Most of the houses built in the United States have some form of siding as part of its exterior finish. Even brick and stone homes may have some siding installed along the sides and back, or above the roof line on 2-story exposures. Invariably some of this siding will get damaged by wind, tree branches, hail, or some other natural or manmade occurrence. With a few tools and a little know-how, you will be able to repair or replace damaged siding and save a lot money by doing it yourself.
All siding has a few elements in common; the panels or clapboards overlap, forming a weather-tight surface; they are installed from the bottom up; and they are fastened to the sheathing or framing using nails. There are a few differences in the installation, however. Wood siding is nailed along the bottom third of the clapboard being careful not to nail through the top edge of the underlying clapboard. The nails are spaced closer together than those in vinyl or aluminum siding, and needs to be installed over wood sheathing. The nails are usually stainless steel or galvanized ring shank nails that saw through the wood and prevent splitting. Aluminum and vinyl siding is usually fastened to the framing, the 2 by 4 studs, with galvanized roofing nails. Typically the nails are not driven in all the way, to leave room for expansion. The siding has nailing slots along the top edge which also has a groove that accepts the J- shaped channel on the bottom edge of the next piece of siding. Care must be taken when installing vinyl or aluminum siding; irregularities in the framing can be seen in the siding if firmly attached to the studs. Vinyl and aluminum siding also employ a starter strip, which is nailed at the bottom of the house into the sill plate. This siding also fits inside a J-channel that is installed along the windows and corner boards of the home to create a clean edge. The siding is cut about ¼ inch shorter to allow for expansion.
Replacing Vinyl Siding
All that is required to replace a damaged piece of vinyl siding is a hammer, a utility knife, square, 1 ½ inch galvanized roofing nails, sheet metal snips, a piece of new siding, and a special tool called a vinyl siding removal tool. They can be purchased at any home center and most hardware stores.
Siding Removal Tool
The removal tool gets under the channel on the bottom edge of the siding above the piece that needs to be replaced. At a corner, the siding removal tool is slid under the lower lip of the siding panel. By using a curving motion the hook of the tool can be pushed under even the most difficult-to-grab panels. Once the tool is under the panel, draw it down the length of the piece to separate the siding. Since the siding is fairly flexible, you can lift up the undamaged panel to get to the nails of the damaged piece. Remove the nails with the claw of your hammer, nail puller, or pliers. Measure the piece you just removed and transfer the dimension to the replacement piece. I like to keep the “factory edge” the same on the new piece. This means that the square cut created at the factory should be on the same end of both pieces of siding. If the panel is a full piece, then obviously no cuts are required. Even if you make a perfect cut, you will still be able to see the edge as it deforms slightly from the sheet metal snips. Replace the new piece by making sure that that the locking channel is firmly hooked into the groove of the bottom panel of siding. When nailing the new piece into the framing, offset the nails slightly to ensure that they hold. Push the upper panel into position and use the siding removal tool to stretch the lower lip downward to snap the locking channel into place. Again draw the removal tool along the edge to lock the entire piece into place.
Replacing Aluminum Siding
Although the locking channel and installation of vinyl and aluminum is basically the same, repairing a damaged piece of aluminum requires a slightly different approach. Since aluminum is not that flexible, you cannot disengage the locking channel between the two pieces of siding. They way I learned how to repair aluminum siding was to score the damaged panel with a sharp utility knife about 2 inches below the bottom edge of the undamaged piece, or pieces, above. You will probably have to go over your cut 2 or 3 times depending on how sharp the blade is and how thick the siding is. PLEASE WEAR GLOVES!!! Once the siding is scored, you can either stick the claw of your hammer into the cut to separate the metal, or use a flat bar or stiff putty knife. Draw the hammer or flat bar along the length of the cut; it should come apart fairly easily, if it doesn’t, go over the cut again with your knife. Use your galvanized roofing nails to nail down the remaining tab of the damaged panel. Mark the location of the studs with a pencil on the edge of the remaining panel. Now you will need to use a very stiff putty knife or 5-in-1 painter’s tool to open up the gap between the top piece of siding and the remaining locking channel. Measure and cut the new piece of aluminum siding; if you have a circular saw with an abrasive saw blade, use that to make a clean cut. If you use sheet metal snips, you will have to straighten the channel in the bottom edge of the siding so that it can lock into the bottom panel. The trick now is to remove the nailing strip at the top edge of the siding. Replace the blade in your utility knife if it is dull, which it more than likely is, and place the blade in the groove between the panel face and the nailing strip. Score it several times and then, starting at one end, bend it back and forth to break the strip off.
Continue down the length of the panel until the entire nailing strip is removed. Now you will need to carefully slide the new piece up onto the locking channel of the bottom piece of siding and fit the top edge into the gap you just created on the top panel. To attach the siding you will need aluminum fascia nails, again purchased at any home center, which usually only come in white and brown, but you won’t see them. Using the marks you made on the panel above, drive the fascia nails in at a 45 degree angle into the return in the center of the panel and into the framing using a nail set to get them as close as possible without going through the metal. This should complete the repair.
Nail into the center shadow line created by the return of the siding.
Fascia nails are short, thick nails similar to finish nails, but with a small head.
Some people like to use automotive body putty to repair small dents in aluminum siding, but good luck on finding a paint to match. Also, most siding has a wood grain texture that would be difficult to reproduce and would be noticeable on a larger area.
Replacing Wood Siding
Wood siding is fairly straightforward. The nails are easily removed by prying up the bottom edge of the damaged clapboard with a flat bar. Once the nails are loosened, push the clapboard back down to make the nails pop out. Remove with a hammer or nail puller. Continue down the entire length of the clapboard until all nails are removed. The piece should come out freely. Measure and cut a new clapboard; it is a good idea to prime all four sides before installing it, unless your wood siding is stained. If it is, then stain all four sides. Mark the location of the studs and try to nail the new piece into them as well as the sheathing. To finds the studs gently tap your hammer along the sheathing until you hear the sound change from a low hollow sound to a slightly higher pitched solid sound. You should nail into each stud with stainless steel ring-shank nails an also into the sheathing. The nails should be spaced about every 8 inches. Caulk and paint to match the existing finish.
Hopefully this will give you some tips on how to replace your damaged siding to improve the look of your home and to save money as well.