How to Repair Split Clapboard Siding

When you think of clapboard siding, it’s easy to envision postcard images of historic New England homes in a fiery-colored autumn. It’s been a mainstay in the architecture of American homes since colonial times, and it’s used in other parts of the world today as well.

Also known as bevel, lap, or weatherboard siding, clapboard siding consists of overlapping wood planks, much like shingles on a roof, which create a waterproof seal to keep out water and chilly winter winds. Its ability to insulate, as well as its attractiveness, makes it a popular choice for homeowners, but there’s still a downside. Although many homes now use clapboard siding made from plastic and other synthetic materials, it’s most commonly made from wood—which isn’t always the most durable material.

The last thing you probably want to deal with is a split piece of clapboard, but unfortunately that’s exactly what happens, and it happens more often than you would think. Here’s how to make the repair and keep your home looking beautiful:

Old clapboard siding - Image Source

Old clapboard siding – Image Source

Locate and Mark Trouble Spots

The first step is to locate all the trouble spots on your home—any area that is cracking or rotting away. As long as there aren’t a huge number of spots around your house, it makes more sense to replace the individual pieces rather than re-side the entire home. Use a bright marker, some chalk, or flags to mark up each of the spots for easy visibility.

Remove the Broken Pieces

Inspect the exterior of your home, pulling off as many of the broken pieces as you can. The process to take these pieces off is quite simple. Smack a hammer over top of each of the nails on the broken piece of siding, as well as the piece above it—this will loose the nails. Next, slip a flat pry bar underneath the top row of siding and pry it up about four to six inches. Tap the piece back down against the house to pop out the nail heads. Pull out the nails to release the piece of siding from its hold on the broken piece. Pry the broken piece out at the bottom and pound it back in and remove the nails just like you did in the piece above it. Now slip off the piece of siding, measure its width and length (write this down so it’s handy when you’re buying new siding later on). Do this for all the other broken pieces of siding.

Obtain New Siding

It’s best to obtain the same siding that’s already on your home, or at least something similar in color. While you might not be able to find the exact same wood, it should be a good match once you’ve painted it. Bring the wood dimensions with you to make sure you’ve got the right thickness product. Buy enough siding to cover all the broken pieces, and consider getting a few more just in case you run into problems in the future.

Prepare the Siding

Cut the siding to the proper length and paint it to match the rest of the clapboard on your home. You’ll have to spot paint over top of the nails after they’re pounded into the siding later, but it’s easier to completely cover the siding when it’s painted in advance.

Install the Siding

Slip the siding underneath the piece above it (the one that you pulled the nails out of). Nail the bottom piece back in place all along its length, ensuring that each of the nails is sunk down into the wood at least 1/8″. Now nail the top piece of siding back in place as well. To finish the installation, just paint over top all of the nail heads. This will weatherproof the installation and keep your home dry and looking like new for years to come.

Broken clapboard siding - Image Source

Broken clapboard siding – Image Source

Replacing Sections Instead of Full Pieces

If you’re trying to replace small sections of particularly long pieces of clapboard, you can simply cut out the old section and put in a new one of the same length. You should be aware that this method will create some seams in your siding, although paint will mask those effectively. To cut away a section of clapboard without removing the entire piece from the house, pry up the piece above the broken clapboard like you would with the standard repair. Now use a speed square to create a square line at the section that you plan to cut out. Use a reciprocating saw to carefully cut through the line that you marked and split the piece of clapboard where you want it split. Now cut a new piece at the same size, paint it, and put in place where the other piece was, following the directions above.

Extend the Life of Your Siding

Now that you’ve seen all the necessary steps for replacing clapboard siding, it’s easy to see that it would be better to avoid having issues to begin with. The best way to do this is to carefully maintain the siding so that it doesn’t deteriorate as quickly. Keep your siding painted regularly to protect it from the elements.

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