How to Install Vinyl Siding

Prepare, Install & Care for your New Vinyl Siding

Vinyl Siding Installation Guide

The key to a successful vinyl siding application is in the planning. Proper installation is the best way to ensure your Mitten vinyl siding lives up to its reputation for quality.

The method of applying vinyl siding and soffit is essentially the same for new construction and residing projects. However, where required, special instructions for new construction and residing are included. In all applications, care should be exercised to properly prepare the structure

It is recommended that installers review local building codes before starting a project of this nature.

Download Siding Installation PDF for full illustrations

How to Measure

All houses can be broken down into shapes of rectangles or triangles or a combination of both.

The area to be sided can be determined by measuring the height and width of the house including windows.

Total all of the measurements for the areas to be sided. Windows and doors are not usually deducted. Including them will provide an allowance factor for waste. If the windows and doors are extremely large (such as garage or sliding glass doors), some deductions can be made.

For further assistance in estimating your siding and accessory needs, contact your local branch.

Basic Installation Guidelines

Before getting started, it is important to review several common rules for vinyl siding applications. Vinyl siding, like all building materials, expands and contracts with temperature changes. The amount of expansion and contraction can be as much as 3/8 of an inch. This expansion and contraction must be accounted for in advance to prevent the siding from buckling which will mar the appearance of your home. The following rules, which come up throughout this guide, are critical for proper vinyl siding installation:

  1. Do not store siding in a location where temperatures exceed 130°F or 54°C (i.e. On blacktop pavement during unusually hot weather or under tarps or plastic wrap without air circulation.)

  2. Installed panels must move freely from side to side.

  3. When installing a siding panel, push up from the bottom until the lock is fully engaged with the piece below it. Do not force the panels up or down when fastening in position. Stretching the panel upward pulls the natural radius out of the panel and increases the friction of the locks.

  4. Always nail in the center of the slot. WARNING: Do not nail at the end of a slot! Doing so will cause the siding panel to be permanently damaged. If you must nail near the end of a slot to hit a stud, etc., extend the length of the slot with a nail slot punch tool.

  5. Do not drive the head of the nail tightly against the siding nail hem. Allow 1/32” (about the thickness of a dime) clearance between the nail head and the siding panel. Drive nails straight and level to prevent distortion and buckling of the panel.

  6. Leave a minimum of 1/4” clearance at all openings and accessory channel stops to allow for normal expansion and contraction. When installing in temperatures below 40oF, increase minimum clearance to 3/8”.

  7. Do not caulk the panels where they meet the receiver of inside corner postsoutside corner posts, or j-trim. Do not caulk the overlap joints.

  8. Do not face-nail or staple through the siding. Vinyl siding expands and contracts with outside temperature changes. Face-nailing can result in ripples in the siding.

  9. When residing, furring or removal of uneven original siding may be necessary.

  10. 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.

Basic Installation Tools and Equipment

Common hand tools, such as a hammer, fine-tooth saw, square, chalk line, level and tape measure are needed for proper installation. Safety glasses are recommended for eye protection. Other basic tools include:

Power Saw - A bench or radial-arm power saw can speed the cutting of the siding. A fine-tooth blade (12 to 16 teeth per inch) should be used with the blade installed in the reverse direction.

Utility KnifeVinyl is easy to cut, trim and score with a utility knife or scoring tool.

Tin SnipsGood quality tin snips or compound aviation-type snips will speed the cutting and shaping of the vinyl.

Snap Lock PunchA snap lock punch is used to punch lugs in the cut edges of siding to be used for the finishing course at the top of a wall, or underneath a window.

Nail Hole Slot PunchOccasionally, it may be necessary to elongate a nail hem slot. The hole is elongated to allow for expansion and contraction.

Unlocking ToolRemove or replace a siding panel with the unlocking tool. Insert the curved end of the tool under the end of the panel and hook it into the back lip of the butt lock. To disengage the lock, pull down and slide the tool along the length of the panel. Use the same procedure to relock a panel.

Cutting the Siding

When cutting vinyl siding, follow these guidelines:

Safety goggles are always recommended for all cutting and nailing operations. As on any construction job, use proper safety equipment and follow safe construction practices.

With a circular saw, install the fine-toothed (plywood) blade backwards on the saw for a smoother, cleaner cut, especially in cold weather. Cut slowly.

