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10 House Painting Rules You Should Never Break

No home improvement project revives, protects and beautifies a house as quickly, effectively and affordably as exterior painting. A new coat of paint can completely transform a house and, though painting a house can be a big job, it’s a project that can be completed in a week or two.

painting house with roller and brushLisa F. Young / Shutterstock.com

If you hire a professional painter, expect to pay from $1000 to $4500 or more, depending upon the size and condition of your house. By doing the work yourself, you can save the labor portion of the cost—typically more than half—but it will take some serious effort.

Regardless of whether you hire a pro or do it yourself, painting your house is something you won’t want to repeat in a few years. With this in mind, here are nine critical rules that will ease the work and help ensure a beautiful, lasting result.

1: Don’t skimp on materials. Pay for top-quality paint, primer and caulking compound. Top-quality paint lasts longer, and flows and covers better than poor-quality paint. Buy paint that has a lifetime warranty against defects in the finish.

With most house paint, you get what you pay for: The best ingredients are expensive. High-quality exterior paint typically costs from $35 to $40 per gallon—in fact, you can pay up to $70. Choose 100% acrylic paint.

Top brands recommended by Consumer Reports include Behr Premium Plus Ultra Exterior, sold at Home Depot, and Clark + Kensington Exterior, sold at Ace. Both contain VOCs (volatile organic compounds) below federal limits. Both performed well in Consumer Reports’ tests that simulate 9 years of outdoor exposure, and both cost from $35 to $40 per gallon. Other top-performing brands include Sherwin-Williams Duration Exterior and Benjamin Moore Aura Exterior—pricier at about $68 per gallon. For complete ratings, visit ConsumerReports.org.

Flat finishes, preferred for siding, do a good job of hiding defects and irregularities. Satin and semi-gloss enamels, used for trim, are more durable and easier to wash.

2: Do the necessary preparation. For paint to adhere well, it must be applied to a surface that is clean, dry and not flaking or peeling. Depending upon the condition of existing siding and trim, this often means considerable scraping and sanding may be required before you can paint.

Begin by washing the surfaces. You can use a hose and a scrub brush with water and detergent, or a pressure washer. If you use a pressure washer, you must be careful not to drive water deeply into the joints between siding or erode the surface of the wood with the high-pressure water spray.

To remove loose, flaking paint, you’ll need a scraper. Then, for removing tougher paint and smoothing the surface, a 5-inch disc power sander or a random-orbit sander will work well. Start with 60-grit sandpaper and follow-up with 100-grit sandpaper. The idea isn’t to remove all of the paint—just remove loose paint and smooth the surface. Use a putty knife and wood filler to fill cracks and holes. Let the filler dry, and then sand these areas again. Brush off all of the dust, caulk the joints, and allow the caulk to dry before applying primer.

3: Beware of old lead paint. Though today’s house paints do not contain lead, old paint applied before 1978 is likely to contain lead.

According to the EPA, “Common renovation, repair, and painting activities that disturb lead-based paint (like sanding, cutting, replacing windows, and more) can create hazardous lead dust and chips which can be harmful to adults and children. Home repairs that create even a small amount of lead dust are enough to poison your child and put your family at risk.” For lead testing and removal, the EPA recommends that you contact local lead-safe certified renovation contractors, which can be found through the EPA’s website.


4: Don’t skimp on coats of paint. Begin with a high-quality oil-alkyd primer if you’re painting over bare wood or metal. Some painters like to tint the primer toward the final paint color to minimize the need for two finish coats of paint. Others prefer to tint the primer to a contrasting color, which will highlight any spots where the final coats haven’t completely covered.

Apply the first finish coat and, after it becomes tacky, apply a second top coat.

5: Use the right tools, including a high-quality brush, roller and—for some houses—an airless sprayer, which can be rented at most home improvement centers or tool rental outlets. The easiest way to apply primer and paint to textured surfaces is to spray it on with an airless sprayer, and then back-roll it by hand with a roller to ensure adhesion.

If you have never used an airless sprayer, pay close attention to the equipment’s directions and gain a little experience by painting a less-conspicuous side of the house first. Work from a 5-gallon paint bucket and use a paint strainer so paint doesn’t clog the sprayer.

