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Installing Clapboard Siding

Co-written by Emanuel Silva

In my last article, I wrote about installing a fence post. Although it was dirty and hard work, I enjoyed every minute of it. Seeing that fence post today, standing plumb and solid, makes me feel glad that all the steps I did were well worth it.

I helped my dad install the other post and build the gate, too.


(Note: Click any image to enlarge)

Today, as I pass through that gate, I appreciate the value of hard work and knowing that this gate will be up for many years.

A Note from the Publisher

  In an effort to keep abreast of the impact that young carpenters are having in the industry, we’re publishing this article by Carter Silva. Manny Silva, Carter’s father, will be moderating all comments and discussion that follow this article.


We have many ongoing projects at our house. This past summer, my dad started installing clapboard on the back of the house, which led me to a new project: siding. My dad gave me the opportunity to install one of the sections. Following his steps, and being patient throughout the process, helped me accomplish great results. Here’s how I did it. (Don’t worry! I only used hand tools in this project!)

Flashing the skirtboard

After my dad finished installing the housewrap, flashings and trim work, it was ready for siding. I started by cutting the housewrap along the top edge of the skirtboard, being careful not to cut through the flashing tape behind it. My younger brother, Corey, held up one edge of the housewrap, which made it easier to cut.


Once I completed the cut, I cut along the ends in order to flip up the house wrap. I used my dad’s cap hammer to hold up the housewrap while I installed the drip cap.

My dad pre-formed some aluminum stock to act as a drip cap. One piece would have been ideal and easier to install, but my dad used up remaining stock we had on hand.

I started by installing the first piece, nailing from the end, working my way down the piece while applying minimum pressure in order not to bend the drip cap. IMG_2508-1
IMG_2510-1 Before nailing the last nail to the end, I installed the next piece overlapping the previous piece by three inches. I then nailed through both pieces and nailed the remaining nails.
I applied housewrap tape to the top edge of the drip cap in order to keep any water or moisture from entering. IMG_2513-1
IMG_2518-1 Once the drip cap was sealed, I pulled down the housewrap, taped both ends, and skip-taped the middle so that any water that gets behind the housewrap can escape.

Clapboard layout

To see if the clapboards would fit without any adjustments to the rows, I measured up from a spacer on the drip cap and found that they would need to be adjusted. IMG_2522-1

In order to keep all the clapboards at their same exposure and not get into any math work, I used a story pole.

To make my story pole, I grabbed a scrap piece of wood long enough to fit all the measurements needed. I hooked my tape and measured down the board, marking every four inches, and squared them off with my speed square. IMG_2525-1
Then, I placed the board against the wall on top of my spacer at an angle and slid it until it reached the bottom corner of the sill. IMG_2532-1
IMG_2540-1 Using my marker, I marked off each exposure on the housewrap and followed up by transferring them with my level to the corner boards.

Each row was less than 4 in., but they were all at the same exposure–about 3 3/4.

I repeated the same process of measuring along the sides of the window and found that no adjustments were needed, so I used the story pole from the bottom of the sill and marked all the way up the wall. IMG_2542-1

Measuring for rainscreen and clapboards

Naturally, I want my siding to last for many years, so I applied one coat of solid stain to all sides of my clapboards a couple days before. In order for my clapboards to dry properly, I installed them on a drying rack my dad built.


Sealing up all the sides would help prevent the siding from moisture-induced rot. To keep out moisture from behind the siding, I installed a rainscreen on top of the housewrap. This material creates a space behind the siding wide enough to let moisture dry. (For more information on rainscreens, read Gary Katz’s article, “Rainscreen Walls.”)

I measured for the bottom and side sections of the window and transferred them onto the rainscreen. I then used a pair of scissors to cut them to the sizes needed. IMG_2555-1
Attaching them to the house using a staple gun with 3/8 staples was so easy—I even taught my younger brother how to do it. IMG_2549-1

This wall was only 8 feet long, so I measured it in three sections, under and along the sides of the window. Knowing that the window trim and corner boards were plumb told me that I would have three accurate measurements.

My dad ripped some pieces of scrap clapboards to act as filler for the first row of clapboard. IMG_2566-1
Installing this piece is important because it redirects water from the house. It also keeps the second row from tilting in, which would look bad. IMG_2569-1

After checking my stockpile, I found that some of the clapboard ends had some cracks, so I had to make some joints in some of the rows. This is where most leaks start if not properly flashed and sealed.

