Vinyl is one of the most popular maintenance-free siding
materials for new construction. It's also one of the most
manageable siding materials for do-it-yourselfers to install.
Large home centers carry several styles and colors and most of
the trim, accessories, and tools you'll need. Even more styles
and colors are available at specialized building material
It's not hard to learn the steps for installing vinyl siding.
The biggest challenges for do-it-yourselfers planning the
layout and installing the proper trim for each area.
Choosing Vinyl Siding
The thickness, or gauge, of the vinyl is the key to its
durability and cost. The thicker the vinyl is, the longer it
lasts, the better it withstands damage, and the more stable it
is. Of course, the thicker the vinyl is, the more it costs. The
siding sold in most home centers is .040"-.045" thick. Premium
brands are available up to .055" thick.
Since vinyl siding is intended to imitate wood lap siding, it
is available in several profiles. Most common is a piece that
imitates two courses of wood siding, with an exposure of four
or five inches each. These are called D4 or D5 (the "D" stands
for "double"). A variation is a "Dutch Lap" style (D5DL) which
has the shape of a traditional dutch lap wood siding. A profile
with three courses of 3-inch siding (T3) is also common.
Vinyl generally comes in a range of light to medium colors.
Darker colors tend to fade and are generally not available.
Preparing the House for Siding
On new construction, siding is installed over the wall
sheathing. On older homes, vinyl can sometimes be installed
over the home's current siding. Keeping in mind that vinyl
needs to be nailed into solid wood, so if the home has aluminum
siding or older vinyl siding, these will probably have to be
removed. Going over existing wood siding or stucco is possible,
although, it's sometimes necessary to install vertical furring
If you tear off the old siding and apply new siding directly
over the wall sheathing, you can improve an existing home's
insulation and weatherization before you re-side. Fiberglass,
cellulose, or foam insulation can be blown or injected into the
wall cavities. House wrap or sheets of foam insulation can be
applied over the sheathing.
House wrap is typically used on new construction. It seals a
house against air infiltration but still allows the walls to
breathe. It cuts down on drafts and air leaks, but it doesn't
trap moisture inside the walls. House wrap comes in large rolls
and is stapled to the sheathing prior to installing the windows
or doors. The seams are sealed with a special tape.
For existing homes, a common technique for preparing the wall
surface for siding is to apply a thin layer of fan-fold foam
insulation. The foam used is typically from 1/4" to 3/8" thick
and comes in sheets that are 4 feet high and 50 feet long. The
foam adds an tiny amount of insulation (not much more than
R-1). It's really there to help even out an irregular surface
so that the siding will lie more flat. It also adds some degree
of protection against air infiltration (but not as much as
out a Vinyl Siding Project
There are certain guidelines for the layout of a siding job,
whether it's vinyl, wood or any other horizontal siding
The rows, or courses, should line up all the way around the
house, around every corner.
The courses of siding should be level. However, if the house
has settled or there are parts of the house that that aren't
perfectly level (such as soffits), it might be better have
the siding be parallel to the house (even if this means the
siding won't be perfectly level.)
Try to avoid having thin pieces of siding under windows,
doors or soffits.
Houses that change levels—such as walk-outs or
split-levels—pose particular layout challenges. If you start
with a full course along the bottom in one area, as the level
changes up or down you may end up with less than a full course
along the bottom in other areas. In this case, you'll want to
pick the most prominent, visible area of the house and start
with a full course there, and let the cuts fall where they may
in other areas.
Cutting Vinyl Siding
of the beauties of vinyl siding is that you can cut it with
inexpensive hand tools. Large-bladed tin snips can be used to
cut the pieces of siding to length. Smaller aviation snips are
best for cutting trim pieces to precise lengths and shapes.
That's not to say that there aren't power tools for the job,
too. A standard circular saw fitted with a fine-toothed plywood
cutting blade will cut vinyl cleanly and quickly. (It works
best to put the blade in the saw backwards.) Professional
siding contractors usually have a power miter saw on a large
stand to make cutting go faster. Amateurs can build something
similar on top of a sheet of plywood or OSB with some scrap
1-by and 2-by (as seen in the image on the right).
Long, horizontal cuts in vinyl are made by scoring the cut with
a utility knife and bending the piece back and forth until it
breaks along the score mark.
Nailing Vinyl Siding
Vinyl expands and contracts with changes in temperature, so how
the vinyl is secured to the house is important. It can't be
secured firmly—it has to be able to move. So you don't really
attach the vinyl to the house—essentially, you hang it.
You generally need galvanized roofing nails, at least 1 ¼" long
(or long enough to penetrate ¾" into solid wood studs.
All vinyl siding and accessories come with slots to nail
through. When you nail, you don't drive the nail tight. Some
manuals specify that there should be a 1/32" between the head
of the nail and the siding, but there's no need to check each
nail with a micrometer. If, after you've nailed it, the piece
of vinyl will slide back and forth, then you're OK. If not,
you've pinned it too tight to the house.