6: Be realistic. Don’t paint your house yourself unless you have the time, tools, skills, and stamina to do the work. Though saving half the cost of the job is a strong incentive, be prepared! Depending upon the size—and height—of your house and the condition of the existing siding, preparing and painting a house yourself can be a tedious, difficult job.

7: Wait for temperate weather. Don’t paint on hot days, in the rain, or during windy or dusty weather. Ideal for painting are temperatures between 50 and 90 degrees F. Hot weather causes the paint to dry too quickly, as does direct sun so, when possible, follow the shade. Temperatures below 50 degrees may prevent the paint from adhering to the surface properly. Dampness or dew can bubble surfaces.

8: Cover and protect decks, shrubs, gardens, plantings, patios, and walkways from paint spills and splatters with drop cloths and/or plastic sheeting. This will save you from big cleanup problems later. If you use an airless paint sprayer, masking and covering will be absolutely imperative. Be very careful of overspray—it can coat your neighbors’ cars!

9: Paint using proven techniques. If you plan to do the work yourself but you’re a novice, do your homework. You can find lots of free information on the Web, including videos by pros and experts that show specific techniques. Work from the top down, starting with overhangs so fresh paint won’t drip on newly painted surfaces. Paint the siding, and then, when it is dry, mask around windows and doors, and paint the trim. As soon as you’re finished painting the trim, remove painter’s tape or masking tape so it won’t leave a residue. After all of the paint has dried, touch-up “holidays” where paint hasn’t covered fully.

10: If you hire a pro, get bids and references. Request detailed bids from at least three painting contractors, and ask them for the names and phone numbers of satisfied customers. Call two or three of those customers or, if possible, visit their homes to inspect the workmanship and confirm the customers’ satisfaction.

This article, written by Don Vandervort, first appeared at USNews.com.

Installing a New Roof? Make It Last Longer!

Installing a new asphalt roof is a major improvement that you don’t want to have to repeat in 5 years. The best way to ensure that your new roof will last is to utilize quality materials and proven installation methods.


asphalt shingles nail gunPaul Tessier / Shutterstock.com

Understanding Roof Warranties

When you put a new asphalt shingle roof on your house, you should be able to predict how long it’ll last based on the warranties stipulated by the shingle manufacturer and by the roofing professional. It’s important to note that those are two separate warranties, each spelling out specific liabilities for the two distinct parties.

A manufacturer’s warranty—which can run anywhere from 15 years to “lifetime,” based on the shingle thickness and other aspects of their composition—assumes liability for failure due to manufacturing defects. Symptoms of manufacturing defects that lead to premature failure include:

Manufacturing defects are immediately visible to the trained eye, and roofing failures attributable to them usually occur within the first year or two after installation. Along with their product and warranties, all manufacturers offer detailed installation instructions with the caveat that the warranty will be void if the installer doesn’t follow them to the letter.

An installer’s warranty should cover defects that lead to roof leaks and/or premature shingle failure. Installer’s warranties generally provide roofing repair or replacement for a much shorter period than a manufacturer’s warranty—usually only one or two years. Typical shingle installation issues include:

    • Improper preparation of the roof deck
    • Inadequate flashing at valleys, eaves, rake edges and penetrations of the roof plane
    • Failure to properly install underlayment
    • Starter course not installed properly
    • Faulty assembly at valleys
    • Improper shingle fastening, including too few or too many nails, improper placement of nails, over- and under-driven nails
    • Roofing installed at a temperature below 40⁰ F or higher than 85⁰ F[GARD align=”left”]

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Installation defects may or may not result in roofing failure within the installer’s warranty period but are most likely to be revealed in the process of diagnosing the source of a leak. For that reason, it’s a good idea to have a clear spec in the contract on how each detail will be addressed during installation. Adhering to the best installation practices should prevent premature failures of an asphalt shingle roof assembly. Note, however, that not all “failures” are caused by manufacturing or installation defects. Some, especially stains, are sometimes caused by environmental factors and can be remedied before things go too far.