CAUTION! The use of a backward blade on any other materials could be unsafe. 

With tin snips, avoid closing the blades completely at the end of a stroke for a neater, cleaner cut.

With a utility knife or scoring tool, score the vinyl face up with medium pressure and snap it in half. It is not necessary to cut all the way through the vinyl.

Fastener Choices

Use aluminum, galvanized steel, or other corrosion-resistant nails, staples or screws when installing vinyl siding. Aluminum trim pieces require aluminum or stainless steel fasteners. All fasteners must be able to penetrate not less than 3/4" into framing or furring. 

NailsNail heads should be 5/16" minimum in diameter and shank should be 1/8" in diameter.

Screws - Screws must be centred in the slot with a minimum 1/32" space between the screw head and the vinyl. Screws must be able to penetrate not less than 3/4" into framing or furring and should be: Size #8, truss head or pan head, corrosion-resistant, self-tapping sheet metal type.

Staples - If staples are being used instead of nails or screws, they must:

  • Not be less than 16 gauge semi-fastened to an elliptical cross-section
  • Penetrate not less than 3/4" into framing or furring
  • Be wide enough in the crown to allow free movement of the siding (1/32" away from the nailing hem).


Inspect and plan the job in advance. Check surfaces for straightness and fur when necessary. Surfaces should be uniform and straight from various viewing angles.

To achieve designed performance, vinyl siding must be installed over a weather-resistant barrier system that includes a continuous weather-resistant material and properly integrated flashing around all penetrations and where vinyl siding interacts with other building products such as brick, and stone, or stucco. Always consult the applicable building code for minimum weather barrier requirements in your area. Keep in mind that additional measures may provide better protection against water intrusion than the minimum requirements of the building code. 

New Construction

Be sure all nails and sheathing are in place. Waterproof sheathing paper is recommended under new construction or if the old siding is removed. Consult your local building code.


Nail down all loose boards and replace any rotten ones. Remove shutters, downpipes, light fixtures, mouldings and old caulking around doors and windows. Vinyl siding MUST be applied over a rigid sheathing that provides a smooth flat surface and provides sufficient thickness to support the nail. The use of level wall insulation will assist.

Fastening Procedure

Vinyl siding can expand and contract 1/2" or more over a 12'6" length with changes in temperature. Whether using nails, screws, or staples to fasten the siding, the following basic rules must be followed:

  • Make sure the panels are fully locked along the length of the bottom but do not force them up-tight when fastening.
  • Do not staple through the face of the siding. This may result in ripples in the siding.
  • Do not drive the head of the fastener tightly against the siding nail hem. Leave a minimum of 1/32" (the thickness of a dime) between the fastener head and the vinyl.
  • Tight nailing, screwing or stapling will cause the vinyl siding to buckle with changes in temperature.
  • When fastening, start in the center of the panel and work towards the ends.
  • Center the fasteners in the slots to permit expansion and contraction of the siding.
  • Drive fasteners straight and level to prevent distortion and buckling of the panel.
  • Start fastening vertical siding and corner posts at the top of the uppermost slot to hold them in position. Place all other fasteners in the center of the slots, spacing the fasteners a maximum of 16" apart for vertical siding and every 8" to 10" for accessories.

Application for high wind areas:

  • Using a 5/8" nylon washer with a 1/4" hole between the nail and siding, you can increase the window load capabilities of your siding installation.

Horizontal Siding

Step 1: Obtaining the Starting Point

The first step is to determine where you will apply the first course of siding. This can be at the same level as the old siding or, on new construction, at a level that will cover the edge of the foundation. Use a chalk line and a level to obtain a horizontal starting point so that all installed siding will be perfectly level. At all corners, use a plumb line to ensure that corner posts are vertical.

Follow these steps in the order shown for the easiest and best application.

Step 2: Install Corner Posts

Before the siding itself can be hung, a number of accessories must be installed first. This includes starter strip, corner posts, window flashing, trim and corner post, and hanging the corner post in position. The balance of the nailing must be in the center of the slots at 8" to 12" on center. If more than one length is required, refer to the following note for cutting and overlapping instructions.


  • Overlap the upper piece over the lower piece by cutting away 1" of the nailing flange on the top piece. Overlap 3/4", allowing 1/4" for expansion.
  • This method will produce a visible joint between the two posts but will allow water to flow over the joint, reducing the chance of water infiltration.