Layout and pre-drill clapboards

I started by giving my dad the measurements needed so he could cut the clapboards to size. Knowing that the sheathing was 7/8 thick, I was able to nail wherever I wanted, so I chose to space my nails 1 ft. apart.

IMG_2559-1 IMG_2557-1

To make fast work of pre-drilling my clapboards, I again made a story pole on my worktable, measuring 1-ft. spaces long enough for my longest piece.

After making my story pole, I placed the clapboards one at a time from one end and transferred the marks to the boards. IMG_2561-1
IMG_2564-1 Once I finished marking my boards, I placed my speed square along each mark and drilled up from the edge 1 inch. Measuring and pre-drilling my clapboards would help prevent any splitting and also keep all my nailing consistent.
I then sealed all my cut ends with one coat of solid stain to match the finish. IMG_2577-1

Clapboard installation

Before installing my first full clapboard, I installed the starter strip leaving 1/8 space above the drip cap. This would help prevent water from wicking onto the first row of clapboards and provide a space for moisture to drain from above. IMG_2571-1

I then installed my first row using the bottom edge of my starter strip as a guide.

IMG_2574-1 The next couple of rows were pretty easy—I used the marks located on the corner post and checked the measurement in the middle as I used stainless steel nails to nail them off.

I made sure to not overdrive each nail as best as I could, and most important not to miss each nail.

I knew I would have to make a seam between two boards, which would be a challenge. This is where it got tricky, but I worked slowly and with patience, taking it one step at a time, and I was able to make my seam just about seamless.

I started by installing the first piece, making sure not to nail the end where both pieces would meet. This made it easy to adjust and it also helped me slide my flashing behind it. IMG_2582-1
After having the first piece in place, I then butt the next piece up against the corner board and under the previous piece, and I marked where they both meet. IMG_2584-1

Having that piece cut about 1/16 in. shorter would allow me to apply caulking to both ends, which would help prevent water from entering.

Before that piece was installed, I sealed the ends. I slipped a piece of flashing behind the first piece, making sure to leave enough for the next piece.  IMG_2586-1
IMG_2591-1 I ran a bead of caulking along the edge, and then I installed the next piece, which would help fill in that joint and make it watertight. 
I nailed them off while checking that both pieces were flush. I knew that all boards don’t sometimes meet flush, so I lightly sanded both boards and applied a coat of sealer to make them look perfect. IMG_2594-1
To fit the next row under the window, I placed the clapboard under the window, marked where the windowsill ends met, and transferred the marks to the edge with my speed square. IMG_2595-1
IMG_2598-1 I connected both marks from the corner posts using my level and measured up the distance for the bottom section of the clapboard, which told me how much to cut out of the section.

After transferring those marks to the clapboard, my dad cut out that section and I sealed the cuts. It was then just a matter of sliding that piece in place and securing it with stainless steel nails.

IMG_2602-1 IMG_2607-1
For the clapboards that met the lower corners of the sill, I repeated the same process, making sure they fell flush with the bottom of the sill. IMG_2629-1
From there on, I ran the clapboards along the sides of the window high enough to where my dad will eventually rebuild all the overhangs on the house. IMG_2635-1

I then stood back to look at my work. I was very proud of how it all came together, knowing that those clapboards will be up for many harsh seasons of New England winter.



41 Responses to “Installing Clapboard Siding”

  1. Paul Mobley

    Fantastic article, I enjoyed it, learned something, and even felt entertained! Thanks.

  2. Craig Polley

    Wow! Did this ever remind me of my son working with me in the past. As I read this account of installing siding, I noticed every thing was done patiently, in order, properly. This young man is learning life lessons way bigger than just siding. My son worked with me every summer from age 12 until 18, as a finish carpenter helper. He learned how to get up in the morning, and how to work with his hands, and also some ‘carpenter stuff’. He also learned some of my old sayings…”if you don’t have time to do it right, when do you have time to do it over?” My son, at age 26, has now been an aerospace engineer for 5 years. (Do I sound a little proud?) Way to go Carter! Excellent work! Manny, get ready to be a carpenters helper.

    • Carter

      Thanks Craig.
      I really enjoy getting up early and helping my dad on the weekends. My dad sometimes doesn’t, but is looking forward to being my helper sometime soon:)

      Thanks again for reading

    • Carter

      Hi Derek,
      Give us a call in the future. about eight years :)


  3. Jeff Ewer

    Wonderful article! And nice work, young man. Thank you, both, for taking the time to make both the siding and the documentation attractive.

  4. Kevin Lane

    Use a shim with a slot cut in the end to protect siding while nailing

    • Carter

      Hi Kevin,
      Thanks for the great tip. I used that tip a couple of years back and now I”m pretty good at not missing, but sometimes I do.