Best Roof Installation Practices

What follows is a guide to the best practices for each phase of asphalt roof shingle installation and maintenance tips that will keep a new roof from failing prematurely. Before hiring a roofer, take some time to familiarize yourself with these methods to get the most from your investment.

Old Roof Tear-Off

While some local codes allow the application of new roofing shingles over an existing shingle roof, it’s not a good idea, especially if the existing shingles are curled, fish-mouthed or otherwise not flat. Tearing off existing roofing to expose the sheathing allows thorough inspection of the deck itself and of flashing that may need to be repaired or replaced.

Before starting tear-off, be sure there’s a plan that protects the area surrounding the house from damage from falling debris. Be sure the plan minimizes possible damage to driveways and/or lawns by utilizing heavy trash containers. Don’t perform tear-off when rain is anticipated, and don’t expose more roof deck area than can be recovered with underlayment on the same day. If there’s a recycling facility for tear-off debris in your community, make arrangements to dispose of the waste there.

Roof Deck Preparation

asphalt shingle roofing construction©Don Vandervort, HomeTips

Asphalt-Fiberglass Roofing

Inspect the roof deck for decay and replace sections where needed. Some decks on older homes were created with spaced boards; fill the gaps with suitable material of the same thickness. Check the surface for protruding fasteners and other sharp items that could tear underlayment and/or cause shingles to not lie flat. Check the nailing pattern of the sheathing to verify that it meets current standards for your area.

For basic uplift for inland areas with winds up to 80 mph, use 8d ring-shank nails spaced six inches on-center at supported panel edges. Nails within the panel field should be spaced no more than 12 inches apart. For high-wind areas, apply 8d ring-shank nails no more than six inches on-center at panel edges and within the field.)

Drip Strips at Eaves and Rake Edges

Apply metal drip strips of suitable design to protect sheathing edges and prevent wind-driven rain from blowing under roofing along the eaves and rakes (click link for assembly details).

Overlap ends of drip strips at least one to one and a half inches where more than one length is required to protect a roof edge.

Self-Adhering Underlayment

Self-adhering underlayment—a.k.a. ice and water shield or peel-and-stick—is recommended for application along the most vulnerable areas, such as eaves, rake edges and valleys (click link for assembly details).

At eaves, successive courses should be applied over the drip edge and bonded to the bare roof deck, overlapped at the upper edges according to the manufacturer’s instructions so that the uppermost course extends at least 24 inches past the exterior wall supporting that part of the roof. Application of peel-and-stick is essential along the eaves of roofs prone to ice dams, and it’s also good insurance along rake edges and as valley flashing on all roofs regardless of climate.

Standard Underlayment

In standard asphalt roofing assemblies, the roof deck is covered with asphalt-impregnated felt before shingles are applied. No. 15 felt is usually the specified minimum; No. 30 is a bit heavier and more reliable. But organic felts are a bit fragile—prone to tearing under foot traffic and tend to wrinkle if they get the slightest bit wet. Synthetic underlayments, which are made from polyethylene or polypropylene, are waterproof, lighter, more tear-resistant and can be left to the weather for months without damage.

Well-Crafted Flashing

roof flashing©Don Vandervort, HomeTips

Joints between the roof deck and any feature that protrudes through or abuts it require special treatment—generally referred to as flashing. Note that more roof leaks originate from faulty flashing than any other aspect of a roofing assembly. The most reliable flashing is created with sheet metal—aluminum or copper—sometimes in combination with self-adhering underlayment and/or roof cement. The best flashing assemblies require exceptional craftsmanship and must be fastened in place with methods that account for expansion and contraction with temperature cycling. (Click links to see preferred assemblies for chimney, sidewall and vent flashings.)

Valleys formed where two roof planes meet need special treatment to stand up to the volume of rushing water that is channeled down through them. A number of assemblies can be considered best practices. (Click links for details of an open valley with metal flashing and a high-quality closed-cut valley.)

