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Out with the Old and In with the New: How to Replace Broken Vinyl Siding
Written by Peter Malik   
Wednesday, 07 July 2010 15:34

Accidents happen – and they can happen to your vinyl siding. It only takes one newly-licensed driver getting too close to the house, a solid home-run hit that didn't quite make it into the field, or a hit from a wild windstorm to ruin your vinyl siding. Unless you were hit by a tornado, hurricane or earthquake, you don't need to re-side your entire house. Just replace the piece or pieces of vinyl siding that are damaged.

If you know how to use a hammer and nail, you can learn how to replace a broken piece of vinyl siding using simple tools. Your biggest challenge will be to not break or damage other pieces of siding in the process. It's not as easy as gluing on a piece of vinyl siding to cover a crack, but by using a prybar and an inexpensive tool called a “zip tool” it's easy enough for a beginner.

A zip tool is made specifically for removing and installing vinyl siding. Any hardware or lumber store that sells vinyl siding will likely sell zip tools. It's an easy-to-use lightweight hand tool made up of a handle and a flat square hook. You're going to use the zip tool to unlock the good vinyl siding piece from the bad vinyl siding piece.

First, look at the overlapping vinyl pieces and find the edge where a good piece of siding overlaps the top of the broken piece of siding. Put the zip tool, hook side up, between the edges. Use the tool to carefully lift the bottom of the top piece of siding to uncover the top of the broken piece. Don't pry too hard or you might break the vinyl. Slide the tool along the interlocking edges and unlock the two pieces.

Once the edges are loosened from each other, carefully lift up the top piece to expose the J-channel. A “J-channel” is a long thin piece of vinyl (or metal) with holes in it. Your broken piece of vinyl will be nailed into the wall through the J-channel. Don't bend the top piece of vinyl too far or it will break and you'll have more work to do. You can now see where your broken piece of vinyl siding is nailed in through the J-channel on the wall.

Your next objective is to take the nails out of the J-channel and the wall so you can remove the broken piece of vinyl. You will not be able to fit a hammer between the two pieces of vinyl to get the nails out, so use the flat end of a pry bar. If the prybar is going to hit nearby pieces of healthy siding, put a piece of wood underneath the prybar to protect the siding.

Once the nails are out, remove the damaged piece of vinyl siding. You might have to jiggle it or pull it up or down to loosen it. You can then nail on the new piece of siding. Do not use the same holes as the old one, and make sure you drive the nails in straight and not at an angle. You will likely have to use the pry bar to hammer in the nails as well. You do this by hammering on the neck of the prybar holding the nail.

Once the replacement piece is nailed in, use the zip tool to refasten the two pieces of vinyl siding. Put the zip tool inside the edging again and pull the old strip out and over the edge of the new strip. Once you pull the edging out and over, press your hand against the zip tool to lock the vinyl edges into place. Keep sliding the tool along the edging repeating the process until it's all locked into place.

Your siding should be as good as new. Your teenage driver will eventually stop hitting the house, and the home-run hitter will eventually grow up and make the major leagues – but you can't stop mother nature from damaging your vinyl siding. Keep some extra pieces of siding around, and keep your prybar and zip tool handy. You never know what's going to fly your way, but you can be sure that you'll be able to repair the aftermath of the collision.