All corner posts should be cut to appear the same and should extend 1/4" to 1/2" below the first course of siding.

Step 3: Starter Strip

In order for the siding to be installed in a level fashion, the starter strip at the bottom of the wall must be level. With a tape measure, measure the width (w) of the starter strip

Determine, as explained in Step 1, where the bottom of the first course will begin. Measure up from this mark, the width of the starter strip, less than 1/2", and chalk a level line across the wall.

Using the chalk line as a guide, install the top edge of the starter strip along the bottom of the chalk line, nailing at 10" intervals.

Keep the starter strip 1/4" from the nail hems of both the inside and outside corner posts. Leave 1/2" gap between ends of adjacent starter strips to allow for expansion.

Step 4: Windows, Doors and Roof Lines

Window Flashing

Apply the flashing on the underside of the window first. Follow this application by adding flashing on the sides of the window. Make sure to overlap the bottom flashing. The flashing should be long enough to direct water over the nail flange of the last course of complete siding panels.


j-trim face. Finish trim is also used in an inverted position over the tops of the windows and doors and where trims butt against window framing. Caulk where the

Overlap the vinyl panels half the dimension of the factory notch.

For the best appearance, laps should be away from traffic areas and staggered horizontally a minimum of 2' from one course to the next. Do not "repeat" and overlap on the vertical line for a minimum of 3 courses. When overlapping do not nail closer than 6" from the ends of both panels.

Installing Siding Around Windows and Doors

To fit the siding under windows and doors or under the eaves, measure the distance from the bottom edge of the lock on the finish trim to the bottom edge of the top lock of the last full siding panel. Add 5/8" to this measurement to allow the panel edge to engage in the finish trim.

  • Cut the siding panel to the adjusted measurement under the windows or at the finish of the siding installation.
  • Using the snap lock punch, punch ears in the trimmed edge of the siding panel at 8" intervals. Be sure the "ears" face outward from the wall.
  • Lock the top edge of a siding panel in the finish trim and secure the lock at the lower edge of the panel.

To fit the siding over the top of windows and doors, cut out the bottom section of the panel leaving 3/8" clearance on both sides of the window so that the horizontal edge of the cut-out fits firmly into the finish trim.

Fitting Siding Around Fixtures

For handling protrusions around the wall, manufacturer's accessories specifically designed to fit around protrusions can be installed or you can cut siding panels to match the shape and contour of the obstruction. Always begin a new course of the siding at the fixture to avoid excess lap joints.

Cut a slot 1/4" larger than the fixture.

Step 6: Top of Wall Finish

Siding is measured and finished off at the top of the wall in exactly the same fashion as under a window or door, as explained in installing siding around windows and doors, except that full sheets of siding will be used.

The transition from Horizontal to Vertical

Finish the last course of horizontal siding with the j-trim and/or finish trim. Install a drip cap and a j-trim (or h-trim). The top piece of j-trim must have 1/4" weep holes drilled every 24" to allow for water runoff.

Vertical Siding

Plan panel layout. Read steps 1 through 6 of Horizontal Siding Instruction for basic rules and tips of a standard siding application.

Drill drainage holes every 12" in the bottom edge of j-trim. With vertical accessories and panels, position the first nail at the upper edge of the top nailing slot. This allows the panel to hang. Position the remaining nails in the center of the nailing slot. See the fastening procedures above.

Step 1:

Install horizontal furring strips 12" on the center or a solid nailable sheathing prior to installing the siding, if needed, to level the surface or provide sufficient material for 3/4" fastener penetration.

Step 2:

Establish the vertical starting baseline. Install corner posts even with or slightly below the chalk lines. J-trim should extend into the corner post. (Remember to allow 1/4" for expansion.)

Step 3:

Install j-trim around windows and doors along the eaves. The j-trim at the top of the opening should extend over the side of the j-trim by 1/4". Cut and bend this top portion down over this side of the j-trim. (This will allow water to run off.)

Step 4: 

For ease of application, vertical installations should start at a corner. Fill the channel of the corner by nailing down a strip of board 2" wide. Push a strip of finish trim into the channel of the corner over the board and nail.

Cut off the locking leg of the first panel, and snap-lock punch the edge at 12" intervals. Make sure the "ears" face outward from the wall.

