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Installing Vinyl Siding

Re-siding your home may seem like a daunting task, but vinyl siding is easy to work with and install. This document covers general instructions for installing vinyl siding. Inside you will find:

  • Vinyl Siding
  • Estimating Vinyl Siding
  • Installing Vinyl Siding

VINYL SIDING

  • Keep in mind that there may be variations in both the product and the installation procedures from one manufacturer to another. Wherever these instructions differ from the manufacturer's, always follow the manufacturer's procedures.
  • Vinyl siding is made of PVC or polyvinyl chloride, similar to the same vinyl used in windows and gutter materials. Its primary advantage is that it needs very little maintenance.
  • Unlike wood sidings, vinyl siding is "pre-colored" during manufacture, so it requires no painting. Unlike steel and aluminum siding, the color is solid throughout, so scratches won't show.
  • Vinyl siding comes in horizontal panels that are embossed to look like wood lap siding and in vertical panels. Various trim pieces and accessories make installation simple:
  • Siding panels come in 12'-6" lengths, with a nailing flange along the top and a J-shaped interlocking flange at the bottom. The nailing flange has a lip so the bottom of each panel can be hooked into the top of the panel below it (see image above).
  • J-channel is used to trim out the ends of siding panels where they meet a door or window and to cover cut edges of panels around windows and under the eaves. It comes in 10' lengths (see image above).
  • Undersill or utility trim forms a tight loop (as opposed to J-channel, which is open). It is used wherever the nailing flange has been cut off a panel, usually under windows and eaves. The upper edge of the panel is dimpled with a special snaplock punch, so the panel can be snapped into the utility trim.
  • Inside and outside corner posts are used to cover the ends of the panels at corners (see image above).
  • Special tools you'll need are 1) a nail hole punch, for punching slots in cut panels; 2) a snaplock punch, for dimpling panels where they will be pressed into the utility trim and 3) an unlocking tool, for separating panels (see image).
  • The only tricky aspect of installing vinyl siding is that PVC expands and contracts more than other building materials. As a result, there are five rules that you must follow:
  • 1. When you nail panels or accessories, nail in the center of the slot to allow the piece to move in both directions.
  • 2. Never nail any piece tightly. Drive nails straight and leave about 1/16" space between the head of the nail and the panel. You should be able to slide the panels or accessories back and forth when nailed.
  • 3. Never nail through the vinyl itself. In situations where the slot has been removed and an undersill trim can't be used, use a special nail hole punch to create a slot.
  • 4. Leave 1/4" 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 3/8" if you're installing when the temperature is below freezing.
  • 5. Don't pull the siding panels up tight when you're installing them. Once they are locked, they should be allowed to hang loose.

ESTIMATING VINYL SIDING

  • To estimate the amount of siding and accessories you'll need to:
  • 1. Measure the perimeter (P) in feet around your house, then measure the height from the bottom of the siding to the eaves (EH). Multiply the perimeter by the height to find the main square footage (see image).
  • P x EH = Main SF
  • 2. Measure the height of each gable (GH) and the width of the gable wall at the eaves (GW). Multiply the gable height by the gable width and divide by two to find the square footage of each gable (see image).
  • (GW x GH) divided by 2 = Gable SF for each gable
  • 3. Add the main square footage to the total square footage of all gables.
  • Main SF + (Sum of all Gable SF) = Gross SF
  • 4. Measure the height (OH) and width (OW) of all major openings-garage doors, patio doors and large windows. Multiply the height by the width to find the square footage of each, then subtract from the gross square footage to find the net square footage.
  • OH x OW = Opening SF for each opening
  • Gross SF - (Sum of all Opening SF) = Net SF
  • 5. Divide the net square footage by 100 to find the number of squares of siding you'll need.
  • Net SF divided by 100 = # of squares
  • 6. Count the number of outside corners and find the length of each. Total the linear feet of outside corners and divide by 10 to find the number of outside corners. Repeat the process for the inside corners.
  • 7. Divide the perimeter by the length of each starter strip to find the number of lengths you'll need.
  • 8. Measure the perimeter linear feet around all doors and windows and the sloped length of all gables. Total the linear feet and divide by the length of each J-channel to find the number of lengths you'll need.
  • 9. Measure the width of all windows and the length of all eaves. Divide by the length of each utility trim to find the number of lengths you'll need.

INSTALLING VINYL SIDING

  • First, tie back branches from shrubs, trees, etc., away from the house so you'll have room to work. Remove anything that will interfere with the siding installation, such as lighting fixtures, downspouts, shutters, etc. Scrape old caulking out of the junctions between the old siding and windows, doors, etc., so vinyl accessories will fit better.
  • If the walls are uneven (for example, you are covering lap siding), nail 1x3 furring strips 16" on center from the foundation to the eaves. Also nail furring strips around all doors and windows. Shim out any low spots so you have a flat surface to work with.
  • 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 and snap a level chalk line all around the house.
  • Using the chalk line as a guide, nail starter strip all around the bottom of the building. Leave 1/4" between the ends wherever two pieces butt together (see image above).
  • Install the inside and outside corner posts. Leave a 1/4" gap at the eaves and let the post extend below the bottom of the old siding 1/4".
  • Install J-channel on the sides and then across the tops of all doors and windows. Notch the J-channel to provide a drip edge at the corners (see image). Then install J-channel along the sloped eaves at all gable end walls.
  • Nail undersill trim under all windows and along all horizontal eaves.
  • Install the siding panels, working from the starter strip up. Stagger the joints 4' apart.
  • Overlap the panels 1" at each joint with the overlap away from entrances or high traffic areas to minimize visibility (see image below). Leave 1/4" clearance wherever the ends of panels butt into J-channel or corner posts.
  
  • Check every fifth or sixth course to make sure the run is level and don't force the panels up against the previous row. The panels should hang loose.
  • To notch a panel where it will fit under a window, first mark the section you'll be cutting out. Cut from the top of the panel with a tin snip, then score the panel horizontally with a utility knife and snap it apart.
  • Dimple the cut edge 16" on center with the snaplock punch (make sure the lugs are on the outside of the panel), then push the siding panel into place.
  • At the horizontal eaves, rip the panel to width with a circular saw (use a fine-toothed blade). Punch the cut edge 16" on center with the snaplock punch, then push the panel into place.

Information and illustrations for this brochure were taken from "Rigid Vinyl Siding Application" by the Vinyl Siding Institute.

  
TOOL AND MATERIAL CHECKLIST
Vinyl SidingJ-Channel
Inside Corner PostsOutside Corner Posts
Undersill TrimHammer
Chalk LineSteel Tape Measure
Utility KnifeStraightedge
Tin SnipsLevel
Line LevelCircular Saw
Fine-Toothed BladesGalvanized Roofing Nails
Snaplock PunchNail Hole Punch
Unlocking ToolHacksaw
LadderCarpenter's Square
Felt Tip PenMason's Line
Sawhorses 

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Check your state and local codes before starting any project. Follow all safety precautions. Information in this document has been furnished by the North American Retail Hardware Association (NRHA) and associated contributors. Every effort has been made to ensure accuracy and safety. Neither NRHA, any contributor nor the retailer can be held responsible for damages or injuries resulting from the use of the information in this document.

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