How to Install Vinyl Siding

Vinyl siding has become one of the most popular home siding materials in North America.

Understanding Vinyl Siding

New homebuilders like it for its appearance, convenience, low cost and potential energy savings. Existing home owners like vinyl replacement siding for all those reason, plus it gives their homes a modern updated appearance, eliminates the need for house painting, and a relatively handy homeowner can install vinyl siding themselves or with the help of a couple of friends.

Installing vinyl siding isn't just a matter of fastening panels onto your exterior walls. Since vinyl will expand in the heat and contract in the cold, the siding installation needs to be able to handle the changes, yet still look good. So a vinyl siding installation requires not only the siding panels themselves, but a number of trim pieces specially designed to help hold the siding in place, cover up the ends of the siding courses (rows) and allow room for the panels to expand and contract. Standard trim pieces are starter strips, inside corners, outside corners and J-channels.

Prepare to Install

Ensure the existing surface is smooth and in good repair. This is the time to replace old caulking and replace and repair any damaged or rotting wood.

Consider installing extra insulation under the vinyl siding. Foil backed insulation will provide a moisture barrier and increase the insulation value of your home while providing a smooth surface for the vinyl siding.

Installing furring strips will help hold the insulation in place as well as provide a solid nailing surface.

Trim Pieces Go on First

Installing vinyl siding requires all the trim pieces for a wall be installed before the walls are covered. Trim needs to be installed wherever vinyl siding comes in contact with something else (doors, windows, dryer vents, another wall).

Installation begins with the starter strip. This is the piece of vinyl siding that runs all around the house and holds the base of the first course of siding tightly to the walls.

Measure down for the top plate or soffit at each corner and snap a chalk line between the marks. Install the starter strip along the chalk line, nailing in the center of the nailing slots at 10-inch intervals. Leave a 1/4" gap between the ends of starter strip sections to allow for expansion.

Install J-channel around windows and doors to receive the vinyl siding courses. Install the bottom piece first and then the sides and finally the top. Miter the corners at a 45 degrees angle with the top piece overlapping the sides so moisture is directed away from the window.

Install inside corner posts and outside corner posts as necessary, following the walls.

Installing Siding Panels

The first panel (at the bottom) needs to be installed locked securely into the starter strip. Push the panel up until the interlock is engaged with the starter strip, and fasten it in place. Put nails every 16 inches (in the center of the nail slots).

Install the first course on the wall, and then work your way up the wall, installing panels by interlocking them to the course below.

Overlap horizontal panels by at least 1inch. Measure and cut horizontal panels so they will be at least 1/4" away from windows and corners. The ends will be tucked under the trim pieces and the gaps won't be noticeable.

Offset the ends of the siding pieces so that no two courses are aligned vertically. When overlapping siding pieces, ensure the factory finished edge is exposed.

Check every 5 or 6 courses to be sure you are installing the siding level.

Fastening Vinyl Siding

Leave a gap about the thickness of a dime between the nail head and the siding itself. Vinyl siding expands and contracts in heat and cold (that's why you are laving all the gaps), and if the nail heads are driven in tightly, the siding will buckle if it can't move.

Drive nails in straight (not on a downward angle). This prevents distortion of the panel.

Center the nails in the nailing slots to permit expansion and contraction.

Begin nailing in the center of a panel and work your way to the ends.

Things You Will Need

  • Knife, tin snips, framing square,
  • Hammer, level, tape measure, chalk line,
  • Circular saw with a plywood blade installed backwards utility
  • Specialized tools such as a nail slot punch, snaplock punch and a zip unlock tool
  • Ladders or portable scaffolding

Tips

  • Manufacturers of vinyl siding provide very detailed instructions on how to install their particular siding. Read and follow the manufacturer's directions when you are installing vinyl siding.
  • Vinyl siding available is generally .040" to .045" thick. Some premium products are available that are up to .055" thick. The thickness (or gauge) of the vinyl usually determines its durability but also affects its cost.
  • Vinyl siding is easy to cut. You can use tin snips or aviation snips to cut trim pieces and a hand saw or a circular saw using a fine tooth (plywood) blade with the blade installed backwards.
  • Keep in mind that vinyl siding is hung rather than nailed. Fastening siding too tightly will result in job that over time will warp and buckle.

Warnings

  • Always wear safety goggles when cutting vinyl siding.
  • Staging or scaffolding is much safer to work on than ladders.

About the Author

I learned home repair and maintenance hands on. Over the past 30 years I've built sheds, decks, fences and gates and planted numerous trees and shrubs. Inside I've done all the common jobs like repairing and installing toilets, plumbing and light fixtures plus I've transformed three basements from bare concrete floors and walls into warm , bright family rooms. I write on home maintenance and repair for DoItYourself.com and answer maintenance and repair questions online at MyHomeImprovement.com.