Using a Zip Tool to Remove Vinyl Siding

slits in vinyl siding

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Project Overview
  • Total Time: 30 mins
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $15

Vinyl siding is durable and long-lasting, but it can get cracked or otherwise damaged. You can remove damaged pieces and replace them, but this requires separating the hidden joints that lock the pieces together.

Enter the zip tool. This indispensable tool is little more than a metal bar with a small hook at one end and a bend at just the right angle. It allows you to get under the top and bottom edges of the vinyl siding pieces where the pieces interlock (a design that allows them to resist wind and moisture). Most importantly, you won't damage the siding in the process.

When replacing vinyl siding, it can be difficult to find matching material because siding manufacturers regularly change offerings and discontinue older styles and colors. It's best if you have some spare material left over from the original siding installation. If you're unable to find an exact match, take the damaged piece to a siding distributor and ask for the closest match available.

Removing and Installing Vinyl Siding

Vinyl siding panels are interlocked at their top and bottom edges via J-shaped channels called buttlocks. Each panel overlaps the panel below it and locks into place along the buttlock joint. Use the zip tool to release the buttlock at the top and bottom of the piece you want to remove. Installing a replacement piece of vinyl siding is the reverse of removing the damaged panel. First, you nail up the new piece, driving nails through the slots in the nail hem, then you connect the buttlocks with the zip tool.

Diagram of vinyl siding showing how to us a zip tool to unlock pieces

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Zip tool
  • Flat pry bar
  • Wood blocks
  • Hammer


  • Replacement siding (as needed)
  • 1 1/4-inch roofing nails (as needed)


  1. Unlock the Bottom Joint

    Starting at the bottom edge of the damaged siding panel, wiggle the curved tip of the zip tool blade under a loose spot at one end of the panel, hooking the tool onto the back lip of the buttlock. Look for a slightly enlarged hole at the end of the panel, which is designed for the zip tool to slide into. Or, you can look for another loose spot along the length of the panel joint.

    Separate the buttlock joint with downward pressure on the zip tool. Then, slide the tool along the length of the siding panel to release the rest of the joint.

  2. Unlock the Top Joint

    Repeat the same process used on the bottom joint to unlock to top joint holding the damaged panel to the panel above. Carefully lift up the bottom edge of the panel above to expose the nailing hem (and nails) on the damaged panel.

  3. Pull the Nails

    Use a flat pry bar and hammer to pry out all of the nails in the nailing hem of the damaged panel, then remove the siding panel. 

  4. Place Wood Blocks

    To install a new vinyl panel, place wood blocks behind the loose panel above the area of the removed panel, to hold the upper panel away from the wall.

    Position the blocks so they will not interfere with the new panel.

  5. Position the New Panel

    Position the replacement panel onto the wall, hooking its bottom edge over the panel below it. Push up on the new panel to snap its lower buttlock onto the panel below. 

  6. Nail the New Panel

    Fasten the new panel by driving 1 1/4-inch roofing nails through the slots in the nailing hem, every 16 inches or so. If it's difficult to reach the nails with a hammer, place a pry bar over the head of the nail, then strike the pry bar with a hammer to drive the nail. Leave the nail heads about 1/32 inch above the surface of the siding; this lets the siding move with expansion and contraction. Also, place the nails in the centers of the nailing hem slots to allow for side-to-side movement. 

  7. Lock the Panels

    Secure the buttlock of the upper panel to the top edge of the new panel, using the zip tool. Grab the lip of the buttlock with the tool and pull it over the new panel's locking edge. At the same time, use your other hand to push from the outside of the upper panel toward the wall to snap the buttlock into place. Work from one end of the new panel to the other, interlocking the entire top edge.