Proper Shingle Application

Shingle application begins with a starter course, which can be fashioned by cutting the tabs off of three-tab shingles and nailing the remaining solid strips in place with the self-sealing adhesive band oriented downslope, overhanging the drip strip at the eaves a half inch to one inch. Special starter-strip material is also available and sometimes used in applications of “architectural” or “dimensional” shingles, which differ from three-tab designs.

As successive courses are laid up, the first shingle in each course should be trimmed so that vertical butt joints are offset from the course above and below (click link for an illustration that shows trimming increments to keep aligned joints seven courses apart).

Proper nailing is critical (click link for illustrations of best and worst fastening practices).

Galvanized roofing nails with a 12-gauge shank and a minimum head diameter of 3/8 inch are preferred to staples. Shanks should be long enough to penetrate through the sheathing at least 1/4 inch.

Nail position and pattern requirements differ for three-tab and laminated shingles and also vary for normal and high-wind regions (click links for three-tab variations and laminated shingles in normal and high-wind conditions).

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Rooftop Conditions

Overheating and prolonged exposure to high temperature shortens the life of an asphalt-shingle roof. For generations, the common wisdom has been that a well-ventilated attic is essential to keeping roofing as cool as possible, but that notion has become controversial. For one thing, recent research suggests that ventilated attics in hot, humid climates may encourage condensation to form on the underside of roof sheathing, potentially leading to formation of mold and/or rot. The study also showed that attic ventilation didn’t actually mitigate the roof surface temperatures much during exposure to intense sunlight.

Current theory contends that orientation of the roof surface toward the sun and color selection of shingles has far greater impact on peak temperatures than ventilation. While you can’t do much about your home’s orientation, if you suspect that your roof might fail prematurely due to overheating, choose light colored shingles.

A roof can fail prematurely from an aesthetic point of view when it becomes stained with growths like moss, lichens, mold and algae.

Such stains can be easily removed with the application of a 50-50 solution of chlorine bleach and water.

The easiest way to prevent stains from organic growths, however, is to place a zinc or aluminum strip near the roof peak. Microscopic shedding of these sacrificial materials kills growths before they become visible. It’s also a good idea to trim tree branches away from roof surfaces and clear away leaves and branches that may accumulate on your roof.[GARD align=”left”]

While no roof will last forever, you can improve the odds that the manufacturer and installer can keep their promises by insisting on installation that observes the best practices. It’s of paramount importance to hire a qualified professional who understands your situation and will do the job right the first time and provide a solid warranty.


Michael Chotiner is a roofing expert who has many years’ experience in the construction industry as a general contractor. Michael writes on construction topics of interest to homeowners for Home Depot. You can view a full range of range of Home Depot roofing solutions on the company’s website.


How to Install Vertical Vinyl Siding

The installation of vinyl siding that’s designed to be installed vertically on walls is handled a little differently than conventional horizontal siding at certain stages of the installation process.  Please see the articles How to Install Vinyl or Aluminum Siding and How to Prepare Walls for Vinyl or Aluminum Siding before moving on to the information below.[GARD align=”left”]

Furring strips for vertical siding are run horizontally along the wall.

Furring strips for vertical siding are run horizontally along the wall.

One significant difference during the wall preparation state is that, if you use furring strips instead of sheathing as a base, you install the furring strips horizontally across the wall as shown in the illustration here.

Installing Vertical Siding

Installing vertical siding, like horizontal siding, begins with the trim and then the corner posts. When all of those pieces have been installed, you move on to installing the panels.


Base Trim Strip

When installing vertical siding, you begin by running a special base trim strip along the base of the wall. The vertical siding panels sit on top of this strip. Run these strips as shown in the illustration, beginning at a corner. Hold them back 1 inch from every corner to allow for the corner posts.

Base molding holds the bottom edge of vertical vinyl siding.

Base molding holds the bottom edge of vertical vinyl siding.

Trim and overlap base molding as shown.

Trim and overlap base molding as shown.

As you install these, you’ll need to overlap two lengths end-to-end. Cut succeeding strips so they will rest on the base trim and have 1/8 inch at the top for expansion, as shown.


Hang corner molding from a nail as shown.

Hang corner molding from a nail as shown.

