How To Work With and Repair Aluminum Siding

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    Aluminum Siding was very popular back in the 1960’s and the chances you are going to run into one of these homes if you’re a contractor is pretty good. If you’re a home owner with Aluminum Siding you should know about the differences in how it is maintained, removed and repaired but if you have extensive problems such as a hail storm hit your home you should consider upgrading your siding to Vinyl or another material.

    The first thing you should understand about Aluminum Siding is that it is somewhat fragile. Although it will last for many years and provide a quality exterior finish the product is not easily worked with.

    If you have never worked with siding you probably don’t want to jump in and try to mess with this product in a visible high foot traffic area of the home. If you have a problem or need to work with it on the side of your home in an area where people won’t see your mistakes you can probably get away without hiring a contractor that specializes in Aluminum.

    If you do feel the need to hire a contractor you want one that specializes in Aluminum not in Vinyl or a general contractor. The reason is although you can still buy replacement siding in Aluminum your ability to match it will be much less if it needs to be replaced. Where a contractor that specializes in Aluminum will know where and what to get right away.

    This How To will expect that you have some experience with Vinyl Siding. If you don’t you should review some of our how tos on the subject and read some manufacturer’s literature It will be very helpful.

    How to Work with Aluminum Siding

    Many of the same skills you learned working with vinyl will apply however there are some tricks that you should observe for best results.

    When working with Aluminum Siding you apply it to the home starting at the bottom of the house and working your way up to the soffits.

    Install your starter strip drip edge at the bottom of the wall and allow it to extend past the area where the foundation meets the sill plate by at least an inch.

    Your first piece will lock into the Starter Strip at its bottom edge the top of the first piece has a nailing band that should be held down with aluminum roofing / siding nails. Don’t use another type of nail such as galvanized or steel because it will cause corrosion due to galvanic differences in the metals. Attach the strip about once every 16 inches and at the ends.

    Your second piece of siding should overlap your first at its horizontal edge about an inch. Normally there is a small notch in the bottom lip of the siding that allows you to place your second horizontal piece against the first. You should not make this joint tight. You should split the difference. So, if that notch is one inch wide you will overlap the horizontal edge 1/2 inch. This is so the siding can expand and contract due to heat from weather or the sun.

    When you come to obstructions such as windows, doors and other items such as vents you will need to install a track molding around the item to allow it to accept the siding and also to flash the item, like a window, from the weather on all edges. If you are installing new windows and doors they may be ordered with a border channel to accept siding.

    When you get to the soffit or the top of the building you want to install a J channel to accept the top of the final piece and then you will use ring shank brad nails to attach the final piece at its top edge. One nail at each end and one every 16 inches is a good method.

    Cutting Aluminum Siding

    There will be times when you need to cut aluminum siding and this can be tricky for beginners.

    There are two ways to cut aluminum siding. The first way is preferred and that is to score the aluminum with a sharp utility knife and then bend it back and forth to make the cut break. Similar to cutting drywall.

    The second way is to use metal cutting shears. these sheers come in sets of three and there is one for left, straight and right cuts. Normally most people use the straight cut sheers all the time but learning how to use the left and right cut sheers is important if you want to have good results.

    Finally some installers will use a metal sheer and or a metal cutting circular saw. I do not suggest this for anyone but a professional. You are highly likely to destroy your materials if you don’t use these devices correctly.

    When you need to remove the nailing strip from a piece you should always use the knife method. This is also true for making long horizontal cuts for obstructions or at the roof line. Use a long straight edge with masking tape on the back of it to lessen the chance of damaging the siding and cut a single stroke firmly along the piece of siding. Don’t use pencil lines on the siding or they will show. If you really need to use pencil make the lines with a sharp pencil and very light.

    Removing Aluminum Siding

    Removing siding will depend on how well it was installed. If the person before you used way too many nails or installed the piece really tight you are going to have difficulty getting the siding off. If they installed it normally you should be able to remove it using the same method you would for Vinyl Siding with one change.

    Siding is removed by first losing the bottom edge of the piece above the one you want to remove. Then removing the nails on the piece that you want to remove. Then removing the lower lip of the piece you want to remove from the one below it…. did you get that?

    Ok so there are three pieces of siding on the wall and you want to remove the middle one.

    The first thing you do is remove the bottom edge of the top piece of siding.

    Use a J hook that you make out of a coat hanger to pull the bottom of the top siding. Starting at the horizontal side and at the bottom insert the J hook up in between the two seams and pull the lip of the top piece down gently. Then you can insert a flat pry bar with masking tape on it and slide the bottom lip of the top piece away from the middle piece.

    Now the top piece is free and you can remove the nails holding the center piece in place.

    Now you can press down on the center piece of siding to remove its bottom lip from the bottom piece of siding and its off.

    Its slightly difficult and you need to be very gentile when you do this. Any dents or creases will not be removable later.


    Final Note

    As you might realize we did not go over every aspect of installing Aluminum Siding but if you have an understanding of how to work with Vinyl Siding many of the skills you have with that product are similar.

    The primary differences between Vinyl and Aluminum are that cutting should be done with a score and a bend rather than a hand sheer which can form a lip in the aluminum.

    Also Aluminum Siding is really pretty delicate and any dents or damage you do to it while working with it won’t be removable once it is installed.

    Where you use to be able to just throw a piece of vinyl to the ground.. with aluminum you don’t want to work with it in high winds and even in moderate breezes you want two people holding it so it won’t bend.

    Once you have it off bring it to the ground right away and label its location on the back with a sharpie so you can reinstall it without problem.

    If you need to replace aluminum siding don’t expect the local home center to stock it but they can probably order it for you if your piece is of a standard type.

    If you need to replace a piece in a high traffic area with a new part consider removing a piece from the side or rear of the home and using that for a better color match and oxidation fade and place the new one in the back of the home. It is an option or you will just have to live with one bright shiny new piece right next to one thats weathered and 40 years old.



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