Siding installation tips

1. Keys to a successful vinyl siding installation job.

Allowing for Expansion and Contraction

Vinyl siding contracts and expands as the outside temperature changes. To avoid structural or aesthetic problems associated with temperature fluctuation, take the following steps:

  • Apply nails or other fasteners in the center of the nailing slot and make sure the fastener penetrates a minimum of 1 1/4″ (32mm) into nailable material, such as wood sheathing and framing. Make sure installed panels and accessories move freely from side to side.
  • Do not drive the head of the nail tightly against the siding nailing hem. Allow approximately 1/32″ (0.8mm) clearance (about the thickness of a dime) between the fastener head and the siding panel. Drive nails straight.
  • Leave a minimum of 1/4” (6.4mm) clearance at all openings and stops. When installing in temperatures below 40 degrees F, increase minimum clearance to 3/8″ (9.5mm).
  • Do not face nail or staple through siding except for one nail needed to finish at the top of a gable.

For more information, refer to page 16 of the VSI Vinyl Siding Installation Manual.

Keeping Siding Straight and Level

Keep in mind, siding is only as straight and stable as what lies under it. Below are some issues to address before you start installation:

  • In residing, strapping, or removal of uneven original siding may be necessary.
  • In new construction, avoid the use of green lumber as the underlayment.
  • When installing a siding panel, push up lightly along the bottom until the lock is fully engaged with the piece below it for the full length of the panel.
  • Throughout installation, check the panels’ horizontal alignment every few rows to make sure the siding is hanging straight and level on the wall. Also check for panel alignment around corner posts and above doors and windows.

2. How to prepare the wall structure.

Your main goal in preparing the walls of the structure is to ensure a flat, even surface. On any project, remember to install code-compliant flashing before starting to apply siding.

New Construction

As stated in the VSI Vinyl Siding Installation Manual, before you begin installing vinyl siding in a new construction project:

  • Apply a water-resistive barrier, such as house wrap or felt paper.
  • Check local building codes for additional requirements.
  • Place drywall inside the house, on the floor of the room where it’s going to be applied, to allow for floor-plate compression, which, if not addressed, can result in buckled siding where the floor meets the wall.

3. Tips for fastening vinyl siding to a wall.

Choose aluminum, galvanized steel, or other corrosion-resistant nails, staples, or screws. Aluminum trim pieces require aluminum or stainless steel fasteners. Remember that as temperatures change, vinyl siding can expand and contract 1/2” (12.7mm) or more over a 12’6″ (3.81m) length.

Nails: Diameter

  • Heads should be 5/16″ (7.9mm) minimum in diameter.
  • Shank should be 1/8″ (3.2mm) in diameter.

Nails: Length

  • 1 ½” (38.1mm) for general use.
  • 2″ (50.8mm) for residing.
  • 2 ½” (63.5mm) minimum for going through siding with backerboard.
  • 1″ to 1 ½” (25.4mm to 38.1mm) for trim.

Screw Fasteners

  • Can be used if the screws do not restrict the normal expansion and contraction movement of the panel on the wall.
  • Screws should be size #8, truss head or pan head, corrosion-resistant, self-tapping sheet metal screws.


  • Not less than 16-gauge semi-flattened to an elliptical cross-section.
  • 1″ (25.4mm) minimum in length and wide enough to allow free movement of the siding (approximately 1/32″ [0.8mm] above and below the nailing hem).

Fastening Procedure

No matter what fastener you choose, follow the basic fastening steps listed below:

  • Make sure the fastener penetrates a minimum of 3/4″ (19mm) into a framing stud or furring.
  • Ensure panels are fully locked along the length of the bottom, but don’t force them up tight or stretch the panels upward before nailing.
  • Do not drive the head of the fastener tightly against the siding nail hem; instead leave a minimum of approximately 1/32″ (0.8mm) clearance (the thickness of a dime) between the fastener head and the vinyl siding to prevent panel buckling as temperatures change.
  • Start fastening in the center of the panel and work toward the ends.
  • Center the fasteners in the slots to allow for expansion and contraction. (Start fastening vertical siding and corner posts in the top of the uppermost slots to hold them in position. Place all other fasteners in the center of the slots.)
  • Drive fasteners straight and level to prevent panel distortion and buckling.
  • Space fasteners a maximum of 16″ (406.6mm) apart for the horizontal siding panels, every 12″ (305mm) for vertical siding panels, and every 8″ to 12″ (203mm to 305mm) for accessories unless otherwise specified by the manufacturer.
  • If a nail slot does not allow centering/securing into a nailable surface, use a nail hole slot punch to extend the slot and allow centering of the fastener.

4. How to replace a damaged panel.

To remove a panel for any reason, follow the steps below:

  • Slip a zip lock or unlocking tool behind the bottom lock of the panel above the one to be replaced and unzip it from the lock on the damaged panel.
  • Gently bend out upper panel. Take the nails out of the damaged panel and remove it.
  • Lock on the new panel and nail it up.
  • Use the unlocking tool again to zip the upper panel over the lock on the new panel.


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