Metal siding (often referred to as steel siding) is the preferred exterior for walls that often take a beating. Metal siding is very durable, attractive, and functional. Popular applications for metal siding are barns, storage buildings, sheds, workshops, and garages.

In most cases, vertical metal siding options will function best in these environments as opposed to traditional house siding. Metal siding is relatively simple to install and will often remain functional as long as the structure. 

Today we will discuss the methods used to install metal siding on a four-sided structure, like a barn or garage.

Traditionally, barns and other storage buildings will use vertical metal siding because it is a very low-maintenance material, resistant to strikes, and forms clean visual lines. Modern metal siding usually comes in a variety of permanent colors, as do the accessories and trim components. These colors are often mixed and matched to create visual contrast and interest.

What Is Vertical Metal Siding?

Metal siding is generally considered a commercial product and is commonly found on warehouses, strip malls, and factories. However, it is also used wherever extra durability is required. Vertical metal siding installs relatively quickly, especially when using the correct tools and methods.

Most vertical metal siding products follow a similar design, but most will incorporate ribs of some type to strengthen the panel. These ribs are pressed into sections of metal sheets to reduce the lateral flexing that would occur on a flat sheet of metal. These ribs follow a pattern, allowing them to overlap each other and produce a crisp appearance. In recent years, horizontal metal siding has also become popular, as it can be installed in longer courses. This often adds a contemporary feel to an otherwise basic structure. 

A typical homeowner, however, will encounter vertical metal siding much more often than horizontal version.

Some manufacturers have evolved the technology to be used on public buildings, restaurants, and other brick-and-mortar businesses. New designs provide for special installation techniques, such as hidden fasteners.

Some offer corrugated panels, which are often more flexible than a standard panel. The designs available today are plentiful, so a vertical metal siding project is a great place to be creative.

How To Install a Vertical Metal Siding Panel 

Although there are many installation techniques in use, many are specific to the material. For example, some manufacturers have their own designs that require special installation techniques and fasteners for the system to work as designed. These design changes vary from company to company, so to avoid confusion, today we will focus on standard materials and traditional installation methods. 

Some metal siding installers will opt to install house wrap before beginning the siding project. Often this is done when the structure will be used as a garage or workspace that may be heated. Owners who use a structure as a shelter for livestock will often skip this step, although installing it is still useful, as it closes small drafts common to these structures, making the ambient air temperature more consistent.

We will discuss the process of installing vertical metal siding in standard construction. The process may also be used on a structure without solid walls, such as a barndominium or pole barn. In most cases, professional installers will employ special tools to make the job faster, but metal siding can be installed using simple hand tools. Metal siding is very sharp and fairly awkward to handle, so recruiting additional help is usually required. Without a doubt, the most important part of any home improvement project is avoiding injury, so any installer of metal siding should use any and all appropriate safety gear available. 

Here are a few common tools used to install metal siding, but others are available:

  • Hammer
  • Metal Shears
  • Pneumatic shears 
  • Pneumatic nibbler
  • Measuring tape
  • Level
  • Drywall square
  • Chalk line
  • Marker

Vertical siding is installed from the bottom of the structure up, overlapping each course along the way. In a typical project, the installers will install one wall at a time, checking for plumb and level often. The first step is to strike a straight, level line along the bottom of a wall.

The level line is usually extended all the way around the perimeter of the structure and will eventually meet itself if the line is level. Then using a framing level, the installer will mark a plumb line (perfectly perpendicular) on each corner. The plumb line marks the location of the outside corner trim. J-channel (or similar trim) is usually installed around any obstructions, such as a door or window and will accept the siding panel into the channel.

To install the first panel, many professionals will begin with a half sheet. This is done to ensure that horizontal joints cannot overlap, preventing water from curling under the siding. Since each section has a distinct left and right side, the first panel is set into place by aligning the first panel with the plumb and level lines. The panel is then secured to the wall using a galvanized fastener.

Several fasteners are available to attach the panel to the wall. If the structure will not use house wrap, many installers will opt to use a grommeted, metal roofing screw to secure the panels. Self-tapping, these screws do not require pilot holes. They are also galvanized, which resists rust and corrosion.

