Vinyl Siding Installation Best Practices & Guide
A Guide to Installing or Repairing Vinyl Siding
Some may cringe at the idea of installing vinyl siding on a home. Others may even say that vinyl siding looks cheap and lowers home value. But no one can deny vinyl siding as an economical siding option.
By design, its easy snap-together assembly provides a waterproof barrier for various wall sheathing and underlayment. Vinyl is also light and relatively easy to cut, making installation a viable DIY project. Vinyl siding kits also help simplify the process by providing all the materials needed for proper installation.
Whether you are thinking about having a siding company install your siding or considering doing it yourself, you will undoubtedly get something out of this article. Follow us as we continue our comprehensive dive into the world of vinyl siding installation!
With every project, there are tools required to do the job. Before installing vinyl siding, here are a few tools you’ll need to start.
- Scaffolding/ Pump Jacks/ Ladders
- Miter Saw (with vinyl cutting blade 60 – 80 tooth.)
- Galvanized or Stainless-Steel Nails
- Carpenter’s Square
- Snap Lock Punch
- Nail Hole Punch
- Aviation Snips
- Metal Shears
- Utility Knife
- Zip Tool (helps to unlock vinyl siding)
Understanding Vinyl Siding Transitional Pieces Functionality
Ensuring you have all the pieces and parts inside your siding installation kit is often an afterthought. And naturally, you will not know what to look for if you lack experience.
Here are the most important components to expect within any comprehensive kit.
1) Inside & outside corner pieces provide a finished and unnoticeable transition. Outer corners act as corner boards, while inside corners are slightly less wide.
2) Once mounted, vinyl siding panels will cover all nail slots, and the inside channels overlap the cut edges of the vinyl siding panels.
3) Starter strips initiate and ensure level siding installations. Once the starter strip is leveled and installed, it provides the first butt lock to snap into.
Tip: Always install vinyl siding panels from bottom to top, starting from the rear of the home.
4) J-channel allows the siding to butt against windows, doors, and utility boxes. Similar to corner braces, these pieces provide a concealing channel for siding to transition smoothly.
5) A drip cap is installed at the junction above a window or door. In its essence, a drip cap is necessary to divert water to the outside wall, preventing water from seeping behind the siding.
Tip: J-channel can also be used if the drip cap is not included within the kit.
6) Use undersills when cutting Vinyl siding panels to fit the undersides of windows, soffits, and fascia.
Preliminary Measuring & Calculating Vinyl Siding Materials
Now that you understand standard vinyl siding transition pieces, the next step, determining how much material you need, is of the most importance.
Before starting, it’s necessary to measure and calculate the total wall square footage. Each 10×10 area or 100 square feet equals a single square. So, for example, 3800 total square feet equals 38 squares.
Take inventory of your materials and make sure you have enough materials to cover the entire area. Most siding manufacturers like Plygem specify the total coverage for each box of siding. So determining the sum of boxes needed should be easy to compute.
Pro Tips to Consider Before Installing Vinyl Siding
Here are a few tips to consider removing before starting.
- Consider removing address numbers, hand railings, dryer vent exhaust covers, and exterior lights for complete installations.
- You will need to remove the gutters when installing fascia or soffits.
- Not all kits include soffit and fascia. (They will have to be purchased separately.)
- Consider and remember to bring all materials needed when working on high ground.
- Cutting around obstructions requires several cutting tools.
Installing Wall Sheathing & Flashing (Step 1)
Installing vinyl siding directly over studs containing no wall sheathing will cause the siding to be uneven. Vinyl siding is pliable and must be fastened in multiple locations to make it lay flat. Wall sheathing such as OSB is cost-effective and allows the Vinyl to be secured on areas other than studs.
Foam sheathing has efficiency benefits but doesn’t hold nails very well. Consequently, nails will back out under fluctuating temperatures due to a lack of nail-holding power. You will also need to purchase longer nails to drive through the thicker foam material, making sure the nail is deeply anchored into each stud.
Install flashing around all obstructions, such as windows, doors, attic dormers, and gables. Caulking gaps is also critical to ensure there are no future leaks. Since vinyl does not rot, if there ever were a leak, it would likely go undetected long enough to cause structural damage.
Installing Kickout Flashing (Step 2)
Install kickout flashing at the end of any roofline to prevent transitioning water from seeping behind the siding.
It’s crucial to leave the flashing loose, so the siding can be placed behind it. After the siding is installed, add the final nails to attach the flashing. Doing so will ensure the kick-out flashing is secure and remains in place.
