Installing Vinyl Siding During The Winter

By Todd Fratzel on Siding & Trim

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.

About the author

Todd Fratzel

I'm full time builder for a large construction company in New Hampshire. I run their design-build division that specializes in custom homes, commercial design-build projects and sub-divisions. I'm also a licensed civil and structural engineer with extensive experience in civil and structural design and home construction. My hope is that I can share my experience in the home construction, home improvement and home renovation profession with other builders and home owners. I'm also the Editor-in-Chief and Founder of Tool Box Buzz. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions, suggestions or you'd like to inquire about advertising on this site.

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  1. Home Renovations says:


    Thank you for giving this Good information about Home construction improvements. it was worth reading. Keep up the good work on your posts, I will keep checking back for more posts like this one.


  2. Joe says:

    When installing horizontal siding in cold temperatures (30 degrees F), do you not need to worry about vertical expansion as well? Should I apply vertical force to a piece of D4 insulated siding to compensate for vertical growth in the summer? What is recommended vertically?

    • Todd Fratzel says:

      No worries vertically…the vertical dimension isn’t wide enough to matter…the thermal expansion will be almost completely along the long length

  3. We bought an Adirondack house this summer that has vinyl siding. Now temperatures are fluctuating with Autumn Coolness at night and warmer temperatures during the day. We have noticed a crackling sound in the exterior walls and my first concern was carpenter ants or termites. My handyman has been underneath the house (crawl space} and has seen no evidence of insect damage. Could this be expansion and contraction issues? Thank you in advance for your response.

    Howard Potter

  4. sumie says:

    A part of siding rip off by a wire and wind. Do you recommend covering the damage by tarp or the outside construction is usually water proof? There is a snow storm on Monday in NY and now it’s 20. As wait for temperature to be in 30 for repair.

    • Todd Fratzel says:

      Hard to say without seeing what’s on the wall. If it’s just snow, you may be ok, if you get rain that’s another issue.

  5. Bernie Galeski says:

    Thanks for the info on siding expansion, I didnt notice what in the article the size of space you would use at 50 degrees.

  6. Jimmy Mason says:

    Hey Dad thanks for the info, installing siding in Kentucky this month high temperatures close to 40 will allow for the expansion in the summer hats off great article I will use all the information that you gave me have a great winter if you was closer I’d buy you a cold beer

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