The screws are usually placed in the flat area on the siding panel, as opposed to the ribs, and tightened securely. If the structure is to have house wrap, most installers will attach the panels using an air-powered tool, such as a pneumatic nailer. Typically, professional installers will work from right to left, or vice versa, but never both, as this can create unnecessary confusion

As the next panel is attached, the installer ensures that the side of the panel overlaps the previous panel using the rib. The second panel is then attached using the same methods as the first. This continues until the siding must pause or be adjusted around a door, window, fixture, or corner.

The second course is installed like the first, however, the second course will overlap the first course. Generally speaking, each course should overlap the preceding course by at least 2”-6”. This is important, as severe weather often produces sideways rain that can curl under a joint between panels and allow water infiltration. This is one reason why some builders add the extra step of house wrap.

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Professionals rarely work alone, as metal siding is awkward to work with and sometimes heavy. A typical installation crew will have one person doing the cutting (often the job foreman) and two laborers performing the installation.

Professionals will usually place the fasteners so that whenever possible, the fastener is holding two panels. To illustrate, since the bottom edge of the panel on the second course overlaps the top of the first course, installing an additional fastener into the first course is unnecessary. This would cause a bump in the second course, plus add another hole in the siding, which should be avoided wherever possible. Therefore, the installer will often use just one screw and drive it through both panels at the same time. When the second course bumps into something it must go around, the panel is then trimmed to fit and inserted into the J-channel or other trim. This process continues until all of the borders of the siding are securely inside a channel, or overlaps the ribs of the adjacent panel. 

After the panels are installed, the outside corner trim is installed over the corner, tying the two adjacent panels together. At this junction, the original plumb lines used in the beginning have now been covered up by the siding panels. Professionals will typically now use a four-foot level and make another plumb line on the siding using a pencil or other temporary marker. This line ensures that the corners are installed straight up and down, which provides the clean, crisp lines one would expect.

Depending on the installer and the project design, often the last step is to install a base strip to the bottom of the panels. The base strip is a trim specifically designed to serve two functions.

The first is to cap off the bottom end of the panels, and the second is to connect each panel together. This adds additional rigidity but is sometimes optional if the structure will be used as a livestock shelter, or will not have a concrete pad.

The base strip is commonly installed by backing out the screws along the bottom edge of the first course and sliding the base strip under the panels. Often this is done before any panels are installed, but professionals will often install it after the panels are in, just in case each panel is not precisely the same length. If they are a little irregular, this will provide a cleaner, more crisp-looking project. 

If the structure has a concrete pad, often builders will employ special foam blocks that are installed between the bottom of the wall (or girt, if the structure is a pole barn or barndominium), and the back of the siding to discourage pests from entering under the siding panels. This is because the ribs create a small passage between the panel and the wall, which can allow vermin, insects, or unwanted air to enter. These foam blocks have the same profile as a siding panel and are often used to fill in these gaps.

Adding Visual Interest

To add visual interest, some users of metal siding will use complementary colors to make the structure stand out. Since structures using vertical metal siding tend to be large, often builders will install a simple transition trim just above or below the middle. Often this trim is white or some other basic color.

Then two complimentary colors are used for the panels, such as forest green and red, shades of brown, or other attractive combinations. However, it is important to note that rarely, if ever, are the colors divided exactly in half.

Most design professionals recommend a 60/40 or 40/60 split, as it breaks up the symmetry and helps the structure blend into the landscape. Other styles of metal siding trim, such as fascia and rake trim, often find their way onto a metal siding project as well, so metal siding projects are a good place to get creative.

Be aware, however, that with so many options available it is easy to go down the rabbit hole.

Vertical Metal Siding Is Attractive, Durable, and Low Maintenance

There is a very good reason why ranchers, farmers, and commercial builders use vertical metal siding on structures that need to last. Metal siding is very low maintenance, and can last for decades with minimal attention.

Metal siding is also easily pressure washed, making it relatively easy to keep the structure looking new for years. If you are considering your own metal siding project, just remember to closely follow the manufacturer’s directions for your materials, get help if you need it, and most of all, be safe.

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Matt Greenfield

Matt Greenfield is an experienced writer specializing in home improvement topics. He has a passion for educating and empowering homeowners to make informed decisions about their properties. Matt's writing focuses on a range of topics, including windows, flooring, HVAC, and construction materials. With a background in construction and home renovation, Matt is well-versed in the latest trends and techniques in the industry. His articles offer practical advice and expert insights that help readers tackle their home improvement projects with confidence. Whether you're a DIY enthusiast or a seasoned professional, Matt's writing is sure to provide valuable guidance and inspiration.

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