Corner Posts

Install corner posts as described in the article, How to Install Vinyl Siding Starter & Trim Strips. Hang the corner posts from a starting nail, as shown here, check for plumb, using a level, and then nail them in place.



To receive the top end of the vertical siding panels, install a J-Channel or Under-sill Trim along the top edge of the wall. For more about the various types of trim pieces available, see Vinyl Siding Buying Guide.


Vertical Siding Panels

Working out from the starter, insert the top of each panel into the J-channel at the top of the wall and rest the other end against the base trim. Measure to find the mid-point of each wall, and draw a plumb line down the center using a straightedge as a guide. Center the starter panel on the line, cut it 1/8 inch short to allow for expansion, and nail every 8 inches into the top of the nailing slots.[GARD align=”right”]

Lock each panel into the previous one as you go, and then drive nails into the centers of the nailing slots every 8 to 16 inches as recommended by the manufacturer. For more about attachment, see How to Nail Vinyl & Aluminum Siding. Install panels around windows and doors.

As you approach a corner post, you will install a J- or U-panel or under-sill trim in the slot on the post, whichever is recommended by the manufacturer. Shim a J-panel about 5/16 inch to keep it on the same plane as the other channels. Uncut panel edges insert into the J-panel; cut edges insert between the J-panel and the outer flange of the post.

How to Install Horizontal Vinyl Siding Panels

This article is a continuation of the discussion that began with Step 1: How to Install Vinyl and Aluminum Siding, Step 2: How to Prepare Walls for Vinyl or Aluminum Siding and Step 3: How to Install Starter Strips, Corner Posts & Trim Strips.


Vinyl Siding Diagram

Vinyl Siding Diagram

Step 4: Installing Horizontal Siding

Now you’re ready to begin installing the actual siding panels. You’ll be working from the bottom up the wall, and if you’ve been following our sequence of articles, you’ll be starting with the first length of siding in place along the base of the wall.


The Second Course of Siding

With a helper, interlock the flange of the second course panesl along the top of the first panels, and nail them in place. Fasten panels with nails centered in the nailing slots, as discussed in the article How to Nail Vinyl Siding. Do not force the panels up or down when nailing them in position. Panels should not be under vertical tension or compression when nailed.

With a helper, install vinyl panels from the bottom up.

With a helper, install vinyl panels from the bottom up.

Check each course with a level and to insure proper alignment with windows, eaves, and adjacent walls. Make allowances for expansion and contraction by leaving approximately 1/4 inch at all corner posts and channels.

Overlap end joints of panels.

Overlap end joints of panels.


Overlap End Joints

Overlap vinyl panel ends in accordance with manufacturer’s recommendations (typically 1 inch). [GARD align=”left”]Because vinyl siding moves as the temperature changes, make certain that the vinyl panels can move freely in a lateral direction. At overlaps, allow for expansion by cutting 1 1/2 inches off the nailing flange at the end of the overlapping panel. When you come to a joint, slip the backer tabs with the flat side out behind the joint, which will make the panels more stable when they span a long distance.

Plan overlaps where they’ll be the least visible, and stagger joints at least 2 feet from course to course, which will add to the siding’s stability.


Install Additional Courses of Siding

Install succeeding courses similarly. Stagger end laps so that one is not directly above the other, unless separated by three courses. Check every fifth or sixth course for alignment. Always overlap joints away from entrances and away from the point of greatest visibility.


Cut panels to fit around windows and doors.

Cut panels to fit around windows and doors.

Installing Siding Around Openings

When you come to windows and doors, trim the panel with tin snips or a power saw, leaving 1/8 inch for expansion. Use gutter-seal adhesive to affix panels directly under windowsills and at soffits. If the space is narrow, simply slip the panel into the trim on one side and nail down the other side of the trim as succeeding panels are installed.[GARD align=”right”]

Under windows, mark the section to be cut out. Cut the sides with snips, and score lengthwise with a utility knife or scoring tool. Bend the section back and forth along the scored line to separate the piece from the main panel. The cut panel is ready for installation under a window. Use undersill trim along the horizontal cut edge or support with a 1-by-2 furring strip.

Cut top panels to fit at eaves.

