How to Install Vinyl Siding

Ladder leaning against a house with a hard hat and gloves.

 Getty Images / Kevin Brine

Overview
  • Working Time: 7 hrs
  • Total Time: 8 hrs
  • Yield: One exterior wall
  • Skill Level: Advanced
  • Estimated Cost: $200 to $500

When you want house siding that endures the elements with little complaint and is easy on your budget, consider installing vinyl siding. Vinyl siding covers millions of new-construction homes. For home remodels, vinyl siding can even be installed directly over some forms of existing siding. Vinyl siding sheds water, never rots, is easy to repair, and never needs painting. For many homeowners, the only thing better than vinyl siding is do-it-yourself vinyl siding installation.

While hiring a company to install vinyl siding is generally cost-reasonable, installing your own vinyl siding drops the labor costs to zero. You will pay for materials, plus a few project-specific tools that you may not already have on hand. While it is a labor-intensive project, installing vinyl siding is one that pays you back with cost-savings and with long-term protection and beauty for your home.

Basics of Installing Vinyl Siding

Vinyl siding installs on your home as a unified system. Nothing in this system requires you to build anything from scratch. Rather, the entire system is built from components that are meant to fit together in a pre-determined manner. Home centers often sell a complete set of vinyl siding components.

Siding panels, usually 12 feet long, create the siding field and form a majority of the look of the siding. But before the panels can be installed, a variety of accessory items must be installed. Some of these accessories include starter strips, corner posts, mounting blocks, and J-channels.

For most homeowners, installing vinyl siding means a new learning curve. But once you master a new technique, such as installing J-channel, it becomes a matter of repeating the same action throughout the project, and onto other areas of the house.

Codes, Regulations, and Permits

Some communities may require a building permit before installing new or replacement vinyl siding. Other communities may exempt the building permit requirement for the replacement of non-structural siding (such as vinyl siding) from residential structures. All vinyl siding installation work is subject to local building codes.

When to Install Vinyl Siding

Because water may be trapped behind the house wrap or the siding, install the vinyl siding only in dry weather.

Safety Considerations

Use a mask when cutting vinyl siding. Always wear eye and hearing protection.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Nail hole slot punch
  • Unlocking tool
  • Snap lock punch
  • Hammer
  • Square
  • Utility knife
  • Tape measure
  • Level
  • Circular saw
  • Chalk snap line

Materials

  • Water-resistive barrier (house wrap or as required by local code)
  • Starter strip
  • Inside and outside corners
  • Siding panels
  • Exterior-grade caulk
  • Window flashing
  • J-channel
  • Mounting blocks for protrusions

Instructions

  1. Estimate the Quantity of Vinyl Siding Needed

    1. Measure the width and height of the side of the house, treating the measured area as a square or rectangle.
    2. Multiply width and height to arrive at the square footage.
    3. Do not exclude window and door cutouts since this provides needed excess materials.
    4. Multiply triangular sections such as gables separately, then add to the square or rectangle measurement.
    5. The resulting figure is your square footage, which can be translated into squares. For example, 1,300 square feet will require 13 squares of siding.

    Tip

    "Square" is a term used in siding and roofing industries to refer to 100 square feet of material. All vinyl siding is sold by the square, except for repair pieces found on home center shelves.

  2. Prepare the Wall Surface

    Nail down loose boards, fix rotting wood, scrape off loose caulk, and re-caulk areas. Remove and replace large damaged sections of the wall. Remove protrusions such as light fixtures. Make sure that the surface is flat. Install the water-resistive barrier.

    Tip

    If you cannot achieve a flat surface by fixing the wall, then install one-by-two furring strips vertically on the wall.

  3. Install Outside and Inside Corner Posts 

    Keep a 1/4-inch gap between the top of the corner post and the soffit. Nail into place through the slots in the post, with the nail at the top of the slot. Make sure that the post extends 3/4-inch below the intended position of the starter strip. Continue nailing in slots downward, with the nails at the center of the slots.

  4. Install the Starter Strip

    Place the starter strip at the lowest point on the wall, using the chalk snap line to create a line across the length of the wall. Nail the starter strip into place every 10 inches. Except for corner posts, always nail in the center of the slot to allow for movement. Leave a 1/32-inch gap between the nailhead and the vinyl product.

  5. Install Window Flashing

    Apply self-adhesive window flashing on all four sides of a window. Work upwards to ensure overlapping. Seal gaps with caulk.

    Tip

    If the windows need covered trim, trim can be created by running aluminum trim coil through a large specialty tool called a brake.

  6. Install J-Channel Around Windows and Doors

    Measure the perimeter around windows and door and cut off sections of J-channel to match this size. Install J-channel from the bottom upward, with the top piece last.

  7. Install Vinyl Siding Panels

    Begin with the bottom vinyl siding panel, locking it into the starter strip. Work upward. Make sure that the panels extend into the J-channels on both sides. Nail in the center of the slots. When you need to overlap panels, they must overlap by 1-inch.

    Tip

    To cut the vinyl siding with a circular saw, turn the saw blade backward to avoid ripping the siding.

  8. Install Mounting Blocks

    Use commercially available siding mounting blocks for protrusions such as lights and faucets. As with the windows, add flashing around the blocks. Cut out siding around the protrusion area.

When to Call a Professional

To expedite installing vinyl siding on your home or for large projects, you may want to call a professional vinyl siding company. Fashioning metal window trim with a brake is complicated for a do-it-yourselfer. Not all windows require this, but if yours does, call a professional for this step.