Make your siding last: tips for repairing vinyl, aluminum and wood siding

Regardless of the material it's made of, siding has a rough life keeping the elements away, and is bound to see some wear. The good news is it shouldn't be too tough to patch or fix cracks.

Make your siding last: tips for repairing vinyl, aluminum and wood siding

Patch vinyl siding

If vinyl siding is cracked or badly stained, get a replacement piece from a siding distributor. Replace a piece that's at least 1.2 metres (four feet) long.

While you are at the siding store, pick up a "zip tool" — you'll need this specialized tool to unlock the old siding. If your siding has weathered, a new section of siding won't match well.

So take a section from an inconspicuous spot, and use that for the replacement. Then use the new piece to fill the inconspicuous spot. Here's how to proceed:

1. Use a combination square to mark cutting lines on the damaged panel. Let an edge fall along an existing joint if one is close.

2. Work the zip tool under the edge of the panel above the damaged one. Pull down on the zip tool, and draw it along the panel to unlock the panel above.

3. Prop the unlocked panel open with blocks of wood. Remove the nails in the damaged panel's top edge. Cut out the damaged area with tin snips.

4. Cut the replacement panel about four centimetres (1.5 inches) longer than the opening to allow for two centimetres (.75 inch) overlap at each end. Slip the panel under one adjacent panel's edge, and overlap the other following the existing pattern of overlaps. Make sure the panel's bottom edge locks in place.

5. Secure the panel's upper edge with aluminum nails at 40 centimetre (16 inch) intervals. Centre each nail in an oval slot. Stop nailing just when the head touches the siding. If you nail it tight, the panel won't be able to expand in warm weather, and it will buckle. Relock the panel above with the zip tool.

Patch damaged aluminum siding

It won't crack like vinyl or split or rot like wood, but aluminum siding will dent, as you will discover the first time a kid whacks it with a baseball. Here's how to replace a dented section:

1. Use a zip tool, available at siding suppliers, to unlock the damaged piece of siding from the piece below and above. Pull down as you slide the tool along. Pull the nails that secure the damaged section from the house.

2. Prop the upper piece of siding up and out of the way with wood blocks for easier access. Use aviation snips to cut out the damaged section of siding. Be sure to wear heavy gloves — the metal edges are sharp.

3. Cut the replacement piece so that it overlaps the existing siding two centimetre (.75 inch) on each side. Notch the nailing strip at the top to accommodate the overlap.

Fix cracked wood siding

  • Small cracks in wood siding can trap water, causing paint to peel and inviting rot.
  • Fortunately, they take minutes to fix. Just squirt in a little acrylic latex "painter's caulk," smooth with your finger, and paint.
  • If the split runs most of the width of a clapboard, wedge it apart with two or three screwdrivers.
  • Fill it with a waterproof glue such as resorcinol.
  • Press the split shut, and nail the board's lower edge with galvanized or aluminum nails.
  • Sink the nail heads with a nail set, and fill the holes with wood putty before painting.
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