Cut top panels to fit at eaves.

Push the siding into the finish or under-sill trim that has been nailed in place along the top of the wall. (One-by-2 furring strips may be needed to maintain the face of the panel at the desired angle.) The raised ears will catch and hold the siding firmly in place.

Fit siding panels into channels at eaves.

Fit siding panels into channels at eaves.


Finishing Siding at the Eaves

To figure out how wide the panel just under the eaves should be, measure from the eaves in several places to the bottom of the top panel’s top lock. Cut the panel to fit, subtracting 1/8 inch for expansion, and then slip it into the trim.

Along the gable rake, cut panels at the necessary angle so they fit into the J- or F-channels or into the quarter-round moldings. Furring strips may be needed to allow the last panel to sit at the proper angle when applying vinyl over old, existing siding.

Finish off the final course at the top of the wall.

Finish off the final course at the top of the wall.


Consult the manufacturer’s application instructions for exact cutting tolerances to ensure a proper fit for the top or finishing course of siding. Cut the siding panel so that it will cover the remaining open section.

Vinyl snap lock punch for siding panels.

Vinyl snap lock punch for siding panels.


Using a snap-lock punch, punch the vinyl siding along the cut edge every 6 inches to 12 inches so that the raised ear or lug is on the outside face.

Get a Pre-Screened Local Vinyl Siding Contractor

Next: How to Install Vertical Vinyl Siding

How to Prepare Walls for Vinyl or Aluminum Siding

This article is a continuation of the discussion that began with Step 1: How to Install Vinyl and Aluminum Siding. Once you’ve gathered your tools and materials, you’re ready to prepare the walls for vinyl or aluminum siding and trim.

Vinyl Siding Diagram

Vinyl Siding Diagram

As shown in the diagram at right, vinyl or aluminum siding are part of a system designed to keep the weather out. Because these materials—especially vinyl—are very flexible, they need a sturdy, flat backing. Otherwise, the resulting walls will look bumpy or wavy.

As discussed in the article How to Install Vinyl and Aluminum Siding, sheathing or backerboard normally provide the necessary rigidity and surface.

In some cases, notably when the “board” width of the new siding matches the home’s existing wood lap siding, vinyl or aluminum can be installed directly over the existing material. Below, you’ll see how to prepare existing siding. Then, we’ll discuss sheathing and other methods.

Before you begin, clear the area around the house and tie back any shrubbery to allow for plenty of working room.


Preparing Existing Siding

Provide a sound, flat surface for installation of vinyl or aluminum siding.

Provide a sound, flat surface for installation of vinyl or aluminum siding.

If you’ll be siding over the top of older siding, here are a few important steps to take:

1) Nail down loose boards, and replace any rotten ones.

2) Scrape off loose caulk and re-caulk around windows, doors, and other areas to protect them from moisture penetration.

3) Remove all protrusions, such as gutters, downspouts, and light fixtures.

4) Seal all cracks to make the house airtight.

5) Check all walls for evenness.




osb vinyl siding sheathing

OSB sheathing provides a flat, solid base for vinyl siding.


Sheathing for Vinyl Siding

Applying weather-resistant sheathing over old siding is the fastest, easiest way to provide a flat, nailable surface for vinyl or aluminum siding installation. The tricky part can be dealing with the added thickness where siding meets windows and doors. Be sure door and window frames can be built out relatively easily before taking this approach. Otherwise, you’re better off stripping off the old siding and starting fresh with sheathing.

To obtain the best finished appearance for solid vinyl siding, use quality sheathing with no buckling or warping. The most p0pular wall sheathing material is oriented strand board (OSB)—it’s both serviceable and relatively inexpensive. Properly conditioned and fastened, exterior quality sheathing will eliminate the possibility of swelling and buckling that can occur with unstable wood.

If you’re dealing with new construction, the wall framing studs should be plumb and positioned uniformly to provide a flat surface for the sheathing. Be sure your builder uses quality, kiln-dried studs.



preparing base for vinyl siding

Over existing siding, 1-by-2 furring provides a flat base. This vertical application of furring is for horizontal siding.

