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How to Replace and Repair Wood Siding

Refresh your house's exterior by replacing damaged siding

FH98SEP_REPROT_01-2 how to repair wood sidingFamily Handyman
Has some of your siding begun to rot while the rest is still good? Don't replace all the boards. Follow these easy steps and just replace the boards that are rotted.

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How to Repair Wood Siding: Replace rotted siding

Evaluate the boards

Decide which boards need replacing and where to make your cuts. Stagger butt joints if you’re replacing multiple courses. Use a square to mark the cutting lines, centered on a stud. The nailheads on existing siding will indicate stud positions.

Cut the nails

Cut the nails at the bottom of the row above the boards you’re replacing. Use a small hacksaw with a sharp blade. Cutting the nails will let you remove rotted boards without damaging those your’e saving. To get at the nails, carefully wedge out the bottom of the siding 1/8 to 3/16 in. with wooden shims.

Make the first cut with a circular saw

Cut out bad sections with a circular saw or even a sharp utility knife. Be sure to stagger the joints (see Photo 1). Most hardboard siding is 7/16 in. thick, so set your blade depth carefully to avoid cutting into other courses. Use shims to lift the boards so you can easily get at the one you’re cutting.

Finish the cut with a sharp utility knife

You won’t be able to complete the cuts with the circular saw, so finish the cuts with a sharp utility knife or a keyhole saw.

how to repair wood siding

Pry off the rotted boards

To learn how to repair wood siding, remove rotted boards with a flat pry bar. Protect sound siding with a scrap piece of 1/4-in. plywood. After you remove the rotted courses, use a small hacksaw to cut any protruding nail shanks, or if you have a very strong grip, use a good pair of wire cutters.

how to repair wood siding

Install the new boards

When you replace the boards, use a homemade “reveal set” jig to match the reveal of the existing siding. The courses should overlap by at least 1 in. Replace siding by working from the bottom up (you might need a helper here). Attach the siding with 10d galvanized box nails driven into the overlap at least 1/2 in. above the bottom edge. If you have insulated sheathing, predrill the nail holes to avoid crushing the insulation.

How to Repair Wood Siding

When hardboard siding is installed and maintained correctly, it can hold up for 30 or 40 years. But without proper attention, isolated areas can begin rotting in only a few years, especially near the foundation. Water splashes up from the ground, frequently soaking the vulnerable bottom edges. The paper face then flakes off, exposing the dark brown inner layers, and each soaking accelerates the rotting.

Replacing these rotted areas takes only a few basic tools and a few materials, but it can make a huge improvement in your home’s appearance. Hardboard siding doesn’t cost that much, so it’s often worth it to replace an entire course. Doing this helps you avoid unnecessary butt joints.

Make your repair last

  • Prime the back and edges of the new siding. Thoroughly paint all exposed edges and grooves.
  • Do not drive the nails flush or countersink them. The heads will break the paper face, allowing water to soak in and deteriorate the siding. Caulk any nailheads that break the paper face.
  • Leave a 1/8-in. gap at corner and butt joints. Seal these joints with a 35-year, paintable acrylic caulk.
  • Prevent water from splashing on the siding by installing gutters or repairing leaky ones. Also, adjust lawn sprinklers so they don’t hit the siding.
  • Where siding meets a roof, it will rot if the siding touches the shingles. When you replace these boards, make sure you have good flashing along the joint. Install the new siding so there’s a 1-in. gap between siding and shingles.
  • Consider replacing rotted areas with fiber-cement siding. It’s 1/8 in. thinner than most hardboard, but it works in many cases, has a comparable cost, is highly rot resistant, and carries a 50-year warranty. For help finding a dealer in your area, call James Hardie Products (888-542-7343 or jameshardie.com) or ABTco (800-265-9829 or abtco.com).

Required Tools for this Project

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

  • Caulk gun
  • Circular saw
  • Combination square
  • Drill bit set
  • Drill/driver - cordless
  • Extension cord
  • Extension ladder
  • Hammer
  • Hearing protection
  • Level
  • Pry bar
  • Safety glasses
  • Sawhorses
  • Scribing tool
  • Speed square
  • Tape measure
  • Utility knife

Required Materials for this Project

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

  • 10d Galvanized box nails
  • Acrylic caulk
  • Replacement siding boards