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As always in DIY, the plans changed a bit before we arrived, then changed a bit more as we got into the weeds. In the end Nikki and Marc decided to go with the original German siding that would match the rest of the home’s exterior.
In order to ensure that the new siding matched the level of the old, we decided to start from the top. Typically starting from the bottom would be the way to go, but in this instance we were dealing with an unlevel interior floor.
Since the floor was going to get baseboard, matching the old and new at the top was the most important element, visually speaking. So we started at the top cutting our first piece of 1×4 to length, using a four-foot level to get the work perfectly level.
We figured out the angle by holding a slightly longer piece than we needed against the wall and marking to where the 1×4 would intersect with the rafter on both the top and bottom. We cut this with a circular saw, but it could be done with a handsaw or jigsaw just as effectively.
We saved this cutoff as a template for the same angle on the second 1×4.
In order to get the second piece in place, we needed to cut it in two pieces. We used a scarf joint instead of a butt joint to conceal where the two pieces meet. Caulk here is a good idea.
Once the first two 1x4s were in place, we installed the German siding. In one of those true DIY moments, finding enough space to rip down a 15′ piece of siding proved to be one of the more labor-intensive parts of the project. The task required moving a large table saw and rearranging parts of the basement shop to have the infeed and outfeed sides of the table saw clear enough to safely execute the rip.
We installed the entire wall using finish nails. If this were done on the exterior, you would want to prime all six sides before installation, back-caulk the siding on any joints, and use stainless or galvanized siding nails. And of course you would have asphalt paper or another type of building wrap behind all the siding. In other words, we had it relatively easy with this project since we didn’t have to worry about any of that.
We continued installing the siding down the wall, working around the window opening (which will eventually house a piece of frosted privacy glass) and the door. Nikki and Marc didn’t have any extra trim on hand, so we were only able to install the trim to the right of the door.
Working down the wall we made sure that the pieces on both sides of the window were parallel to the floor and at the same height, so that the long pieces under the window would line up well.
We wanted to leave a gap around the window opening for two reasons: one, the expansion of the siding and two, so Marc would have room to stain the oak window opening later. We used a piece of scrap 3/16″ plywood clamped to the window opening to set the siding against, ensuring an even gap all around.
Our last big challenge was cutting around the window opening and electrical outlets. First we cut a piece to length. Then we transferred the window opening location to the siding and made sure to add 3/8″ to the cutout to account for the siding sliding into the rabbet of the piece above.
After cutting the notch for the window opening, we cut the two openings for the outlets.
There are a couple ways of doing this. You can use an oscillating tool like a Fein Multimaster. Or you can drill two ½” holes in opposite corners and cut the four sides with a jigsaw.
We found the latter to be the quicker of the two.
Since we started at the top, the last piece needed to be scribed to fit the eventual baseboard. We temporarily tacked up the final piece and cut a piece of scrap block the same size of the baseboard. Then we ran this piece of scrap along the floor with a pencil to mark the cut line.
We pried out this piece, cut the scribe line, and tacked the piece back up.
In the end, it was a fun one-day project and a joy to help Nikki and Marc. Despite the cramped working conditions—not to mention the distractions of kids, the appearance of a neighborhood cat that didn’t want to let us make our cuts, and even a snake in the basement—we got the siding installed.
Read the first installment in our Renovation Road Trip series.
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