DIY Wood Siding?

lucilleNovember 24, 2011

I am seriously considering re-doing my own siding. About 2/3 of my siding just needs repainting, another third has some wood rot and needs to be replaced.

My plan is to remove all of it, replace and repair any wood rot in the window sashes etc I see, sand and prime the salvageable pieces of lap siding, replace the nonsalvageable pieces.Insulate and then reinstall the siding, then paint.

I've never done serious carpentry but have done small jobs and repairs for years.

Is this doable? Other than a quality table saw which I would need to purchase,and sanders which I already own, what other equipment would I need?

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Depending on the size of the house, this is a pretty major undertaking, but within the realm of things most people can do.

I'm not sure why you're removing all the siding. With care, you can remove the parts that need replacement without taking down all of it. I'm also uncertain about the insulation. If you're proposing to add insulation from the outside between the siding and the sheathing underneath, you will have to make adjustments in the thickness of all the trim around doors, windows, etc. This would another whole level of even more complex carpentry.

A couple of other suggestions. A miter/chop saw would be much more useful than a table saw for this project. A pneumatic nailer is not absolutely essential, but, especially if you're going to remove then replace everything, you'll be driving an awful lot of nails. Before you start, learn how to make and use a story pole. If you'll be working alone, investigate some of the removable siding hangers available for solo work.

    Bookmark   November 24, 2011 at 6:10AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thank you for your advice about the saw and nailer.
I could remove just the damaged siding and replace, only about a third to a fourth of the lap siding boards need to be replaced along with some rot in the window areas.

One thing that bothers me is that I have not yet figured out why the rot happened, especially in window sashes several feet off the ground. In what is now my bedroom the rot extends to the inside windowsill.

When I bought the house there was a water leak underneath which was fixed prior to purchase. Was that the cause? Who knows. The upper half of the house seems good, just needs a little sanding, priming and painting.

    Bookmark   November 24, 2011 at 6:47AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

If the house is more than one story or has an end gable wall, hire someone to do it. Anything that gets an inexperienced carpenter more than 3 ft off the ground is not worth the risk regardless of the cost savings.

Reclaiming old clapboards is an incredibly labor intensive task and you will probably crack half of them.

Your description of the leak locations is unclear. Did the window sash rot or the sills ...? Post a photo.

    Bookmark   November 24, 2011 at 7:36AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Renovator8, I appreciate your comments. I am going to get a bid in a few weeks from a carpenter. The problem is that the EPA rules seems to have reduced the number of carpenters available to legally work on old homes in my area and (I have heard)increased the cost. I'll wait until I have a bid or two and see.
You may be correct on the reclamation of the boards, if I attempt the job myself and crack the siding boards, I will buy new ones at the local hardware store which does carry the lap siding my home has.
Just taking a look at the forest instead of the trees for a moment, if the EPA rules boost the price of old home repairs by contractors and if you say inexperienced ordinary homeowners shouldn't do some siding repair and replacement, what does that say about the future of older housing?

    Bookmark   November 24, 2011 at 7:54AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

What EPA regulations apply to clapboard replacement?

    Bookmark   November 24, 2011 at 8:54AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

The lead abatement regulations.

    Bookmark   November 24, 2011 at 9:04AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

While homeowners have less stringent lead-abatement rules, the need for actual lead abatement in practice is still the same. Sanding boards with lead paint on them (no matter who does it) is probably the most effective way to increase your risk of lead problems and site contamination.

I'd tackle the project one step at a time:

Find out why the rotted areas have occured;

Fix causes of rot;

Repair damaged areas (sills, trim, sheathing, etc.) around rotted places;

Remove and replace (only where necessary) other damaged siding pieces;

Prep other areas for re-painting as needed, but do not plan on removing all the siding and rehanging the good ones (except for the odd survivor within an otherwise deteriorated area). As noted above salvaging siding is very difficult and you will destroy a lot of boards that might have been just fine if left on the wall and merely prepped and repainted.



    Bookmark   November 24, 2011 at 11:57AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Lirio, your advice does help, thank you. I have a lot of flaking paint, I do have to sand that off before repainting.

    Bookmark   November 24, 2011 at 12:18PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Don't sand lead paint. Use heat, infrared, or a chemical stripper. Or even just scrape it with a scraper. Depending on where it will fall, you can clean it up with a shop vac.

Some people have chemically or IR-stripped entire houses. It looks fabulous.

