The House’s New Clothes

11 08 2010

This is a story about getting help from some unlikely sources.  It is about realizing that sometimes, two heads, even if neither head has a clue, are better than one.  What I found was that sometimes all it takes is for one seemingly small piece of advice to get started on something I had for which I had no idea how to start.  So went my project of finishing the siding on our house.

Our house had a few “must-do” projects that were essentially left over from the builder/previous owner.  A few involved mounting the microwave and hooking up the gas stove.  Another was the lawn project, which has received ample play on my blog recently.  The last thing we have gotten to, and also the last of the “must-do” left-over projects, is finishing up a small area of siding on the patio.

The builder apparently had intended on leaving the patio open for putting in a deck, so instead of putting the siding up all the way to the ground, he left it about 16 inches from the ground, with a 2×8 board nailed into the wall instead (I guess to give me a starter piece off of which to build to deck).

The looming task

Uecker didn't like the house being unfinished

We had to special order the siding because we couldn’t find the right color anywhere, but we eventually had the pieces we needed, and it was just a matter of getting up the will to do it.  Well, last week, I set out to get started.  After prying the board off the wall, I proceeded to assess what I had in store.  I was, shall we say, clueless.  I had never put up vinyl siding.  And neither had my dad, my primary source for all my do-it-yourself projects.  Fortunately, my brother had some experience with it, and he explained it to me to the point where the internet research started to make sense.  That being said, with this newfound knowledge, I gave it about 5 days before I started off.

The following Thursday Melissa and I had off of work, so after a morning of golfing, we were determined to get this thing going.

Here’s a little explanation about vinyl siding.  Normally you start from the bottom and work your way up.  The bottom piece locks into a metal bracket running the length of the house, and you stick some nails in the notches at the top of the piece.  Then, the next piece locks into the piece below it, and you proceed from there.  You need to take certain obstacles into consideration such as electrical outlets or steps, and cut and shape the pieces accordingly.

The part about locking the first piece into the metal bracket is where the problems started.  That’s right, step one is where it almost fell apart.  We were trying to line the piece up square and bend and maneuver  it in to the channel.  It wasn’t working.  All we had for tools for this task were a couple of flathead screwdrivers.  That’s when Melissa noticed that the metal bracket was in two pieces, with a small back in the middle.  She recommended that we try sliding the end in and then slide the rest of the piece the rest of the way.  It worked!  We indeed needed to use two pieces to cover the entire length of the house, but we got both pieces on doing just this!  I told her that if she had contributed nothing else to this project (and she did, by the way) that this piece of advice would have been worth it’s weight in gold.  We finally were able to move on.

In the picture above, I have so far been referring to the long stretch of wall on the left.  This was was relatively easy.  All I had to do was put one entire piece on each row and then cut a second piece to match.  Another problem arose when we came to the place where the siding from below met the existing siding.  How are we going to a)nail it into place, and b)lock the above piece to the below piece.  We hit a bit of a standstill here, and since I had to run to Lowes to get a corner joint anyway (since the existing corner joint didn’t go all the way down) we took a break.

At Lowes, I was introduced this this, a vinyl siding removal tool.  This little device can be used to unhook siding or to install new siding.  Well, I got home and gave it a try, and what was taking a long time before I left now took about 30 seconds.  I pried the bottom channel of the piece above got the edge into the piece below it.  Now all I had to do was slide the tool the rest of the way down the siding and it was all in place!  This little took cost about $4, and it did exactly what I needed it to do, and I will probably never use it again.  Best $4 I ever spent?  Quite possibly.

So I proceeded.  It was a fairly small amount of siding that spanned 3 days of work.  The long pieces were a piece of cake, but like I mentioned above, maneuvering around my patio step and an electrical outlet made for some time consuming measuring at cutting and remeasuring and cutting some more.  Eventually, though, I slapped the last piece on, cleaned up my mess, swept up all the crickets that had taken refuge under the shelter of my uninstalled siding pieces, and walked inside and shouted “I’m done!”

Another beautiful finish

So far, this has been the most satisfying project of my house.   There was some room for error, so unlike my drilling project each cut wasn’t a matter of life and death.  I could see qualitative results, but unlike painting, it wasn’t so mind numbing and repetitive.  Furthermore, it turned out to actually be enjoyable.  I had fun figuring this one out.  It is another example of realizing what I am capable of doing when going into the project I had new clue where to even start.  It is a situation where success breeds confidence, and confidence breeds success.

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