Furring Out a Wall for Siding

Another way to provide a flat, nailable base for siding is to install spaced 1-by-2 strips (called “furring”) across the walls and around their perimeters. This works well on uneven or masonry surfaces. Slip small pieces of shingles (called “shims”) behind the furring strips to even out the high and low spots so the overall surface will be completely flat.

For horizontal siding, you apply the furring strips vertically. For vertical siding, you apply them horizontally. The strips also must be placed alongside all door and window frames and at building corners.

Keep the overall profile as low as possible because the alignment of the siding at doors and windows may be difficult. When you use furring, window and door frames generally have to be extended.

Next: Step 3

How to Install Vinyl Siding Starter & Trim Strips

How to Install Vinyl Siding Starter & Trim Strips

This article is a continuation of the discussion that began with Step 1: How to Install Vinyl and Aluminum Siding and Step 2: How to Prepare Walls for Vinyl or Aluminum Siding.

Vinyl Siding Diagram

Vinyl Siding Diagram

Step 3: Install Starter Strips & Trim

Now you’re ready to begin installation of the starter strips and corner posts that receive the siding panels. This begins with techniques for preparing the existing wall and moves through installation of all siding and trim.

Some of these mounting strips are the same for both horizontal and vertical siding. Others are not. Vertical siding, for example, uses a base trim along the bottom instead of a starter strip and/or spacer. Because horizontal siding is by far the most common type used, we focus on its installation here. You may need to adapt the instructions slightly for vertical siding, as discussed in the article How to Install Vertical Vinyl Siding.


Vinyl Siding Starter Strips

Starter Strip and Under-Sill Trim

Starter Strip and Under-Sill Trim

Snap a level chalk line for the first starter strip at the base of the wall, no less than 8 inches above ground level, after determining the lowest corner of the house. This is where the new siding will begin. This chalk line should be level and a consistent distance from the eaves or the top and bottom of the windows.

Most manufacturers produce a starter strip that secures the bottom course of siding to the sheathing and holds it at the proper angle. As shown in the diagram, a wooden spacer can be used to provide the proper angle for the first strip. This should be nailed every 6 inches, with it’s lower edge running along the chalk line.

In cases where the lower portion of a horizontal siding panel must be trimmed so that it may be installed over areas such as steps and porches, make sure the panel is furred out with a similar spacer for proper angle and rigidity. To seal the edge of a siding panel where it has been cut and to secure it to the wall, you can use under-sill trim.

When installing the starter strips allow a 1/8-inch space for corner posts and J- channels for expansion. Keep ends of adjoining starter strips at least 1/4 inch apart to allow for expansion. Nail in the center of the nailing slots. If using insulation or backerboard, shim if necessary to accommodate the added thickness.


Install Corner Posts

Install corner posts on exterior house corners.

Install corner posts on exterior house corners.

Position corner posts at exterior and interior corners, and suspend them by two nails driven into the uppermost slot. After checking with a level for plumb, nail them every 12 inches. If you need to stack posts end-to-end to reach the full height of the wall, cut 1/4 inch from the bottom of the top post and position it so that it overlaps the lower post by 1 inch or so so it will shed water.

Install J channels at doors and windows.

Install J channels at doors and windows.

Install Door & Window Trim

Before installing door and window trim, first caulk around the openings to create a moisture- and air-proof seal. Install the tops first, then the sides, and then the bottoms of the window surrounds. Along the tops, install J-channel trim with horizontal siding and base trim with vertical siding.

Cut the trim so it is two channel widths longer than the opening’s width. Miter or cut tabs at the ends. Nail the trim every 12 inches on center. Nail the side pieces every 12 inches, placing the top nail at the top of the nailing slot and all other nails in the center of the nailing slot. If the top is mitered, miter the sides as well. At the bottoms of windows, install under-sill trim for horizontal siding and J-channel trim for vertical siding.


Install Trim Under Eaves & Rakes

For horizontal siding, install F-channel trim at the soffit and gable rake. For vertical siding, install J-channel trim. Nail every 12 inches on center.


Next: Step 4

How to Install Horizontal Vinyl Siding Panels