Removing aluminum siding to make a repair doesn’t have to be difficult, but a little research goes a long way. Aluminum siding has advantages, such as being completely recyclable and less expensive than other siding materials. Aluminum siding is, however, fairly unforgiving of damage, and usually requires replacement of one or more panels if damage occurs.
Vinyl siding has replaced aluminum in most new construction, but aluminum siding was the most popular siding material for decades. Therefore, it is not unusual for an older home to require some level of repair due to normal wear and tear, storm damage, or errant baseballs. Removing and replacing aluminum siding is fairly simple, and can be done fairly quickly with the correct tools and experience.
Today we will discuss the process of removing and replacing aluminum siding, and offer a couple of tips used by the pros to make the job look better and last longer. Although there are commercial versions of aluminum siding available, here we will discuss the version most commonly encountered by homeowners, which is horizontal lap siding.
How Do I Know Which Aluminum Siding To Purchase For My Home?
The most likely aluminum siding you will encounter is horizontal lap siding. Fortunately, in its heyday, a few designs were used more than others, so finding replacement siding should not be difficult. The two most popular designs were shiplap and dutch lap, which refers to the profile of the siding.
Aluminum shiplap siding is normally referred to as double shiplap, because each panel, or “stick” will usually have the look of two shiplaps, not just one. This design makes the material easier to work with by reducing crimps and dents caused by handling.
The other popular style, known as dutch lap, offers a similar shape and size, but the profile is slightly different. To identify if you have either of these designs, the easiest way is to hold a flat object, like a level or straight board firmly against the siding. If a considerable amount of light can be seen between the flat object and the wall, you probably have shiplap siding.
Conversely, if very little light passes through, the siding is probably dutch lap. If you are still unsure, a smart move is to remove a piece of siding large enough to show the profile and take it with you to the supplier. They will know which you have by looking at your sample. Aluminum siding can be purchased in several colors, but if your local supplier does not have what you need, many online sources are available.
Although not recommended due to the upkeep required, aluminum siding can be painted as a last resort.
How To Replace an Aluminum Siding Panel
Aluminum siding is fairly delicate and should be handled carefully. The most common complaints from those experienced in aluminum siding installation are denting and crimping.
Unlike most other exterior facade materials, aluminum can be permanently damaged by bird strikes, stones thrown from lawn mowers, hail, or any type of severe impact. In contrast, vinyl siding tends to remain flexible and will often take a strong impact without visible damage.
Although it is possible to make spot repairs on aluminum siding, generally speaking the fastest and easiest way to make the repair is to simply remove and replace the panel(s). This is because the siding will generally have a wood grain texture, which is extremely difficult to replicate with fillers, such as fiberglass.
Here we will discuss the process of removing the damaged siding and replacing it, using the same tools and methods as the professionals.
Here are a few common tools used in repairing aluminum siding, but others are available:
- Pry Bar
- Flat Bar
- Siding Removal Tool (special tool for detaching one panel from another)
- Sharp Utility Knife
- Metal Shears
- Handheld Crimp Tool (for bending small seams if needed)
- Siding Nail Punch
Step 1. Detach the Locking Tab From the Damaged Panels
Removing the damaged panels is simple, but care should be taken to not damage good panels in the process. This is often done by using a siding removal tool.
This tool has a thin, curved blade specially designed to slide behind a siding panel and disengage the locking tab. This avoids having to apply greater force on the surrounding panels, reducing the chances of accidental damage.
Step 2. Remove the Fasteners From the Locking Tab
After the damaged panel has been unlocked from the panel below it, the panel can be gently raised to allow the use of a flat bar. A flat bar is usually a short (12”-18”), flat pry bar with a hook on one end and a sharp edge on the other. Usually the sharp edge will also include a nail removal notch.
To remove a panel, the flat bar is slid behind the panel being removed, between the locking tab and the wall. Gentle pressure is then applied to loosen the fasteners.
Fortunately, most installers used roofing tacks, which tend to come out easily. Some installers, however, used ring shank, or twist nails. These fasteners are designed to resist removal, so they can be a chore to remove.
Pro Tip. When professionals encounter a fastener that is difficult and time consuming to remove, they will often just drive it into the wall, or cut it away. Then a piece of house wrap tape is applied over the fastener to seal the hole in the house wrap.
After the fasteners and the damaged panels are removed, the area should be inspected for any water damage or tears in the house wrap (if the home has it). If the house wrap has been damaged, or must be removed temporarily to make a repair, it can be re-taped, installed with button cap nails, or stapled back into place. However, any fastener used must be weather and corrosion resistant.
Step 3. Replace the Siding
The final step is to replace the siding. Horizontal lap siding is installed from the bottom up, much like a shingle, so the next step is to lock the new piece by snapping it onto the locking tab of the course below it.
Then, using gentle pressure, the new piece is lifted and nailed in place using a galvanized roofing tack, or other weather resistant fastener. These must not be driven up tightly, however, as this will cause the piece to buckle when exposed to intense heat or cold. Most manufacturers require about ⅛” gap between the head of the fastener and the siding, but each manufacturer will have their own installation directions.
Should it become necessary to overlap two pieces horizontally, it is important to overlap the pieces by 6” to 8”. This will allow the siding to shed water more easily and make for a more pleasant appearance by offsetting the vertical joints. The same procedure is then used to install each subsequent course until the project is completed.
Pro Tip. When working with aluminum siding, remember there is usually a distinct left and right side. The pros take care to cut from the same end every time, which helps reduce mistakes and material waste.
Keep Your Aluminum Siding In Good Condition
Keeping aluminum siding in good repair is fairly easy, cost effective, and greatly extends the life of the home. Making small repairs to aluminum siding is often preferable to replacing it with other materials, such as vinyl.
Aluminum siding will generally last for decades, so unless the damage is extensive, making small repairs often makes more sense than a total replacement. Although aluminum siding may not be as popular as it once was, it still remains a viable and useful material to guard against the elements.