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How to Install Vinyl Siding

Don't be intimated by vinyl siding. We'll show you how to install it and make repairs. You can save a lot of money by handling a vinyl siding project yourself. And you'll still get professional looking results. In this article, we'll show you everything you need to know to remove and install vinyl siding so it's watertight and looks great.

By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine

  • TIME
  • TimeTime One day
  • close X

    You can make most repairs in a morning. Fitting siding around a new set of windows can take a day. Siding an entire house can take about three days.

  • COST
  • Varies
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    Minor repairs can cost less than $20, if you don't need to buy new materials. Otherwise, costs will depend on how much new siding you need.

Working with vinyl siding

Don't let the fact that you have vinyl siding deter you from that repair or remodeling project. If you want to shift a window, replace a door or even put on an addition, you can remove, alter and reinstall vinyl siding much more easily than any other type of siding. In this article, we're going to demonstrate how to rework the siding around a new set of windows.

We'll show you how to remove it, install new parts and then cut it, fit it and nail it back up. Most important, we'll show you how to make the installation watertight.

While we'll cover the basics, we won't cover every detail you might run into with your own project. Most manufacturers offer complete instructions; ask for them wherever vinyl siding is sold.

Working with vinyl doesn't require special skills, but you do have to understand the system. The only special tool you'll need for reworking areas is an unlocking tool, often called a zip tool.. (You'll need a snap-lock punch if you intend to cover new areas.) You'll probably need new trim pieces. We bought two types—J-channel to go around the new, larger windows (Photo 9), and undersill trim (see “When to Install Undersill Trim.”).You may also need additional siding.

Cutting Vinyl Siding

Vinyl siding is designed to hang loosely on the sheathing so that it can expand and contract with temperature changes. To prevent the relatively thin panels from buckling, observe these fitting and nailing rules.

  1. Leave a 1/4-in. gap at all ends. The siding slides behind trim pieces that hide the gap and the cut end.
  2. Lock the panel into the one below it, then gently snug it up before nailing. Marking the position of each piece before you remove it (Photo 2) will help you reposition the siding without stretching it.
  3. Center the nails in the nailing slots and drive them, leaving 1/16 in. to 1/8 in. of the shank exposed (Photo 14). The vinyl must be free to expand and contract.

Remove the siding

The beauty of vinyl is that you can remove a piece anywhere on the wall. Locate the piece you want to remove and unlock the one above it with the zip tool (Photo 1 inset). It might be tricky hooking the zip tool onto the locking edge if your siding is tight. Try starting at an end or look for a loose spot. Sometimes you can unzip it just with your fingers. If you're having difficulty with a particular lock, try moving up a course. New vinyl siding is quite flexible, especially in warm weather, but older siding becomes more brittle with age, so work carefully.

It should be easy to slide a flat bar behind the nailheads since they're not driven tight (Photo 2).Don't slide the flat bar behind the siding itself. You'll risk breaking it. You may have to bow each length of vinyl to release its ends from the trim moldings, and you may have to slide short pieces up or down past the window to release them from the J-channel.

Building paper and window flashing

Building paper is an important part of the wall's waterproofing. It's a barrier to any water that may work its way behind the siding, so be sure upper pieces lap over lower ones. Tape any tears or holes with housewrap tape (available at home centers).

Flashing is critical for a watertight window or door. Aluminum works best with vinyl. Buy a 10-in.wide roll of aluminum (at home centers), and cut it into 5-in.wide strips for the top and sides of the window. The width of the bottom flashing will vary. It must go under the window nailing fin and lap over the nailing hem of the vinyl siding (Photo 3). This will direct water to the front of the siding.

When you're done flashing the window, stand back and imagine water running down the wall. Start above the window and visually check that all building papers and flashing lap over the piece below it so water can't run behind.

Install J-channel around the window

You have to wrap the window with vinyl J-channel to divert water and to cover the ends of the siding (Photo 9).You'll probably have to buy new strips for this. Start with the bottom piece and work up to the top (Photos 6 – 10). Make sure the pieces overlap to keep out water.

Mitered corners give a clean and finished appearance. Be extra careful to fit the top channel correctly over the side pieces (Photo 10) because a lot of water can run over these joints.

J-channel and undersill installed under a window.

J-channel and undersill installed under a window.

When to Use Undersill Trim

Because the siding is beveled, the cut edge under a window may end up about 1/2 in. out from the wall. If it falls 1/4 in. or less away, add the undersill trim to lock it in place (shown). If it falls more than 1/4 in. away, skip the undersill trim and simply rely on the J-channel.


If you're working over foam sheathing, place a piece of plywood between the foam and flat bar to avoid crushing the foam.

Install the siding

Maneuvering long pieces of vinyl into place can be tricky. Push one end of longer pieces into the trim, then bow the siding slightly and guide the other end into the trim.

Then slide it up and snap the butt into the locking edge of the piece below. Feed the shorter pieces alongside the window into the channel at the top of the window, and slide them down into position. Installing the piece above the window (Photo 15) was especially tricky because it was also the last piece (it would have been easier to remove one more course above).

We had to cut the piece and put a joint directly above the window. Then we cut a long length of extra siding to complete the row. Be sure to overlap butt joints 1 in. This method wouldn't work if you had to splice in new vinyl, because the colors wouldn't match.

Matching your siding

Remove a piece of siding and identify it. Take it to a siding retailer or distributor. They'll identify the brand and style and should be able to direct you to the right source. Unfortunately, vinyl siding fades with age, so an exact color match may be impossible.

Be sure to save and reuse all the siding you remove. The trim pieces aren't as critical. If you have to add new siding, position it in an obscure spot, like the base of a wall or behind the garage. In fact, you may want to re-side an entire wall with new vinyl.

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Required Tools for this Project

Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.

    • Hammer
    • Tape measure
    • Stud finder
    • Level
    • Stepladder
    • Pry bar
    • Sawhorses
    • Speed square
    • Utility knife
    • Tool belt
    • Tin snips

Zip tool

Required Materials for this Project

Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here's a list.

    • Siding
    • J-channel
    • Undersill
    • Aluminum flashing
    • Building paper

Comments from DIY Community Members

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May 27, 6:26 AM [GMT -5]

To all you handy guys out there, when it comes to installing vinyl siding, I'm 78 years old and 3 years ago I installed vinyl siding on our house, by myself. I was gonna have it done by a contractor but after getting a couple of bids I decided to do it myself. What got me to thinking about doing it was that just a few years prior our next door neighbor had theirs done(by a contractor) and I recalled noticing that it was being done by some kids(at my age anyone under the age of 30 is a kid) and I got to thinking after watching them for a while, "Hey, this is isn't rocket-science, I can do this". So I did! Went on the internet, found a set of instructions on how to hang vinyl and the rest, as they say, is history. The hardest part for me was installing the starter strip and I think that was more an age thing than anything else. Getting down that low and crawling around behind bushes and other obstacles at my age was a little trying but once that starter strip was on, it was Katy bar the door. I did the back wall of the house first which served as my "teaching aid" and by the time I finished that the rest, as they say, was a piece of cake. And may I add, with some degree of pride, that when I was finished all the scrap I had left over you could hold in one hand.

May 29, 8:00 PM [GMT -5]

All of the information is very important to a do it yourselfer, but no where in the articles did I see, what I think is the most important- and that is the installation of the starter strilp. Should it not be right, the rest if for nil. Could an article about the starter strip be added the clear and informative article? Please advise. Paul

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