Removing Vinyl Siding
Free of visible fasteners, vinyl siding may look impenetrable to the uninitiated, but it’s actually the easiest cladding to remove and replace for remodeling or repairs. Because cold weather makes it more difficult to work with vinyl siding and makes cracking the siding more likely, though, it’s best to wait for warmer temperatures before attempting removal.
Pulling vinyl apart is safer and easier to do with an inexpensive siding-removal tool. The tool’s small hook grabs the bottom of a siding course and pulls it free from the course below it. You can find the tool at home centers and siding dealers for about $6.
Where adjoining pieces overlap, you need to separate the courses. To make sure you’re not trying to unhook a molded area that won’t separate, look at the siding from below. The connection between courses has a seam. The molded areas in the middle of the course do not.
To remove a piece of siding, unhook the piece above it by inserting the removal tool where the pieces overlap. Use the tool to pull down on the hooked edge, then gently pull the siding from the piece below it. When the pieces separate, slide the tool along the hooked edge while lifting the loose end away from the building. Once the piece is free, hold it out of the way while you use a cat’s paw to pull the siding nails. After you’ve removed all the nails, push the siding piece straight down to free it from the course below. Continue pulling nails and removing courses until you’ve removed all that’s necessary.
1) Insert the removal tool. Starting at a receiving channel or overlap, slide the removal tool between two pieces of siding.
2) Pull down and out. Unhook the siding from the previous course by sliding the tool along the seam while gently pulling down and out with the tool and your other hand.
3) Pull the nails. Use a cat’s paw to pull the siding nails. Put the cat’s paw between the nail and the siding to prevent breaking the slotted nail hole.
4) Slide the panel down. Once the nails are removed, unhook the siding piece from the previous course by pulling it straight down. Gently bend the panel to free it from receiving channels.
Reinstall vinyl siding
To reinstall vinyl siding, reverse the removal process. Hook the siding onto the course below or the starter strip (for first courses). Confirm that the piece is fully hooked by pulling up gently and sliding it side to side. If it doesn’t slide easily, make sure it is fully hooked onto the course below.
Pushing on the overlap with your palm will often reveal any problem spots. Small humps— especially those that yield when pushed on—are spots where the courses are not fully mated. Push on the area while pulling up on the siding until the two pieces are fully joined. You’ll often hear a satisfying zipping sound as two uncooperative siding pieces are joined together.
Nailing the siding too tight causes unsightly creases and buckling. To prevent this, center the nails in the nail slot but don’t drive them home. There should be the thickness of a dime between the nail head and the siding.
Don’t fully insert the siding into J-channel, outside corners, and window flanges. Leave 1/4 in. between the end of the siding and the receiving channel to allow for expansion. In temperatures below 40°F, leave 3/8 in.
One final tip: For long runs with overlaps, orient the overlaps so they’re consistent throughout the elevation.
5) Reverse the steps. Reinstall panels by pushing in and up until they fully grip the course below. Fully hooked siding panels slide easily for expansion and contraction.
6) Drive the nails. Centered in the slot, drive in hot-dipped galvanized or aluminum roofing nails. Leave 1/16 in. to 1/32 in. between the nail head and the siding.
7) Receiving channels first. Before reattaching the bottom edge with the siding tool, insert the piece into J-channel, corners, and trim.
8) Reattach with two hands. Use the siding tool to pull down on the upper panel while you push inward with your other hand. Work from one end toward the other.
9) Test the connection. Pull up gently on the siding after reinstallation to be sure the two pieces are fully attached.
Working with vinyl siding requires a pair of specialized tools. To unhook a vinyl-siding panel from a preceding course, you’ll need a siding-removal tool. The tool’s small hook frees or reattaches it to the course below. The top course and those below windows and other obstructions generally require a snap-lock punch, which makes small tabs that lock panels into utility trim.
Product photos: Dan Thornton; other photos: Andy Engel