How to Install Vinyl Siding like the Pros


The vinyl siding market is growing in leaps and bounds. However, installing vinyl siding can be a major undertaking for the uninitiated, and the best way to learn is hands-on experience. For most homeowners, a professional installation is recommended. Don’t hesitate to ask potential installers for license and certifications. Many manufacturers certify the contractors according to proper installation techniques. Also, ask for references and the names and numbers of satisfied customers.

But if you’re one of those “extreme” DIY’ers who feel up to the challenge, a great resource for installation guidance is the Vinyl Siding Institute. While manufacturers offer brand-specific installation manuals, the Vinyl Siding Institute offers a 40-page, detailed and illustrated installation manual that will give you a good look at what is involved. The manual contains the most recent techniques and is presented in a simple step-by-step approach. You can instantly download the installation manual for free by clicking here!

The VSI Siding Installation manual features lots of drawings and diagrams to walk installers through the process. 

More Tips & Techniques for Vinyl Siding

Basic Installation Rules for Vinyl Siding

Before getting started, it is important to review several rules of thumb for vinyl siding application. The Vinyl Siding Institute offers the following rules for proper installation:

  • Installed panels must move freely from side to side.
  • When installing a siding panel, push up from the bottom until the lock is fully engaged with the piece below it. Without stretching the panel, reach up and fasten it into place.
  • Fasten nails or other fasteners in the center of the nailing slot.
  • Do not force the panels up or down when fastening in position.
  • Do not drive the head of the fastener tightly against the siding nail hem. Allow 1/32 inch (about the thickness of a dime) clearance between the fastener head and the siding panel. Drive fasteners straight and level to prevent distortion and buckling of the panel.
  • Leave a minimum of 1/4 inch clearance at all openings and stops to allow for normal expansion and contraction. When installing in temperatures below 40 degrees F, increase minimum clearance to 3/8 inch. A trim piece called the J-channel will cover the gap.
  • Do not caulk the panels where they meet the receiver of inside corners, outside corners or J-trim. Do not caulk the overlap joints.
  • Do not face-nail or staple through siding. Vinyl siding expands and contracts with outside temperature changes. Face-nailing can result in ripples in the siding.
  • In residing, furring or removal of uneven original siding may be necessary.


In new construction, avoid the use of green lumber as the underlayment. Keep in mind that siding can only be as straight and stable as what lies under it.
The installation of specific products may differ in details from the instructions given here. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions, using parts specified by the manufacturer, to ensure proper installation.

Tips for Clapboard-Style Vinyl Sidiing

Vinyl siding leaks a lot, so be sure to maintain the integrity of the housewrap behind the vinyl. Flash doors and windows to shed water when it gets past the flanges or casing.
Begin by installing the high trim, including rakes, soffits and fascias. Then install the corner boards. Snap chalk lines on both sides of the corner to make sure the corner boards are installed straight.
To compensate for thermal expansion, overlap adjacent siding panels about 1 inch so they can slide past each other without buckling. Orient the overlaps away from the primary point of view, by running the siding from a back corner to a front corner. From the front of the house, seams should be least visible to someone approaching the front door.
To keep vinyl siding looking its best, it should be periodically washed to remove dirt, mold, mildew and chalky oxidation from the surface. The Vinyl Siding Institute suggests using a mix of 1/3 cup laundry detergent, 2/3 cup powdered household cleaner, 1 quart liquid laundry bleach and 1 gallon of water. Just brush it on from bottom to top and hose it off.
To repair damaged siding, use a zip tool to unhook the panels above and below the damaged panel and pull out the nails. Then snap a new panel in place, nail and reattach the panels.

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