Karin L

    Bookmark   November 24, 2011 at 11:49PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

The EPA wants you to remove lead paint from your house so be sure you have the latest EPA Lead Paint Rule and see how it applies to your location.

Here is a link that might be useful: Lead Paint Rule

    Bookmark   November 25, 2011 at 8:23AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

And for those curious about the certification requirements here are the basics with the 2010 and 2011 rulings closing loopholes:

Here is a link that might be useful: EPA certification/abatement requirements

    Bookmark   November 25, 2011 at 9:54AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Be prepared to discover that half the siding you now believe to be salvageable won't ever see the warm sun again. A majority will be split and splintered upon removal. Trimming split ends will result in shorter boards, more small pieces.
Consider flipping it over, too, and exposing the fresh side. Depending on the surface that could be an option.

    Bookmark   November 25, 2011 at 10:06AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I had a section of west facing boards removed from my 1919 house. I had hoped to salvage some of them, but as Casey says, just about all of them were split and splintered. And cupped, which wasn't that noticeable until they were removed.

    Bookmark   November 25, 2011 at 10:35AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

If you attempt to just pry old siding off, much of it will, indeed, break or split. If you approach the job carefully, some boards will be made useless, but certainly many fewer than a majority.

The trick is to pry gently from the lower edge in several places rather than just one until you have created a slight gap. Use a hacksaw blade in a holder or a sawzall with a flexible metal cutting blade to cut through the shanks of the nails behind the board you are attempting to remove. There is another tool used by slate roofers. It has a thin metal blade with a hook on one end. The bottom of the hook's concave curve is sharpended. The tool is put up between the siding boards, then pulled downward until the sharpened part of the hook engages the nail. A downward blow with a hammer on the base of the tool causes it to shear off the nail. I've heard it called a "slater's ripper", but I don't know if that's the actual name.

Siding, whether clapboard or other types, more than 50 or 75 years old is probably better than anything you can buy today. Properly cared for, cedar clapboards can last 150 years or more. It's wasteful and foolish to tear good siding off and throw it away if it's not really necessary.

    Bookmark   November 25, 2011 at 10:57AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Hi graywings.

I like Lirio's and Mainegrower's answers, in simply not removing all of them, only the damaged ones. Those I will replace.
I spoke with a former neighbor yesterday who told me he could get me a great deal on a certified vinyl job, but I'm thinking I really want to keep my wood siding.
I took a critical look yesterday and (of course you don't really know until you remove them) it seems maybe 1/3 need to be replaced.
I'm not going to do anything until this one guy gives me a bid. He is in the process of moving so it will be from 1-2 weeks before he gets out to my place.
But if I have to, I think I can do it myself.

    Bookmark   November 25, 2011 at 11:05AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Lucille, removing the siding is a diy chore, if you aren't afraid of heights. My house is two storeys, and I wouldn't want to try the higher ones. :)

Just remember, check how it is nailed get a clapboard off, you will need to remove two rows of nails--one showing on the damaged clap, and the other being the nails in the piece above. You gently pry loose the upper board, then tap it back down a bit to loosen the nails--pull them out, then you can pull the damaged clapboard out from underneath when you remove its nails. Replace the new clap, and you will then have to renail the upper one--do this at a slightly different angle and you can use the same holes.

One other thing: you might slip a piece of rosin paper behind the joint where the new clap meets the end of its neighbor in the same row--and be sure to caulk both ends!

    Bookmark   November 25, 2011 at 12:17PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Columbusguy you are funny lol about the heights. Most of the damaged boards that I can see are less than 5 feet up. Of course I'm keeping an open mind and will look at each board as it comes off and make sure I get to undamaged wood before I stop taking off boards.
I'm apprehensive about the window area, but I'm going to draw pictures of how it all it put together before I remove anything.
Thank you for the step by step instructions.

    Bookmark   November 25, 2011 at 12:25PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

The guys who removed my siding didn't make much of an effort to save the wood.

One problem with a DIY removal is timing it with getting something back on the house to protect it. As far as I know, you can't just take the wood off and leave your house exposed. What do people do in situations like this? Wouldn't it be better to work on the boards in situ?

    Bookmark   November 25, 2011 at 6:18PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Graywings, the obvious answer is, do it in stages, especially if only removing damaged ones. If you have the help, and the house isn't huge, it could be done one side at a time--this would allow you to put housewrap or something like it underneath and that would protect it until the clapboards were up on that side again.

