top of page
  • Writer's pictureMatt Weber

Vinyl Siding Installation

Vinyl siding has a lot to offer today's homeowners in terms of design and performance. Available in a huge array of colors and textures, from traditional clapboard to the look of board-and-batten or even shake siding with complementary trim details, vinyl allows builders and architects to achieve practically any architectural style. Want a house in the Cape Cod style? French Colonial? Georgian? Queen Anne or Greek Revival? Today's vinyl siding products can make it happen.

Long-term durability and minimal maintenance requirements are two more big selling points. Designed to withstand winds of 110 mph or higher, vinyl siding has multiple attachment points for superior weather protection, and advanced UV-resistant coatings resist color fading. Manufacturers generally back the siding with a lifetime warranty to the original homeowner and with a prorated warranty of at least 50 years to subsequent owners. Vinyl siding offers all this protection, and you never need to paint, stain, caulk or re-paint it.

When it comes to choosing a home's exterior cladding, good looks and performance are critical, but so is cost. Vinyl siding outshines other siding materials when compared to the total installed cost. According to the RS Means National Construction Estimating Software Tool, the average total installed cost per square (100 sq. ft.) is $393 for vinyl siding, $684 for fiber cement, $1,389 for wood siding, and a whopping $2,048 for brick in new construction (based on 2018 data).

Installation Overview

Abel and Laura Martinez of in Hoover, Alabama, added a wing onto their suburban home for an indoor infinity pool with the help of Lovelady Construction Co. When it came time to select cladding, the Martinez family chose Exterior Portfolio Market Square vinyl siding, made by Royal Building Products.

Vinyl siding is engineered for quick and easy installation. The material is lightweight and simple to cut, and the Vinyl Siding Institute offers a free downloadable installation manual at A confident DIY'er could tackle a small job, such as replacing siding on a damaged wall at ground level, but larger jobs such as the one pictured here are only for the pros. The deceptively simple act of fastening the siding panels shouldn't overshadow all the dangerous ladder work and logistical problems of carefully measuring, cutting panels to shape, and moving materials many feet off the ground.

Furthermore, when it comes to wall transitions, flashing methods and finish details, there's a lot more to installation than simply nailing up a panel. Before installing any new siding, proper flashing details must be in place to shed water from the building envelope.

The HIR team joined the installation crew of Lovelady Construction on site, where they were kind enough to show us how they get the job done.

Do heights make you nervous? This one of many reasons a full-scale siding installation should be left to the pros. The worker is removing old siding before installing the new.

Vinyl corner trim and j-channel have deep, square grooves to conceal the edges of the siding panels.

The trim pieces are installed first at all wall transitions.

When the bottom of the wall meets a floor or the ground, J-channel is installed along the bottom.

Pro Tip: Keep a pair of tin snips handy to make quick adjustments to the J-channel and trim.

The first panel of siding nests into the bottom J-channel.

For elevated walls, install a starter strip along the bottom.

The lower edge of the first panel locks into the starter strip.


Everything depends on proper fastening of the siding. Because vinyl siding contracts and expands as the outside temperature changes, it's important not to fasten the panels tightly to the wall sheathing. When fastened loosely, the slotted holes in the nailing flange allow the panels to move freely as the temperature fluctuates.

"Nailing the siding too tight is the easiest way to install it wrong," says Alvin Connell of Lovelady Construction, who prefers to use construction staples as a fast and secure way to hang the siding. Installers should allow 1/32-in. clearance (thickness of a dime) between the fastener head and the siding panel. Connell explains that if the panels are fastened too tightly, they can buckle and deform as the temperature changes.

It is important, however, that the fasteners penetrate a minimum of 1-1/4-inch into a framing stud or furring strip. Start fastening in the center of the panel and work toward the ends.

To avoid buckling, the siding panels also require at least 1/4-in. clearance at all openings and stops. (When installing in temperatures below 40 degrees F, increase the clearance to 3/8 inch.) These clearance gaps are concealed inside corner trim or vinyl J-channel. J-channel is a transition strip installed around all windows and doors prior to hanging the siding panels. The edges of adjoining siding panels insert into the channels for a clean, finished appearance.

Proper fastening is critical so the panels can move with temperature fluctuation. The crew at Lovelady Construction prefers to use construction staples. Maintain a 1/32“ gap between the fastener head and the nailing flange.

