5 tips for DIY vinyl siding installation

The advantages of vinyl make it among the most popular home cladding products in North America today. It is made from PVC, or polyvinyl chloride, which is molded to resemble natural wood planks. The result is attractive, durable and requires very little maintenance. The price is nice, as well: Vinyl siding generally costs less than natural wood siding and comparable products.

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One way to lower vinyl siding cost even more is to do the job yourself. The materials are easy to work with and you probably have most of the tools you need. The main requirements are the time to do the job, the ability to follow directions and careful attention to detail. Refer to the Vinyl Siding Institute's installation guide for complete instructions.

To break it down to something simpler, keep these five essentials in mind for DIY-siding installation:

  1. Prep the walls: The finished project will only be as smooth as the underlying structure. Walls must be solid enough to support the planks and smooth enough to avoid ripples or bulges. Make sure to remove any obstructions, such as downspouts or exterior lights, and caulk around the windows and doors. Install furring strips, as needed, to bring the walls out to a consistent thickness.

  2. Keep moisture out: Use Tyvek or a similar vapor barrier on the walls before installing the siding. The PVC boards do not act as a water barrier, so a non-permeable barrier is needed to avoid moisture damage.

  3. Stay on the level: Few things look worse than siding in which one end is higher than the other. Make sure your starter strip is level with the horizontal lines of the house, especially the windows, and recheck your work frequently.

  4. Give it room: Vinyl siding is designed to expand and contract as the temperature changes. Try to leave 1/4-inch clearance at all openings and stops. Increase these expansion gaps to 3/8 inch, if the outside temperature is below 40 degrees (F) during installation.

  5. Hang loose: Boards need to hang loose on their fasteners to allow for expansion and contraction. Although nails are often used, don't make the mistake of nailing through the board itself. Instead, you want to drive the nail straight through the middle of the nailing slot, while allowing about a 1/32-inch clearance between the nail head and nailing hem. Check your work by moving the panel by hand. It should slide freely in both directions.

By following these tips, and the more detailed instructions in the installation manual, you can save money while improving the look of your home.

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