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Applying Wood Shingles and Shakes

Of all siding materials, shingles and shakes are the easiest to install. The job is repetitive but requires only basic carpentry skills. Nail up a batten guide strip for each course, fit each piece 1/8 inch from its neighbor, and drive in two or three nails. You can apply shingles and shakes directly over old wood siding. If your house has wood or plywood sheathing, you could remove the old siding, repair defects, and staple on some new building wrap first.

Shingle grades run from 1 to 4, in a variety of sizes and textures. Choose No. 1 or No. 2 grade material for exterior walls. No. 3 and No. 4 grade are structurally sound but not good-looking; use them only where appearance isn’t a factor, as in the first layer in double-course shingling. To apply double-course shingles, nail up two layers, one on top of the other (see Step 1). This lets you expose more of the shingle surface and creates a deeper shadow line between courses. Expose slightly less than one-half of the shingle for single coursing, about two-thirds for double-course applications.

For a neat, uniform look, carefully plot exposures so they’ll line up with window tops and sills, and then hold the courses exactly level. If you want to add design interest, you can nail them so the bottom butt edges are random lengths. Shingles up to 8 inches wide need two rustproof shingle nails each; with wider shingles, use a third nail. Soak bundles of shingles for several hours before you begin or the wood may expand and pull away during the first heavy rain.

Tools: Saw, level, hammer, tape measure, chalk line, square, pry bar, water level, block plane.

Making It All the Way Around - With siding that has horizontal sight lines, it is important that the siding courses meet at exactly the same height at the corners. Start the job by marking level lines indicating the bottoms of the bottom course and several upper courses, all around the house. It is easy to do this if you use a water level or a laser level.

1. Double the bottom course. Use two shingles for the first course, three if you’ll be doublecoursing. Overhang below the sheathing about 1 inch.

2. Nail the shingles. Drive nails 3/4 inch from each edge and at least an inch above where the butt edges of the next course will fall.

3. Use a horizontal guide. To keep butts perfectly level, tack up a guide strip as shown. Once you are sure that the guide is level and at the correct height, installing the shingles is quick and easy. Always stagger edge joints by at least an inch from course to course.

4. Alternate courses at a corner. As each course arrives at a corner, butt the corner shingles alternately as shown, using a block plane to fine-tune the fit. Alternatively, miter the edges, cover them with wood or metal molding, or install vertical edge molding pieces and butt the shingles tight up to the moldings.

5. Flash around a window. Carefully fit building wrap around window and door moldings. Install drip-edge flashing at the top so that water is sure to run away from the house. Add a shim piece onto the flashing so the bottom shingles slope away from the house to shed rain. Cut the shingles carefully and install them tightly to the moldings.

Double-coursing. There are two basic ways to install shingles, each of which guarantees that the sheathing will be covered at all points. With a single-course installation, less than half the length of a shingle is exposed; and the nails are hidden. With double-course installation, each course is doubled, and the nails are driven near the bottom of the shingles, so they are exposed. For double-coursing, use longer nails. Edges of the outer course should be 1/2 inch below the undercourse.

Applying Board Siding

Install horizontal wood siding in much the same way as you would install wood shingles and shakes. Keep in mind that this work calls for much more precise measurements and careful carpentry. Ensure that boards will remain perfectly level from course to course, and that courses will line up with the tops and bottoms of door and window frames. Use a water level or laser level to make marks all round the house so the siding will meet at the same height at all corners.

Usually it is easiest to install vertical corner trim boards first, and then butt the horizontal siding to them. One alternative is to bevel-cut siding pieces and make hundreds of exact corner joints. This looks great, but calls for excellent carpentry skills. Or purchase metal caps to finish off the corner of each course. Vertical siding—especially with random-width boards—requires fewer painstaking calculations. Plan for openings and corners before you get to them, though, and be sure to plumb each board. Handle all siding lumber carefully, especially prefinished and preprimed types. These relatively soft woods often split when nailed near an edge. To keep this from happening, drill pilot holes first or use special preblunted siding nails.

Tools: Hammer, drill, handsaw, miter saw, level, chalk line.

Prepare for horizontal siding. Check with local codes or consult with a siding expert to see if you should apply roofing felt or building wrap before siding. If the old siding is plywood or shiplap, you can nail siding directly over it. The new siding will make your walls thicker, so you may need to extend door and window trim by the same amount. For the easiest installation, if the existing siding is horizontal, you may choose to tear it off. Alternatively, nail vertical 1x3s every 16 inches, as shown above. Drive nails through the old siding into the studs beneath. You will need to extend the window and door trim quite a bit. Nailers, however, give you the option of installing rigid 3/4-inch insulation (shown below) between the strips, increasing your home’s energy efficiency.

Prepare for vertical siding. If you have existing horizontal siding and want to install vertical siding, you may choose to remove the old siding first. Alternatively, attach horizontal nailing strips. Space them about 16 inches from center to center; make sure that they are all installed onto the horizontal siding at the same thickness (that is, at the same distance away from the wall). Fill the gaps with rigid 3/4-inch insulation. If the existing siding is uniform (check it with a long, straight board) and you do not need additional insulation, you can install vertical or plywood siding directly onto the horizontal siding.

Adding lap siding. Decide how wide a reveal you want—the distance from the bottom edge of each piece of siding to the course above. (This is mostly a style decision, but the narrower, the greater the insulation value.) A siding reveal that’s 10 inches wide or less requires two nails driven into each stud. Wider siding needs three nails.

Installing shiplap. Channel-groove siding gets two nails across the width of each board. Nail about 1 inch from the board’s edges. Be sure to drill a pilot hole wherever you drive a nail less than 3 inches from a board’s edge.

Installing tongue-and-groove. Tongue-and-groove siding is nailed through the tongue of each course. Wide boards may need a second nail midway up the board.

Attaching Siding Firmly - Ideally, any siding should be attached with nails driven into wall studs—not just the sheathing or the old siding. However, if the sheathing is wood planks or plywood in good shape (rather than a fibrous or Styrofoam-like material), siding can be firmly installed with ringshank nails driven into the sheathing alone. Purchase siding nails recommended for the siding you will install. You may want two lengths, one for driving all the way into studs and one for attaching to sheathing only. Wherever you will drive a nail less than 3 inches from a board’s edge, drill pilot holes first.

Finishing at the top. Siding should extend up under trim boards. If the trim is in good shape, number the trim boards as you remove them, remove the old nails, and reuse the trim. Often it is easier to install new pieces.

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