Home Improvement: How To Install Vinyl Siding

Step-by-step approach to installing vinyl paneling.

Vinyl siding is quickly becoming the material of choice for homeowners. When compared with other siding choices, such as brick or wood shingles, vinyl is cost-effective, easy to maintain and durable. These days, with advances in technology, vinyl siding can come in various textures. This makes it easier to get that "brick" or "wood" look, without the hassle and expense. Installing vinyl siding can easily be a do-it-yourself project. However, if you tackle a siding project, there are some things you need to know.

Before you start, make sure you store your siding in a dry place, on a level surface that supports the entire length and in an area that will not get too hot. You also need some basic equipment before you start. Apart from common hand and safety tools, you should have some specialized tools. A power saw is a quick and easy way to cut siding to the proper length. If you use a power saw, make sure you have a fine-tooth blade and position the blade in the "reverse" direction. This will give you a clean, safe cut. Use a utility knife to help score or trim areas that are not suitable for the power saw. Good quality "tin snips" will help shape portions of the siding. Use a "snaplock punch" to punch lugs in the siding for the top of a wall, or underneath a window. A "lug" is the portion of the siding used to lock the separate pieces together. A "nail hole slot punch" will increase the slot where the connectors belong. This allows for easier expansion and contraction. Finally, a "zip-lock" tool will remove a siding panel.

To start your project, you will need a "starter strip". A starter strip is similar to a base. It is applied direct to the surface of the building and used to secure the first layer, also called a course, of siding to the wall. Wherever you get your siding, ask about getting a starter strip.

There are many different kinds of fasteners you can use on siding. Nails, staples or screws are all acceptable. However, make sure aluminum, galvanized steel, or other corrosion-resistant material make up the fastener. The fasteners will be subject to the weather, and could easily rust if you do not use the proper material. Before getting started, it is important to review some basics about vinyl siding.

1) Installed panels must move freely from side to side.

2) When installing a siding panel, push up from the bottom until you can feel the panel lock with the piece below it.

3) Hammer nails or other fasteners in the center of the nailing slot. Also, secure them straight on. You don't want your fasteners to be at an angle.

4) Do not force the panels up or down when fastening in position.

5) Do not nail or staple on the siding. Vinyl siding expands and contracts with the temperature and nailing anywhere other then the nail slot can cause ripples in the siding.

6) You should leave 1/32 inch between the fastener head and the vinyl. This will allow the vinyl to move freely from side to side. This is important because vinyl siding will move as the temperature changes.

Before you start applying your siding, you need to take a couple of steps. Make sure there is sheathing on your wall. You do not want to apply siding direct to the studs of your house. Also, apply a moisture barrier to the sheathing. You probably have seen a house under construction, covered in "white paper". This is a moisture barrier. It keeps water from penetrating the sheathing. See your local building code for the exact sheathing requirements. Install code-compliant flashing around windows, doors and other openings. Also apply flashing to the inside and outside corners, and the intersection of walls and roofing as well. This will also prevent water from getting inside. The first step is to make sure your siding is level. This is where the starter strip comes in. Find the lowest point of the wall. From that point, measure up 1/4 inch, less than the width of the starter strip, and partially drive a nail in. That nail will serve as one point for your "chalk line". A chalk line is a piece of string which leaves a think line of chalk when snapped against the wall. Chalk lines serve as a guide. Make sure the chalk line is level and you will be ready to install your siding. Using the chalk line as a guide, install the top edge of the starter strip along the bottom of the chalk line. You should use a fastener every 10 inches. Also, keep the ends of the starter strips at least 1/4 inch apart to allow for expansion. Now it's time for the first course of panels. Place the panel along the starter strip and securely lock the panel along the entire length of the siding panel. Make sure the panel is securely locked before fastening. Do not drive the head tightly against the nail slot. Remember to leave 1/32nd of an inch for movement. Do not force the panels up or down when fastening. The panels should not be under vertical tension or compression when fastened. You can use your power saw and tin snips to trim the siding to an exact fit.

When you reach the end of your first course, it's time to start on the second course. Stagger the siding so no two courses are aligned vertically. Check every fifth or sixth course to make sure your panels are still straight. Also, check the siding alignment with the adjoining walls. You can apply special "corner strips" to make for a cleaner looking edge, so there is no need to worry about every panel being same length at the edge. These corner strips are applied over your panels. To fit your siding around windows, follow these steps. Hold the panel under the window and mark the width of the window opening on the panel. Add roughly 1/4th inch to both sides to allow for expansion. These are your vertical cut points. Lock a small piece of scrap siding into the lower panel next to the window. This is a template for the horizontal cuts. Mark it 1/4th inch below the sill height. Transfer the horizontal measurement to the panel. Keep in mind the measurements may not be the same on both sides of the window. Cut the panel with tin snips and a utility knife to size. Now your panel is ready for installation under the window.

With vinyl siding, you get all the advantages of many different siding looks without having to ever give up evenings and weekends to paint, scrape or stain. Plus, siding is durable so it resists dents and damage from hail and harsh weather. When you consider the long-term cost of painting the exterior of your home, vinyl siding makes sense. This is why vinyl siding is a popular choice for homebuilders and owners.

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