Install vinyl siding straight, level, and flat

Installing vinyl siding is relatively simple if you have some basic construction knowledge. But getting vinyl siding to look straight and flat takes time, and a good eye.

The first step in getting a siding job to look nice is to run a level line around the entire house, about 4 ft up on the wall. Then measure down from the level line to the top of the foundation or the bottom of the existing wood siding, at various points around the house. This is how you find the lowest point of the walls on the house. Once you have located the lowest point, this is where you should begin your siding installation.

After you install your backer board or house wrap, and corner posts, measure down 1 inch from the lowest point of the foundation, or the bottom of the existing wood siding. This is where the bottom of your starter strip should be.

When hanging a full piece of siding, snap the siding into place. Install one nail approximately 2 ft in from one end of the panel of siding. Place a level (torpedo, 2 ft, or 4 ft) on the siding and move the siding up or down slightly until level. While holding the siding in the level position, install a nail approximately 2 ft in from the end on the opposite side of the siding panel. Now your siding is level. Nails should be installed in the middle of the nail slots every 16 inches or less. Vinyl siding should not be nailed tight to the wall. The siding needs to be loose so it can move side to side during expansion and contraction as the temperature changes.

Now that all the necessary nails are installed it’s time to make the siding look straight and flat to the surface of the wall. This is the part that takes a good eye. Each nail might need to be pounded in slightly, or pulled out slightly to achieve a smooth flat look.

A good way to see the ripples and waves that might be in the surface of the siding is to stand next to the wall a few feet back from the siding panel you just installed. Look down the wall, towards the other end of the wall. This is what a Marine Drill Instructor would do, or a marching band conductor would do to make sure everyone was in a straight line, from the first person to the last person in that line. As you’re looking down the wall, and the top of the siding you just installed, notice the wavey look of the siding, and how it moves in and out from the surface of the wall. You want to eliminate as much of that waviness as possible before installing the next course of siding. Move the nails in or out as needed until the siding looks relatively flat to the surface of the wall. This might take several times of you standing back, looking down the wall, adjusting nails, then looking down the wall and the top of the siding again. If you end up with large gaps between the wall surface and the back of your siding (maybe a 1/2 an inch or more at times), you should fill that gap with a shim, so the siding doesn’t get pushed back into the wall. If you’re using backer board on your job, cut a few little pieces of that for your shim, it works great.

All this extra attention takes time and patience. But if you follow these steps your siding job will look straight, level, and clean looking for many years. And your neighbors will be jealous.