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Proper Installation of Wood Siding

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Dear James: I plan to save a few bucks and install wood siding myself on a room addition. It is near a lake and humid, so I worry about rust stains from nails. What is the best way to install the siding? — Lynn R.

Dear Lynn: Your concerns about rust stains are justified in any home, but particularly in humid areas or near salty sea air. Nothing looks worse than rust stains running down the side of painted bright white wood siding.

Streaks on the siding are often the least of the problems with metal corrosion. When structural steel components in your house corrode a significant amount, they lose their strength. For example, steel lintels, which support brick above windows, can begin to deflect.

Installing wood siding is not a difficult physical job, but there are some critical steps for a professional-looking, long-lasting job. These pertain to selecting the proper fasteners (nails), preparing the siding properly and nailing it properly to the walls.

First, you'll need a quick Nails 101 lecture — it's not as boring as you think. If you want to use the best, select stainless steel nails. In all but salty sea air, type 304 stainless steel nails will never corrode, and they are strong. Near the sea, use type 316 stainless steel nails.

Since you are on a tight budget, you should probably choose galvanized (zinc-coated) nails. Do not just run to your hardware store and buy any galvanized nails off the shelf.

There are four basic grades of galvanized nails. They range in quality from cheaper mechanically plated, hot galvanized, electroplated galvanized and the best, hot-dipped galvanized. All of them, other than hot-dipped, will probably develop varying amounts of rust in spots over time.

Hot-dipped nails are actually dipped once or twice in molten zinc.

Under most conditions, they will never rust even after you beat them in with a hammer. Since you probably do not hammer as hard as a man, you will have to pound on the nail head many more times to drive it in.

Before you install the wood siding, thoroughly seal each piece with paint or stain. Don't forget any of the ends that you saw as you fit it. The saw cuts across the grain and allows moisture to rapidly enter the wood. If this happens, the siding will begin to peel and blister quickly.

You can either spray or roll the paint on the siding. Set each piece on sawhorses. Once you are done thoroughly coating a piece, glide a paintbrush over the exposed side to give it a true brushed wood look.

Although not always done, in your high humidity area, it is best to install felt, building paper or a water barrier housewrap under the siding. No matter how carefully you install the siding, some water will get behind it at times. The felt will protect the wall studs.

Make sure that you use special siding nails in addition to the proper nail material discussed above. Siding nails have smaller heads, threaded shanks and are long. When nailing near the ends of wood siding pieces, drill pilot holes to avoid splitting the wood.

Even though you sealed the wood pieces as well as possible first, some moisture will still penetrate the wood. This makes it grow and shrink with changing weather conditions. Make sure that nails in one piece do not hit another piece. If they do, the pieces will be trapped and may buckle.

Send your questions to Here's How, 6906 Royalgreen Dr., Cincinnati, OH 45244 or visit www.dulley.com. To find out more about James Dulley and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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