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Wood Siding Repair

By Jim Sulski

Summary:A home's wood siding is constantly exposed to the elements and needs repair fairly regularly. Here is a do-it-yourself guide to wood siding repair.

Despite painting, staining and other routine care, a home's siding takes a fairly brutal beating from the elements.
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That's why flaws such as cracks, splits, holes, buckles and loose pieces show up from time to time.

The sooner those problems are addressed, the better. Otherwise, once water gets behind the siding, more flaws will occur.

Before repairing siding problems, a do-it-yourselfer needs to know what he or she is repairing.

Siding choices basically fall into four categories: natural wood, wood-based composites, man-made (or synthetic) materials that mimic wood, and masonry or brick.

Within each of those categories are various options, such as materials (cedar and pine for natural wood, vinyl and aluminum for man-made products); shape (clapboard, shakes, shingles, panels, etc.); and size (traditional clapboard siding can range in width from four to ten inches).

What follows is a guide to repairing the different types of siding.


Clapboard (also known as lap) siding is usually made of cedar or redwood and applied horizontally to the side of the house in long overlapping lengths. It is often painted or stained to slow down deterioration from water, the sun and insects.

A typical problem with such clapboard siding is splits, warping and holes.

Splits are easily repaired. Gently pry the two cracked pieces apart and generously coat them with a waterproof glue. Then push the two pieces back together and hold them in place with nails or screws.

Holes can be easily patched with wood putty or caulk. Deep holes will have to be repaired in layers. After the putty or caulk dries, sand it down and paint or stain.

Warped and buckled boards are also easily repaired. Start by driving screws through the warped boards into the studs below. To locate the studs, look for existing nail heads. Countersink the screws and patch the tops with wood putty.

If the board remained warped, you'll need to shorten it slightly, which requires loosening the board from the wall.

Start by locating the nail heads on the lower lip of the board overlapping the problem board. Pull those nails loose, gently loosen the upper board with a pry bar, and then remove the nails on the problem board.

Using a pry bar, pull the problem board back away from the wall so that one end protrudes slightly. Then use a file or sandpaper to shorten the board so that it fits snugly back against the wall. Then reattach it with new nails.

Sections of clapboards with numerous defects, or entire lengths of the siding, can also be replaced with new boards.

First, start by finding replacement lap siding, usually available at a building materials outlet or lumberyard. To find an accurate replacement piece, measure the existing piece in all aspects (thickness, length, width).

You'll also need to find paint or stain to match up the new wood with the old.

Next, mark the sections or boards that will be removed.

Loosen the lap siding above the flawed piece as described above. Then, using a handsaw, remove the section to be replaced (or remove the entire board). Insert a few wedges under the board to give it stability while you saw.

Place the replacement board in position. Place a wood block along its lower edge and use a hammer to drive the new siding in place.

Nail the replacement board to the studs and then caulk or putty the edges to cover any gaps. Finally, paint the board to match the rest of the siding.

Tongue-in-groove siding is repaired in a similar fashion except you will need to make a horizontal saw cut into the board to free it from the boards above and below.

Remove the backside of the groove on the replacement tongue-in-groove board so that it snaps into place.


Made from cedar, shingles and shakes are usually applied in an overlapping patchwork pattern on a home. They are often stained or painted. A fairly common problem is splitting.

Split shingles in good shape can simply be nailed back down to secure them to the building. Cover the nail heads and the split with cement or caulk to prevent further water infiltration.

Flawed shingles and shakes should be removed and replaced. Start by finding replacement pieces at a building materials outlet or lumber yard. As with lap siding, you'll need to stain or paint the new shingles to match up with the existing shingles.

Start by splitting the flawed shingle with a chisel and remove as much as the deteriorated pieces as possible. Then pry up the shingle and use a hacksaw to saw free the nails underneath. You may also need to loosen the shingles above to remove the flawed shingle.

Cut the replacement shingle to fit and the slide it into place. Use a wood block and a hammer to drive it in place and then nail it down. Then, cover the nail holes with cement or caulk.


A wood-based composite, hardboard is usually applied to homes in four-by-eight sheets, similar to plywood.

Holes are a typical hardboard problem. Small holes should be filled in with putty and then sanded and painted. Larger holes can be patched in layers.

Hardboard siding also has a tendency to buckle. Often, this can be repaired by nailing or screwing the panel back onto the studs. If the problem persists, the panels may have deteriorated greatly from water damage. In that case, it will need to be replaced.

As with lap siding, you'll need to find a replacement piece and paint or stain to match. Remove the existing panel by first extracting any wood trim and then the nails. Cut the new panel to fit the opening and replace. Caulk or cement any seams and paint.

You can also replace a section of the panel if you can locate the studs. As with replacement lap siding, both ends of the replacement section must be touching studs. Find the studs and use a handsaw or circular saw to cut out the damaged section.

Cut the section to fit the opening, nail the section to the studs, caulk the seams, and paint.


Vinyl, made out of colored Polyvinylchloride or PVC that mimics clapboard wood siding, has become a tremendously popular choice in recent years, surpassing aluminum and steel siding.

When vinyl siding becomes damaged, it can be repaired in a number of ways. Small holes or tears can be patched with caulk of a matching color.

Larger damaged sections of the vinyl siding can also be replaced. This will require a special vinyl siding tool and, of course, replacement siding of the same color.

To remove a damaged section, lift up the panel above it. This will expose the nails holding down the damaged length. Cut out the damaged section with tin snips and remove it.

Then cut a length of replacement panel a couple inches longer than the existing piece. Snap the new piece into place, fasten it with nails and use the special tool to lock it to the adjacent panels.

Filling them with plastic aluminum filler can repair small dents in aluminum siding. After the filler dries, sand it and paint it to match the siding.

A larger dent, meanwhile, can be pulled out by screwing a self-tapping screw into the center of the dent. Then, use a pair of pliers to pull the screw and the dent out.

Fill any indentations with the plastic filler, sand and paint.

Lengths of aluminum siding can also be replaced if you can find new matching siding.

Mark the damaged piece. Then use a utility knife to cut across the length of the piece. Next, make vertical cuts at the marks of the siding. The damaged piece should fall out.

Cut the replacement piece several inches longer than the gap on both ends. Remove the nailing strip on top of the replacement piece. Coat the bottom of the upper remaining piece generously with gutter and lap seal. Lock the bottom of the replacement piece in place and press the top into the gutter seal. Hold the piece firmly against the wall until the seal bonds.

© by Jim Sulski. All rights reserved. August 2, 2005.

NOTE: This column is distributed by Real Estate Matters Syndicate, PO Box 366, Glencoe, Illinois, 60022. This column may not be resold, reprinted, resyndicated or redistributed without written permission from the publisher. 

2005 by Ilyce R. Glink. Distributed by Real Estate Matters Syndicate.




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