Installing Vinyl Siding During The Winter
Written by Todd Fratzel.
Right now the crew is installing vinyl siding during the winter. As I continue to document the progress of the construction of an Energy Star certified home I wanted to discuss some basic pointers about installing vinyl siding during the winter.
The crew started installing vinyl siding on this ranch style home last week and the average temperature is about 30 degrees F. In a perfect world we’d always install vinyl siding when the temperature is about 50 degrees F. This is true because 50 degrees F is about the median temperature around there. I’ll explain why this is important once I explain the effects of temperature on vinyl and other building products.
Temperature Effects on Building Products
All building materials expand and contract with changes in temperature. As the temperature of a building material goes up the material will expand in length, conversely as the temperature drops the material will begin to contract in length. This property is fairly universal among all building products however vinyl tends to have a higher rate of expansion due to temperature compared to materials like wood. A typical 12′ long piece of vinyl siding will expand over 5/8″ from winter to summer.
How To Deal With Temperature When Installing Vinyl Siding
Now that you know vinyl siding will get longer and shorter with changes in temperature you can deal with this issue appropriately as you install it. Ideally you’ll install vinyl siding when the temperature is around 50 degrees F. This minimizes the total amount of growth and shrinkage.
However, let’s say you install the siding at a temperature of 30 degrees F. This means that when the temperature warms up to let’s say 100 degrees F it will expand almost 40% more than if you had installed it at 50 degrees. This means you need to cut the siding at lengths that will allow the material to expand more than usual. This is extremely important around window and door casings. If the siding is too close to these areas it will expand until it hits the casing and then begin to buckle. In this example I’d probably leave an extra 1/4″ space for the additional expansion.
Properly Nailing Vinyl Siding
Another really important installation issue is nailing vinyl siding properly. As a general rule of thumb the nail should never be set tight to the nailing fin. The head of the nail should have a 1/16″ space between the nail head and nailing fin. In addition to that, once a vinyl siding panel is nailed in place you should be able to freely move the panel from side to side. If the panel is difficult to move then changes are good that it will buckle during the summer.
Obviously what I wanted to stress here is how sensitive vinyl siding is to temperature. However, if you take your time and think about this issue vinyl siding can look great. Vinyl siding is a project that most intermediate DIY’ers can accomplish with great results.
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