In general, vinyl siding installs from the bottom up, beginning with a starter strip (for elevated walls) or a J-channel (at floor transitions), and the siding panels follow, snapping together along the linear joints.

When installing a panel, push up along its bottom edge until the lock is fully engaged with the piece below it for the full length of the panel. For horizontal panels, space fasteners a maximum of 16″ (12” for vertical panels). Check the alignment every few rows to make sure the siding is hanging straight and level.

When working around windows, doors and similar obstructions, the panels must be cut to size. It is also important to use utility trim and punch locks at certain points where a nail hem has been cut off. The Lovelady guys work in tandem, with one installer taking measurements along the wall and hanging the panels, while the cut-man uses snips to trim the panels to shape and conveys them to the installer. Careful measurement and clear communication between workers is critical.

Chip Lovelady uses tin snips to cut siding panels to size.

Alvin Connell fits a cut panel around a window.

Tight spaces such as this roof transition require careful measurement and cutting to properly install the flashing, trim and siding to protect the home.

By working from the bottom up, it becomes necessary to trim off the nailing flange from

the top panel, which eliminates those critical slotted holes. As a workaround, the Lovelady crew interlocks the trimmed top course to the lower course along its bottom edge, while its top edge tucks inside the trim channel along the eave. The installer then drives color-matched trim nails into the weep holes of the upper panel, which connects the two courses to each other without pinning the upper course to the sheathing.


Ventilation is an important aspect of installing soffit along your eaves. Consult a local building official for the airflow requirements in your area. Vented vinyl soffit material can provide this airflow.

To install the soffit, measure from the wall to the fascia board and subtract 1/2 inch to allow for expansion, then mark and cut the soffit panel to fit. Fasten at the fascia and wall through the nail flange and “V”-shaped groove, leaving space for expansion.

To turn a corner, soffit panels can be mitered and supported with back-to-back J-channels.

J-channel is often used to receive the edges of the soffit panels, but the Lovelady crew uses a different system, in which they bend their own L-shaped backer from aluminum coil stock.

“When I shape the angle myself, it gives the soffit panels a tighter fit,” says Chip Lovelady, who forms and cuts the aluminum material on site. “A tighter fit is a stronger installation and prevents any loose panels that might rattle in high winds.” The crew installs the house-end of the soffit panels against the aluminum, then they sandwich the panels against it using a strip of J-channel for a tight fit, and the J-channel provides trim for the top siding course.

To complete the installation, the Lovelady crew uses a sheet-metal brake to form color-matched aluminum stock into a tight-fitting fascia cap that protects against roof runoff.

The aluminum cap can be fastened with matching trim nails. (If necessary to face-nail the fascia, it helps to drill holes for the trim nails to allow for expansion and reduce denting the aluminum.)

To aid installation of the vented soffit, Chip Lovelady cuts aluminum angle trim to support the back of the soffit panels.

When nailed to the sheathing, the aluminum angle provides backing for the soffit panels.

The vented soffit is fastened to the fascia.

J-channel fastened along the sheathing holds the soffit panels against the aluminum backer.

The J-channel provides transition trim to conceal the edges of the top course of siding.

The top siding course has its nailing flange removed, so Alvin Connell installs it by locking it to the lower course then nailing through the weep holes (without driving the nail into the sheathing).

The Lovelady adds finishing details made of shaped aluminum sheet metal, such as this fascia cap that helps protect the house from wind and rain.

Looking Back

After the project was all buttoned up, the new Market Profile siding had a handsome look with a clean finish at all edge transitions. Using a network of ladders, scaffolds and multiple experienced workers, the Lovelady crew gave the Martinez house a whole new look in just a few days, and it’s a look that will last for years without the hassle of regular maintenance.


Wall & Window Flashing for Vinyl Siding

A code-approved flashing material should be installed around windows, doors, other openings, inside and outside corners, and the intersection of walls and roofing. The most important tip to remember when applying window flashing is that flashing should extend past the nail flanges of the window (or any accessory) to prevent water infiltration. The flashing must be long enough to direct water over the nail flange of the last full course of siding. To accomplish this, first apply the flashing on the underside of the window, then to the sides of the window (overlapping the bottom flashing), and finally, to the top of the window.


Installation Video courtesy of the Vinyl Siding Institute

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page