Installing Inside & Outside Corners (Step 3)
Installing the initial siding pieces to your home begins with inside and outside corner braces, also known as a corner posts. Remember to cap the top and bottom of your corner posts, closing any access points to prevent unwanted entry.
Be mindful to center nails into the nail slots. Increased nail slot tolerances allow more room to center the nail within each slot. Nail hold punches are ideal for extending nail slots, making it easier to center nails in precarious areas.
Tip: The most useful advice is not to drive nails completely in. Vinyl expands and contracts. Allowing slight movement prevents the siding from warping and buckling.
Installing J-Channel (Step 4)
J-channel is installed directly over flashed obstructions such as doors and windows. Although, a drip cap is recommended above windows.
When cutting the j-channel, think of it as a trim enhancement. Therefore, cutting the corners at a 45-degree angle will look better than butt joints.
When using j-channels instead of drip caps, measure the total width of the window and include the width of the j-channel. This way, it is calculated to make sure the j-channel acting as a drip cap overlaps the vertical j-channels.
Also, don’t forget to cut a flap where the channels overlap. Otherwise, water is prone to trap at those junctions.
Tip: To prevent water from collecting, we recommend drilling weep holes in the bottom j-channel every 18 – 24 inches.
Installing J-Channels Around Dormers
When installing panels alongside gabled dormers, ensure the J-channel is open at the lower ends. Doing so will completely mitigate water from getting trapped, pooling, and ultimately causing a leak.
Installing J-Channel Under Soffit & Fascia
Whether your soffit is vented or non-vented, both versions contain nail slots. Don’t worry if the holes are visible – the trim will cover them up.
There is also a simple fix to prevent awkward angles when attaching soffits around the corners of a hip roof. Here are the steps.
- Attach two j-channels back-to-back at the same diagonal cut where the corner joists meet.
- Cut your soffits at the same angle to tuck into those -Channels.
- Last, attach all j-channels under your soffits to conceal the top edges of the last pieces of siding.
Attaching Starter Strips & Undersill (Step 5)
Installing starter strips is where your leveling skills will need to be accurate. Also, choosing a wider starter strip will provide a standard minimum one-inch overlap for the foundation.
Think of starter strips as narrow siding panels that give the first actual row of siding something to lock inside. It also acts as a seal transitioning from the foundation to the siding.
Tip: Each panel will contain a buttlock to secure the next panel.
Cutting Vinyl Siding Panels To Size (Tip 1)
Here is a list of pointers to ensure accurate measurements paired with timely and quality cuts.
- Measure and remember the total length of the wall.
- When measuring, always include the area inside the lip of channels and corners.
- Add 1-2 inches to compensate for overlaps.
- Aviator snips are ideal for cutting around smaller obstructions such as hose bibbs or utilities.
- Metal shears require more skill time and often leave cuts out of square.
- We recommend using a miter saw. Be sure to use a vinyl cutting blade or a plywood blade turned backward.
- Another technique is using a speed square and scoring the siding with a utility knife.
Nail Tolerances to Prevent Warping & Buckling (Tip 2)
Not all instructions and tutorials include nail tolerance specifications, leaving vinyl siding fastening specifics ambiguous to inexperienced installers.
Here is a short nail fastening guideline list to prevent the siding from buckling.
- Leaving a 1/16 of an inch gap between the nail head and siding will prevent the vinyl siding from buckling. (The siding should be able to move laterally.)
- Leaving a 1/4-inch gap on each end where the vinyl siding terminates will allow the panel to expand and contract once mounted.
Channels will conceal the needed 1/4 gaps. However, larger tolerances could result in an exposed opening when the siding contracts.
Overlapping, Tolerances, & Reveal (Tip 3)
Most siding panels range from 10 -12 feet and consequently will not cover the entire distance of most walls. So, overlapping siding is part of the vinyl siding installation process.
When overlaps are cut and staggered correctly, they are hardly noticeable from moderate distances. Here are a few details that will make each piece of siding, including the inevitable overlaps, appear seamless.
- Use a zip lock tool to dislodge inadvertently installed siding.
- Also, make sure the siding lines up around corners, checking to ensure that the grooves and pattern of the siding are aligned.
- Alternate long and short cuts over one another for a staggered effect.
- Overlap at a minimum of 1 inch and never more than 2 inches. (We recommend a 1 1/2 overlap.)
Tip: An excessive overlap will constrict movement resulting in waviness or buckling.
The Final Stretch
Once the siding installation is complete, you can re-install all lighting, rails, house numbers, and whatever else was removed.
If you need to make any holes or punctures in the new siding, they must be sealed with premium exterior caulking. Did you know that vinyl is paintable if you use vinyl-safe paint?
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