If you think residing your house means you have to take out a loan or pony up as much cash as it would take to buy a car in order to pay for it, you're wrong! We just finished replacing the siding on one side of our house and we've saved THOUSANDS so far. Yes, thousands. It requires some research, YouTube videos and instruction packets, but you can do it.
Here's how we did it.
When we moved in to our house ten years ago, we knew we’d have to replace the failing siding sooner or later. It was the 1990s kind that had been a part of a class action lawsuit. Knowing that we had other immediate improvement projects and that the siding would be expensive, we put it off as long as we could.
Fast forward several years and two kids, and we were shocked at the nearly $40,000 quote to replace the stuff! It was a seemingly impossible amount of money for us to come up with, especially as we had just started paying on my grad school loans. Leaving it in place wasn’t an option considering the condition it was in, so we stopped to figure out our options.
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All my online research pointed to fiber cement siding. Most of the new houses in the northwest have it now, and a local real estate agent confirmed that it was essentially a standard when houses in our town need replacement siding. So now we knew for sure the WHAT, but still not the how.
The first time I suggested DIY residing to my husband, he looked at me like I’d grown a second head.
The prospect kind of scared me too, but I really didn’t see another realistic option. I did lots of Google searches and trolled YouTube, building professional chat sites and the James Hardie website for as much information as I could find. I printed out installation instructions from the manufacturer website and read them a few times. I found a local supplier that sells to the public as well as professionals, and we recruited family to help. We’ve taken a week off each summer since we started, and we’re ¾ of the way done – next summer we’ll do the back and will finally be done! Here are my tips on replacing your siding yourself:
- Equip yourself with the basics.
You’ll need pry bars and hammers for anyone who’ll be helping with demo. We had mold under our old siding, so dust masks are a must. We also use work gloves and eye and ear protection. In the grand scheme of things these items are relatively cheap, and they’re necessary. Have a couple of 30-foot tape measures, carpenters pencils and a rafting/speed square for cutting siding Don’t forget tool belts for your crew.
- Invest in the right tools.
Fiber cement siding kicks up a lot of dust if cut with the wrong tools, and that’s stuff you DON’T want in your lungs. We ordered electric DeWalt Fiber Cement Shears off Amazon, and we’ll resell them when we’re finished.
If you’re putting up lap siding (the long individual planks) like we did, do yourself a favor and get some Gecko siding gauges. You set them to whatever overlap you want on your boards, and then you secure them to the board you just leveled and nailed up. They keep each course (row) of siding level, and they hold your boards on the house as you nail them on! They make the process SO much easier, faster, and more precise. I think they're just about the coolest and most helpful siding tool. If you really had to, putting some siding up could be a one-person job with these babies. (But I really hope it's not a one-person job!)
You’ll also need an air compressor and hose, and a siding nailer. You can rent these things, but we bought them since the cost of purchase would be about equivalent to a full week’s rental. Plus, since we’re doing this a week at a time / one week per side, we’d have to rent this stuff four times! One other thing to consider is that we’ve found that any major home improvement project around here takes two to three times as long as you expect it to, and sometimes it runs half again more in cost. It took us more than a week for both the first side and the front of the house, finishing up on the next weekend or two. (We finished a little early for side three.) Again, we can sell the siding nail gun after we’re done, but we’ve found that we have enough indoor and outdoor projects that need other tools that we’ll just keep the compressor.
I got to be really good at cutting out notches with those siding shears, but if you prefer, you might want to pick up a fiber cement blade for your circular saw or jig saw (we bought a Diablo blade). Trust me, you don’t want to use a wood blade by mistake and deal with all the dust that comes up.
Get some saw horses for cutting, and you might want to get a couple of 2x6 boards to run between them – the 12-foot long siding boards have some flex, and these help to stabilize them as you’re getting ready to cut them. You’ll need some tarps to cover the ground to catch any nails that drop, and you’ll want one under your cutting area to make cleanup easy.
- Line up your rentals.
You’ll need a dumpster. Prices vary greatly – I’ve seen anywhere from $400 to $750+ for the same size dumpster, so check online for the different local suppliers and call around for the best prices.
Rent or buy ladders. You’ll need to use your own judgment on this one, as you’ll need to consider the height of your house and any special architecture. For the various spots on our two story house, we used our little 6-foot wooden ladder for lower spots, and we bought a 27-foot extension ladder. My dad also brings his 28-foot extension ladder over. If you don’t want to invest in them, rent them.
Decide if you need scaffolding. You may or may not need it, depending on your house. We rented some our first year because we had two stories to climb and nothing in the way, but we skipped it when we did the front of our house since didn’t have any long straight areas where it would be better than our ladders.
- Order your materials.
If you’re reading this, you likely got a high bid from a contractor. Use that detailed bid to determine what (and how much) materials you’ll need. I was able to use professionally done measurements when I called around for siding prices!
To find our siding supplier, I did some Google local searches and was able to find one that’s just 15 minutes away from the house. The salesman there took my square footage calculations and determined how many boards we’d need and helped with the other things like house wrap, flashing papers, nails, caulking and trim. When we did the front of the house, they even custom made the curved trim for our arched windows. If you don’t have a siding supply nearby, you can always check out Home Depot, Lowes, or local lumber yards.
- Prepare for painting.
After the siding is up and caulked, you’ll need to pressure wash it to get it ready for painting. The siding we bought comes primed, though you can buy it pre-finished and painted. We rented a pressure washer and borrowed my dad’s Graco Magnum professional paint sprayer rather than renting one. You’ll only need the pressure washer for a day, and you can also take the opportunity to clean your driveway or anything else that needs a good wash!
It’s a hard week of manual labor each year we do it, but it is incredibly gratifying once you see that new siding up. It feels even better when I see how much we saved! So far over three summers, we’ve completed the two sides and the front of our house and here are our approximate expenses:
Dumpster rentals (3x at about $500 each time): $1,500
Scaffolding rentals: $400 the 1st year, $535 the 3rd year (none used in year 2)
Materials (siding, trim, paper, nails, etc.): $2,900
Tool purchases (compressor, nail gun, Gecko gauges, pry bars, shears): $625
Misc gear (safety glasses, masks, gloves, ear plugs): $70
Pressure washer rental (2x): $100
Paint (two five gallon buckets, sexy white coveralls, painters tape, etc.): $350
Remember, that’s for three of our four sides! I will note that I did not count the cost of the bottles of pain reliever we used over those weeks for sore muscles. The project seems daunting, but it can be done. If we can do it, you can too!
Have you tackled any major home repairs to save money?