  5. Dave O'Leary

    Great job by Carter and Manny.

    Making memories that you’ll never forget.
    Learning skills that you will always use.

    This brings back good memories for me: mixing mortar with a shovel that was twice as long as I was, getting my own hammer, cutting mouldings too short, learning to blunt the nail for thin mouldings, working out compound mitre angles, sharpening chisels and plane irons, fitting hinges and locks. It took a long time before I was useful. I’m okay now, but I’m still too slow.

    My 8 year old wants me to assemble the lathe tomorrow, and start turning bowls. The cycle starts again.

    Looking forward to the next project report!

    Best wishes from Cork, Ireland.

    • Carter

      Thanks Dave,
      I’m glad that the article brought you back some nice memories.

      Thanks for reading

  6. Patrick McCombe

    Nice work, Carter. You should be proud of the fine job you did and your dad should be proud of you. It’s nice that you let your brother help too.

    • Carter

      Thanks for the kind words Patrick,

      My dad is always telling me, that he is so proud of me. Corey has been asking lately, that he wants to help, so now I can give back by teaching him. Corey got really excited to see himself in the article and asked when are we doing the next one.

      Thanks again

  7. Jim

    Great Job Carter and crew,
    If you ever need a new cut man, don’t hesitate to call.

  8. Jason Laws

    It is nice to see the little people learning carpentry and to see a father willing to teach them. I couldn’t see all of the pictures but it looks very well done. I remember my grandfather stopping me cold in my tracks when I was young and said “Jason, I’m gonna tell you something” Of course I started to think about what I may have done wrong lately, but he finished with this “There’s one way to things – the right way!!” And then he walked away. So, keep doing things the right way and you will never be sorry, Carter!…….Hey, where did all of that green grass come from? I haven’t seen the ground since late October! :-)
    Jason Laws
    Plain In Maine
    Amity, Maine

    • Carter

      Your right Jason. My dad keeps telling me to do it right the first time. I will never forget those words.

      Thanks for reading

    • Carter

      Your so right. We are both so proud that we can work together and let others know about it.


  9. Tim

    Fantastic article.
    The love of Craftsmanship begins with Dads & Sons & Daughters spending time together learning these valuable trade skills.
    Great job, and thanks for sharing with us.
    The future of America will be in good hands with these young men.


    • Carter

      Thanks Tim,
      My dad has some subs that are father and sons companies.
      It’s nice to see that through out the trades.

      Thanks again for the kind words.

  10. Matt

    Great article. It’s one of the better step-by-step guides to siding I’ve read. I’m planning on re-siding my own home this summer and look forward to getting my daughter involved using this article. Thanks.

    • Carter

      Glad you enjoyed the article and found it useful for your home. I’m sure you’ll enjoy working with your daughter. I always like helping my dad work on our house. It’s very rewarding.

      Good Luck

  11. Steve in NC

    Carter, you’re a lefty like me… I can really nail with both if I need to.

    I wonder how many times your Dad put the hammer in your right hand and you switched it to your left. That’s how it works with us lefty’s sometimes when we begin ?

    Great article.

    • Carter

      Thanks Steve,

      I’m glad you enjoyed the article and you’re right, my dad used to put the hammer in my right hand and also the tape measure. We BOTH had to learn how to work with each other and were getting better throughout our projects.

      Thanks again

  12. klaus

    I have never used rainscreen. is it rigid or does it get “crushed” under the board? how does it maintain the gap needed?

    • Emanuel

      I have been applying wood siding over this rain screen for years and have had great results. The product is very rigid once you apply the siding over it. It leaves an eighth of an inch gap between the sheathing and siding.

      Thanks for reading

  13. SC

    Nice work on the siding and very nice work on the instructions. You’re a great carpenter and obviously have a great father.

  14. Stanley

    Great article….reminds me of when I sided our house with my dad in the early 2000’s (at the time I was just a bit older than your kids).

  15. Chip-

    Oh the memories when I started! Nice encourager keep up the good work:)

      • Wayne Johnston

        I did clapboard siding several years ago. It does take a lot of skill to do on a house and vynal siding too. Wayne Johnston

  16. John

    Since the nails are exposed at the bottom of each piece (I assume to keep the boards from curling), what keeps water from tracking along the nails and into the structure? Or are there enough layers with the wrap and rain screen to keep this from happening? Thanks. Great article. You helped answer some other questions I had like what to do where boards butt one another.


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