    Bookmark   November 25, 2011 at 8:03PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

You know how they say a picture is worth a thousand words...
I just got this book through interlibrary loan:
AUTHOR: Leeke, John.
Practical restoration reports compendium

It's full of pictures and detailed descriptions of various wood restoration techniques, including a section on rotted sills. Highly recommend you borrow it and flip through; will definitely inform your work.

Below I linked a blog showing exterior restoration work. I like the way they did the clapboard corners with the chinese pull saw. We have one of those; magical to work with.

Best of luck with your project and ENJOY the journey :-)

Here is a link that might be useful: Ocean manor house exterior restoration

    Bookmark   November 30, 2011 at 8:51AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

"One problem with a DIY removal is timing it with getting something back on the house to protect it. As far as I know, you can't just take the wood off and leave your house exposed. "

Tarps are your friend.

And the EPA lead rules DO NOT apply to homeowners.

You do not have tio be certified, and can do as much or as little as you want.

Check for any local laws, but most places just kowtow to the EPA.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2011 at 3:30PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Brickeyee, the whole point of my doing this is because so far I have not found an EPA qualified carpenter. I have the one guy coming out here next week, if he doesn't work out, I have to do it myself.

Slateberry, thank you for the reference. If I end up doing this, I will order it from And I'll look up a description of the saw you mentioned. One nice thing about doing it myself is I will end up with a bunch of nice new tools so if the diy bug continues beyond the necessities, I'll be ahead of the game.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2011 at 5:33PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

"the whole point of my doing this is because so far I have not found an EPA qualified carpenter."

The EPA is very effective at increasing costs, often with no benefit.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2011 at 3:01PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

You got that right. I sent an email to the carpenter and have not yet received a reply.
But the advice I have received right here on this very thread about not removing all the siding, only the damaged lower parts, and the reference provided above by slateberry, is going to make this doable.
I realize that this is a home forum, not a political one, but I just wonder about the wisdom of initiating the expensive and time consuming (it can take up to three months to receive the certification after you send off for it)process of certification when so many are desperately seeking work.
So far, the few carpenters who have done jobs for me in years past have been careful and good people, to say that this extra burden of paperwork will somehow make us all safer is not, in my opinion, supported by what I've seen in my own experience.
I obviously have to live with things as they are, so I'm glad all of y'all are here with your experience and advice:)

    Bookmark   December 2, 2011 at 6:03AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I had my home re-roofed, and need to get started on the siding project.
I'm fricken tired of the EPA and am just going to do the siding myself because I can't find a certified carpenter. Have just ordered a bunch of tools from Sears and a copy of the recommended book above, Practical Restoration Reports so it's more than talk now.
While I'm waiting for the power tools and stuff to arrive I'm going to set up an area in the garage for everything since I will be spending many long hours there learning how to use the saws.

    Bookmark   December 16, 2011 at 8:40AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I have a similar qeustion. I need/want to install new cedar shingles (siding, not roofing). My house is 60 years old and the insulation in the walls suck. I don't have plywood based walls, they're boards (I think 1 x 6). I was thinking, that after pulling off the siding, removing every few rows of boards to run new insuation. Then I thought that would take forever, plus I'm woding how I could staple it in place form the back side. So, I thought about the foam they spray in teh walls, way too expensive. I was thinking external rigid foam, but that might mess up the thickness around my windows and doors. Then I read about letting the house breath for the shingles and now this thread. Now I'm thinking about drinking. What would be a good way to add some insulation and then PROPERLY install vabor barrier and cedar shingles. Thanks.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2012 at 9:46PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Use blown-in cellulose--no need to remove boards, just drill some holes in each stud cavity. You could use rosin paper or tyvek for a barrier under the new shingles. My house had cellulose blown in about 25 years ago in holes drilled through the clapboards--interior walls are original plaster--so I'm pretty sure there is no vapor barrier other than the original paper on the sheathing boards. No moisture problems so far.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2012 at 11:32PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Civil War Markers
We know that the house we purchased was built before...
Yikes. I just bought an 1898 Victorian house
Hi, I have always loved old homes and had the opportunity...
Just closed on an older home and homeowners policy was cancelled
Six days ago, we closed on the house of our dreams,...
Anyone know what this is?????
Does anyone on the forum know what this is? Found it...
Need your ideas for a new-old home,...
We are planning to build a home that appears to be...
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™