How To Properly Install Vinyl Siding (Step By Step)
Whether you’re ambitious, stubborn, or a combination of the two, we commend you for wanting to take on a big project like installing your own siding! We’ll be upfront with you— this project isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s a huge undertaking, and you should definitely work with at least one other person.
Installing your own vinyl siding requires a lot of:
- Patience 😇
- Technique 📐
- Math ➗
If you’ve never installed siding before, you should definitely consider hiring a professional instead. The price difference won’t be much in the long run, especially since you’ll be dealing with a lot of expensive repairs if anything goes wrong in your initial DIY installation.
If we haven’t scared you away yet, we’ll reward your curiosity with a step-by-step guide on how to install vinyl siding.
Step 1: Gather Your Tools and Materials ⚒️
It’s highly likely that you won’t have all these tools in your regular toolbox, so you’ll need to purchase or rent them from your local hardware store. For this project, you’ll need:
- Measuring tape
- Folding ruler
- Metal square
- Claw hammer
- Tin snips
- Zip tool
- Chalk line
- Utility knife
- Power saw
- Pry bar
For the materials themselves, you’ll need:
- J-channel flashing
- Enough vinyl siding
- Building paper
- Appropriate nails
- Vinyl trim for windows and doors
Step 2: Measure Your Home and Order Siding 📏
Use the tape measure to measure the length of your exterior walls from the eaves to the bottom of the existing siding. Divide the length of each wall by 8 inches, which is the width of a vinyl siding panel. Ideally, you’ll end up with a whole number, which means you won’t have to cut pieces to size.
But if the result was not a whole number, you’ll need to cut the final piece of siding to fit in the remaining space.
Step 3: Prepare the Outside of Your Home 🧹
You’ll need to have a clean slate to work with before installing the new siding. Start by removing fixtures like:
- Exterior lights
- House numbering
Tie back trees and cover flowers and bushes so that they don’t get damaged during the process.
Remove all of the old siding by breaking the seal with a zip tool and removing the nails or screws. Scrape away old caulk around windows and doors. Make sure the plywood sheathing underneath isn’t rotten. If it is, you will also need to replace it.
Then, install a layer of roofing felt over the plywood. (This acts as a moisture barrier.)
Step 4: Go Over the Best Installation Practices 📖
There is a lot of technique and skill that goes into vinyl siding installations. Before starting the installation, you’ll need to familiarize yourself with the practices around nailing and fitting.
- Vinyl siding expands and contracts when the temperature changes. You need to allow an extra 1/4 inch between panels to prevent the siding from buckling.
- Leave 1/16 of an inch between the nail head and siding when you drive the nails in to allow for movement.
- Center every nail in the correct spot, and drive them in straight so they don’t lay crooked.
Step 5: Install Siding on the Soffits and Fascia 🔨
Ready to start installing siding? You’ll start with the soffits and fascia.
Start by nailing J-channels under the fascia along the inner edge. J-channels are specifically used for corners and edges to secure vinyl siding, create a watertight seal, and make for a clean look.
As we mentioned earlier, it’s important to screw the nails in perfectly center and leave 1/16 inch of space between the nail head and J-channel. If your soffit wraps around a corner, you’ll need to install two J-channels diagonally where the corners of the house and roof meet.
Next, cut the siding for the soffit area. Cut them length-wise to fit the area, and keep them 1/4 inch shorter than the actual length of the soffit so that the panels can expand and contract.
Push the panels into the J-channel. They should snap into the lip of the channels. After the soffit pieces are in place, slide the fascia siding under the gutter apron. Secure the top edge of these pieces with nails.
When this portion is done, you can reattach your gutters.
Step 6: Cut the Siding for the Main Walls 🪚
Remember the measurements you pulled before you ordered your siding? You’ll need to refer to those again. If you have any excess siding, you’ll need to cut it to size with a saw.
Step 7: Prep the Starter Strip and Around Windows and Doors 🚪
Decide where you want the siding to begin, then install a starter strip. Drive a nail through your chosen starting height and snap a chalk line around the entire perimeter of your house.
Then, nail a piece of plywood about 3.5 inches thick along the top of the chalk line to hold out the bottom of the first siding row. Attach the starter strip to the plywood, and remember not to nail it too tightly.
Next, install the corner posts. Place 1/2 inch foam sheathing strips on both sides of each corner of your house, then attach the corner siding pieces to the strips. Be sure these pieces are perfectly straight before nailing them in from top to bottom.
Lastly, install J-channels around each side of your windows and doors. Place them securely against the casing and nail them to the wall. (As always, leave 1/16 each to allow for movement.)
Step 8: Install the Wall Siding 👷
Now for the main course! Using your starter strip as a guide, start at the bottom of the wall and work your way up. Use a level to ensure each piece is straight. Apply any necessary insulation to the walls as you go.
Make sure each panel is cut so that it ends 1/4 inch away from the vertical trim pieces.
As you work, make sure to hook the bottom lip of each panel under the starting strip below it. Secure the panels with nails every 16 inches. Overlap panels length-wise by about 1 inch.
Step 9: Install the Vinyl Siding Around Windows 🪟
When working around a window, you’ll need to cut sections out of the panel to fit strategically like a puzzle piece. You can simply hold the siding up where it would lay, then mark the points you’ll need to cut out with a pencil. Make the necessary vertical cuts with a saw and horizontal cuts with a utility knife, then snap out the piece.
Install this “puzzle piece” around the window as you have the other siding pieces.
Step 10: Secure the Top Row 🏠
After many hours and days of hard work, you’ll reach the point where it’s time to install the top and final row of siding. You’ll need to measure and cut the top row to fit.
Measure the distance between the top of the under-sill trim and the lock on the next panel down. Then subtract 1/4 inch from that number.
Cut the siding panel to the appropriate measurements, and remove the nailing strip in the process. Use a snap-lock punch tool to punch out raised notches from the back of the panel. Slot the bottom edge of the panel into the panel below and slide the top edge underneath the under-sill trim. The notches will catch onto the trim and hold the panel in place without needing nails.
Changing Your Mind? Call ARCH Instead!
We weren’t kidding when we told you this project isn’t for the faint of heart! A professional siding replacement can take up to a week— and that’s with highly trained crews. Attempting a siding replacement by yourself is incredibly difficult, especially if you’ve never done it before.
If you’re not feeling as confident after reading this guide, don’t worry. There’s a reason most people rely on professional siding contractors! You can simply call ARCH Exteriors to set up a consultation. Our skilled team will handle your siding replacement with the best materials, warranties, and workmanship you can find— saving you money in the long run.