Tiny Siding Epiphanies

Cedar Siding on my Tiny House

Cedar Siding on my Tiny House

Now that I’m pretty much done with my siding, I thought I would create quick list of all the things I learned whie installing it.

  • Plan on about 100 hours to cut and install all of the siding and another 30 or so hours for staining.
  • I strongly recommend snapping chalk lines on the side of your house marking the top of each piece of siding (not the bottom). If possible, snap your siding lines before you install your windows. That’s much easier than snapping shorter lines around the windows (and trying to make sure they are lined up).
  • To figure out the distance between the siding lines, take the width of the siding (measured on the backside of the board) and subtract the overlap between each board. For siding with a notch at the bottom for the piece below it to nest into, the overlap will be the width of the notch minus 1/8 inch. The extra 1/8 inch allows for expansion and contraction of the boards. For siding that is just overlapped (without a notch) the distance between the siding lines is simply the reveal that you want (how much of each board you want showing). This might be 5 1/2 inches on a 7 inch board.
  • I recommend staining both sides of your cedar boards before installing them. Tumbleweed does not do this on the houses they build. They only stain the front side of the siding. However, every hardware store I talked to said my siding would last longer if I stained both sides. It does take some extra time, but I think it will be well worth it in the long run.
  • It takes about 3 gallons of stain to stain the front and back of all of the boards for an 8 foot by 16 foot tiny house.
  • I recommend installing quarter inch thick furring strips between the house wrap and the siding. This will create an air gap for any water that happens to get behind the siding to flow down and off the walls in stead of sitting on the inside of your siding and rotting the boards. Install the furring strips on top of each stud in the wall. I did this by measuring where each stud was on the inside of the wall and then transferring those measurements to the outside of the wall. A very fast and efficient way to install the furring strips is with a staple gun.
  • All siding should be attached with stainless steel nails that penetrate into solid wood (studs) at least 1 ¼ inches. If possible, I don’t penetrate much more than 1 ¼ inches into the wall studs. If you do this, you risk screwing in to your electrical lines or into places in the studs where you will later drill holes for electrical lines. I found that 3 inch screws were just about right.
  • In some cases (especially around windows) you may want to screw down the end of a piece of siding at a place where there is no stud in the wall behind the attachment point. Provided the piece of siding is attached firmly to studs in several other places, it’s OK to attach it in a few places to only plywood. In this case, you might want to use shorter (2 inch) screws that don’t go quite as far through the plywood.
  • Stainless steel nails are expensive and can be very difficult to locate at local hardware stores. I recommend or bring them online. I got mine from Screw Solutions. At $105.00 for 5 pounds, they weren’t cheap. However, they are very high quality and even have a knurl to keep from splitting the wood. I ordered the SSTH-09300-5 – 9 x 3-inch Trim head Silver Star Drive Stainless Steel Wood Screws (465 ct 5lb Jar for $104.48). I used 6 to 7 lbs of 3 inch screws and 2 to 3 lbs of 2 inch screws to attach all the siding and trim.
  • Staining wood is kind of a mindless task. If you’re short on time and have a little extra cash, you might consider paying a responsible neighborhood youth a few bucks to do it for you.
  • The more complicated your window trim is, the more difficult it will be to cut the siding around that trim.
  • If you have to have a seam between two pieces of siding, try to place this seam above or below window or rafter where the siding has some kind of cut out in it. This will make the seam smaller which will make it less noticeable and will also make the two sides together better (the larger the seam, the harder it is to get the two sides to come together correctly).

    Testing the Seam

    Seam Above Window

Preparing Flashing Behind Seam

Seam with 45 Deg Bevel Cut (Note Flashing Behind)

  • Make all seam cuts at a 45° bevel. This will allow the boards to expand and contract relative to each other without opening a visible hole between the two pieces of siding.
  • Always install flashing behind any seams.
  • Any flashing installed behind one piece of siding should overlap the front of the next piece of siding. This ensures that any water that gets behind the first piece of siding will flow out over the front of the next piece of siding.
  • Here is a good way to cut flashing so that it overlaps the front of a board as much as possible without being visible:
    1. Install the siding that the flashing will overlap
    2. Carefully pull just enough of the backing off the flashing so that you can stick it to the side of the house above the piece of siding that it will overlap. Leave the rest of the backing on.
    3. Press the next piece of siding up against the flashing, sandwiching it between the siding you’re holding and the siding that was just installed.
    4. Draw a line on the flashing at the bottom of the piece of siding you’re holding.

      Marking Where to Cut the Flashing

      Marking Where to Cut the Flashing

    5. Cut the flashing just above the line you just drew.

      Cutting the Flashing

      Cutting the Flashing

    6. Pull the rest of the backing off the flashing and stick it down.
    7. Install the next piece of siding.
  • For siding that requires more complicated cuts (like rafter notches or cuts to fit around lower window trim), don’t be afraid to make some practice cuts on some scrap pieces of wood to see how it fits. Once you get it right, it’s relatively easy to replicate the cuts onto longer boards. This will keep you from ruining several of your long boards, like I did.  For more info on cutting templates see the bottom of “More Siding: Rafters and Notches.” For detailed instructions on how to cut siding to fit around lower window trim see the end of “A Great Day With Much Progress on the Siding.”
  • Always make all cuts with the cutting surface of your tool parallel to the backside of the siding. If you’re using a chop saw or a miter saw, this means placing the board with the back side down. If you’re using a jigsaw or a circular saw, it means placing the board with the backside up. If you don’t orient the board this way, then any angled cuts you make will be thrown off by the angle of the siding bevel.
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