Install Siding Like a Pro

This vinyl siding job is not good. When water gets behind the siding, it will leak into the house and cause wood rot.
This vinyl siding job is not good. When water gets behind the siding, it will leak into the house and cause wood rot. (By Tim Carter -- Tribune Media Services)
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By Tim Carter
Saturday, November 8, 2008

Q: DEAR TIM: What can you tell me about installing vinyl siding? I like its no-maintenance aspect, and it looks easy to install. What instructions can you share? What tools will I need to get professional results on my one-story house? -- Patty S., Scranton, Pa.

A: DEAR PATTY: Installing vinyl siding is not hard, but there are tricks that will help you get professional results. This is a task that a determined homeowner can tackle if he or she can follow directions closely, pay attention to details and think ahead. If you had told me that you had a two-story home, I probably would have advised you to hire installers.

The best way to see if you're up to the challenge of installing vinyl siding is to start the job on the side of your home that has the fewest windows, doors and attachments to the existing siding. These will be obstacles to installation.

Before you buy your siding, look at manufacturers' Web sites to see if you can find downloadable installation manuals. Some sites have them, and they're often excellent. You quickly will discover what the basic components are and how they're used to make, for example, inside and outside corners, as well as how trim pieces are used around doors and windows.

You must take into account how vinyl siding expands and contracts. It really expands as the sun heats it. If you cut pieces too tight, or if you nail pieces of vinyl siding too tightly to a wall, it will buckle and look horrible. Vinyl siding needs to float on a wall.

My guess is that every time you have pounded a nail with a hammer, you have driven the nail tightly. Don't ever do that with vinyl siding.

You would be surprised by the specialized tools in a professional siding installer's tool belt and truck. Some punch slots and notches in siding, which are needed to interlock the siding in special trim pieces. You may discover a circular saw that has its blade on backward. Some installers cut vinyl siding this way, since it doesn't chew up the siding. Laser levels, ladders, standoff scaffolding and so forth are all nice to have as well.

There are some issues that you may want to consider before you start. Some jobs incorporate aluminum coil stock to cover parts of the house that are flat, painted pieces of wood. Examples of these might be fascia boards, gutter boards and wood molding around windows and doors. If your house has these, you are adding a layer of complexity to the job. You need special skills and a metal-bending brake to work with the aluminum coil stock. You can find the tools where vinyl siding and aluminum coil stock are sold.

You should also consider upgrading your exterior insulation, air infiltration and weather barriers. To get the best results for all this effort, it may be best to remove your existing siding before installing the vinyl. This allows you to add the needed components and not ruin the look of your home by burying the windows and doors. It's not unusual to see houses where vinyl siding has been installed over existing siding. The doors and windows appear to be unnaturally deep in the walls.

One last suggestion would be to get on-the-job training. There are many great organizations that build homes for those in need. Perhaps one of these is active in your community. These houses often have vinyl siding exteriors. Perhaps you can volunteer to help build a house and ask to be on the exterior crew doing the siding.

Tim Carter can be contacted via his Web site,

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