Replacing Garage Siding, Part 4: Hang Loose

Stupid sexy Flanders!

– Homer Simpson

I received advice about vinyl siding from lots of people, including my neighbor’s dad. Once you get started off level, installation comes down to is one overarching directive: let it hang loose.

Installing vinyl siding isn’t very difficult, all you have to remember is that vinyl siding shrinks when it’s cold and expands when it’s warm. I heard that an eight foot panel can change length by 5/8ths of an inch. So, make sure the panels can move, or else they will buckle. They should just hang from the nails, not be trapped by them.

To help you keep your vinyl siding relaxed and happy, bear in mind three simple rules:

Rule 1: Don’t hammer the nails all the way in

You can nail the siding to the studs with galvanized or aluminum nails. I tried aluminum nails, but I didn’t like working with them. They were too easy to break or bend. Of course, that could just be a problem with my hammering technique. I found two-inch galvanized nails were much easier to work with.

Not hammering the nails all the way in is a bit tricky at first. More than once I had to pry one back out after getting it too tight. But after a while, it gets easier to judge how hard that final tap should be.

Leave a 1/16″ gap between the nail head and the siding. If you go further than that, 1/32″ is probably the minimum.

Rule 2: Put each nail in the middle of the hole

The nails go through horizontal slots at the top of each panel. Don’t nail at the end of the slot! Put the nail in the middle, so there is room for the panel to move sideways as it expands and contracts with the weather.

Rule 3: Leave a gap between the end of a panel and the channel

Channels wrap around the edges of the siding where panels end: inside and outside corners, the top of a wall, under eaves, and around windows and doors. The siding slides into the channel, which makes the whole thing look neat.

Cut the panel a bit short so that it doesn’t go all the way into the channel and fit too tightly. Instead, leave about a 1/4″ gap. Again, this allows the vinyl panel to expand into the channel, rather than buckle.

(Interesting note about J-channel I learned only after completion: J-channel doesn’t expand and contract as much as the siding pieces. So, if you need to use more than one piece in a run, you can just cut those to size and butt them up against one another.)

There you go: siding and neighborhood relations in four easy lessons! To sum it all up: start off level relative to the building at the bottom, then work your way up and around the structure. But loosely. While avoiding eye contact with the neighbors.

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