Push the punched edge of the panel into the strip of finish trim. Interlock and nail subsequent panels. Measure and cut to the size of the last panel, punch the edge and insert it into the finish trim in the corner.

Note: Before installing any siding, measure the width of the wall to ensure that the last panel will fit into finish trim in the corner.

Installing Vertical Siding on Gable Ends

For a clean look, you want to have the groove of the vertical panel centered in line with the peak of the gable.

  • Start by trimming the perimeter of the gable with j-trim, overlapping joints. If horizontal siding s installed below vertical, see previous for illustration.
  • At the peak of the gable, drop a chalk line perpendicular to the starter strip. You can either start in the center using h-trim and starter strip each side or from the corner across. To ensure a balanced look, determine where to start the first panel. Measure from the chalk line along the starter strip until you get to a point where the measurement to the j-trim is less than a panel width.
  • Mark that point with a pencil.
  • Measure back toward the center of the gable from that point 1 1/4", and draw a vertical line, parallel to the line dropped from the gable peak. This line is the position of the edge of the nail hem on the first panel.

Determine Roof Angle

Every 3 panels, be sure to check for plumb and also measure to the center chalk line to ensure that you are going to arrive at the peak with a center groove in line with it. Make needed small adjustments by pushing the panels "in" or "out" within the lock. The lock should face away from the general viewing area.

Note: Over roof lines install j-trim to sit 1/2" off of the shingles, not directly on the shingle surface. A piece of j-trim can be used as a spacer template.

Soffit and Fascia

Ventilation Requirements

Proper attic ventilation is important for any home. Consult your local building code or official for the appropriate requirements for your specific area and use vented soffit or other vented products as necessary.

Step 1

When installing soffit, the object is to provide two parallel slots, one on the house and one on the bottom of the fascia board that will support the soffit panel. Depending on your truss and fascia board configuration, there are several options for the installation of fascia cap and receiving channels for soffit. Fascia cap with or without j-trim can be used with accessories such as j-trim and f-channel.

Step 2

The best approach is to select a method that works most effectively with the construction techniques used. Examine the illustrations and install the receiving channels in a configuration that closely resembles the construction techniques in your project. Channels should be nailed every 12" to 16".

Step 3: Enclosed Overhangs

For soffit applications with enclosed overhangs, start by installing 1/2" or 5/8" j-trim along with the wood fascia board and on wall edge level to the bottom of the fascia board. Nail j-trim every 8"-10". Cut soffit panels 1/4" shorter than dimension "A" and fit into place, locking panels together. Fasten with nails.

If you are removing existing wood soffit or molding, you may need to level the area with a 1" x 2" furring strip.

Step 4: Open Rafters

To install soffit on an open rafter overhang, f-channel is attached to the wall face and either f-channel or fascia with or without j-trim is attached to the fascia board. The soffit is then cut to the width of the opening and suspended between.

For rafter widths greater than 24", we recommend that center fastener support should be provided. This can be provided by nailing 2 x 4's from the fascia to wall face every 3 rafters, then attaching a 1 x 2 flat along the bottom of these support hangers. Soffit panels can be screw-nailed into this support. Corners may be squared or mitered.

Step 5: Mitered Corners

Install h-trim or two j-trims on diagonal, then cut soffit panels to fit angle.

For "best" appearance, cut mitered soffit panels so that center v-grooves line up. Porch ceilings may be covered with non-ventilated soffit panels. If the ceiling is wider than 12', an h-trim can be used to provide a seam.

Step 6: Fascia

Finish trim is installed around the top perimeter of the wood fascia board.

Measure the width of the face to the finish trim and add 5/8" to insert into finish trim.

Overlap adjacent lengths of fascia by approximately 1". To do this, cut away a 1 1/2" section from the bottom part of the underlying fascia. It is necessary to nail through one end of each fascia panel to fix its position. Position the anchor nail is shown in this diagram so that the overlapping fascia cap will cover the nail. Be sure to drill a 3/16" pilot hole for this nail.

Step 7: Securing Fascia Cap to Fascia Board

If you are installing fascia with j-trim, this is one of the rare instances that face nailing allowed. Drive the nail through the "u"-shaped groove in the soffit panel using small-headed nails.

Once the soffit is face nailed to the fascia cap, it will expand in one direction - toward the receiving channel opposite. Allow space for the expansion of soffit.