not only install your own siding if you wish, but also to do any repairs that may need to be done on your vinyl siding, which will save you money.

Prepare Carefully

The first thing you that must be done before installing vinyl siding is to check with your city and county for building codes, inspections, permits and other things that you may need before starting the job. Get all of these in order and display the permits prominently as you work on your home.

Next, take a notepad and a pencil and estimate the area of your home that needs to have siding installed. This is not difficult, just be sure to measure carefully and accurately and write all the measurements down. Use a calculator to do the math. Even a small mistake at this point could cost you money.

Tools Needed

  • Vinyl siding
  • Inside corner posts
  • Under-sill trim
  • Chalk line
  • Utility knife
  • Tin snips
  • Line level
  • Hacksaw
  • Circular saw
  • Fine-toothed blades
  • Unlocking tool
  • Ladder
  • Felt-tip marker
  • Sawhorses
  • J-channel
  • Outside corner posts
  • Hammer
  • Steel tape measure
  • Straightedge
  • Level
  • Galvanized roofing nails
  • Nail hole punch
  • Snap-lock punch
  • Carpenter's square
  • Mason's line

How to Install Vinyl Siding with Confidence

Doing any home improvement project can be daunting, but take it one step at a time and you will soon be looking proudly at your finished work.

  1. First, get anything that will interfere with the siding installation out of your way. Remove light fixtures, downspouts, shutters, and anything attached to the house below the roof such as numbers or décor. Move tree branches and bushes away from the work area and tie them back if possible. Scrape old caulking out of the junctions between the old siding and windows and doors so that the vinyl accessories will fit tightly.
  2. If the walls are uneven, nail 1x3 furring strips 16 inches on center from the foundation of the house up to the eaves. Nail furring strips around the doors and windows, too. Use shims on low spots so that you will have a flat surface to work with.
  3. Use a mason's line and line level to find the lowest corner of the house. Measure up from that corner the distance specified by the manufacturer of the vinyl siding you are using and snap a level chalk line all the way around the house at that height.
  4. The chalk line will be the guide for the starter strip. Nail the starter strip around the bottom of the building, following the chalk line. Leave a quarter inch between the ends of the starter strips when two pieces butt together.
  5. Install the inside and outside corner posts. Always leave a quarter inch gap at the eaves. The post should extend below the bottom of the old siding by a quarter inch.
  6. Install J-channel on the sides and across the tops of all of the doors and windows. In each corner, put a notch in the J-channel to provide a drip edge. Now install the J-channel along the sloped eaves at all gable end walls. Nail the under-sill trim under all windows and along the horizontal eaves.
  7. Staggering the joints four feet apart, install the siding panels. Always work from the starter strip up. The panels will need to be overlapped one inch at each joint. This overlap should be situated away from the high-traffic areas, especially entrances. This will minimize the visibility of the overlap areas. Remember to leave a quarter-inch clearance wherever the panel ends butt into a J-channel or corner post. Stop and check your work often, at least ever fifth course. Make sure that the run is level and that the panels hang loose.
  8. Panels must be notched to fit under windows. First mark the section that needs to be cut out. Cut from the top, on both sides of the notched area, with tin snips. Now score the panel horizontally with a utility knife and snap it apart. Dimple the cut edge 16 inches on center with the snap-lock punch (make sure the lugs are on the outside of the panel), and push the siding panel into place.
  9. When you come to the horizontal eaves, cut the panel to width with a circular saw fitted with a fine-tooth blade. Punch the cut edge 16 inches on center with the snap-lock punch, and push the panel into place.

For best results follow these five rules:

  • Nail in the center of the slot, allowing the piece to move in both directions.
  • Drive nails straight and leave about one sixteenth of an inch in space between the head of the nail and the panel.
  • Never nail through the vinyl itself. If the slot has been removed and an under-sill trim can't be used, use a nail-hole punch to create a slot.
  • Leave a quarter-inch clearance at the ends of panels where they butt into J-channels or corner posts and at the ends of corner posts where they butt up against the eaves. Leave three -eights of an inch if you're installing when the temperature is below freezing.
  • Don't pull the siding panels up tight when you're installing them. Once they are locked, they should be allowed to hang loose.
  • PVC expands and contracts more than other materials. Keep it loose so it has room to move.

For more detailed information on how to install vinyl siding, these resources may be helpful:

Money in Your Pocket

Siding adds value to your home, as well as helping to insulate it from weather extremes. Learning how to install vinyl siding, and then doing it, is a time-consuming project. By doing the work yourself you can save a lot of money as well as enjoy the feeling of accomplishment when you are finished.

How to Install Vinyl Siding