Do It Yourself: Siding for Beginners

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

Last year, our new neighbours told us they were quoted a price of $40,000 to replace their leaky siding and there was a lengthy pause in the conversation, more than one sigh and some sympathetic nodding. We also need new siding. So we all had a glass of wine or two and tried to forget about it but, last winter, squirrels took up residence in our chimney along with two swarms of bees, leaving too many gaping holes to ignore and soggy wood caused by the resultant leakage. A full chimney is also a fire hazard. So I asked the question: how hard would it be just to rip it off the siding and put on some more? We found out today. Well, my husband found out and I helped. Turns out if you do all of Jillian Michaels’ exercise DVDs, you will be sufficiently forceful with a hammer, but they won’t help you with your fear of heights. My next question, as I helped rip the chimney apart, was: how do the caterpillars get in there, behind the siding? And why do we build houses with particle board covered in paper? I mean, it wasn’t even real wood under there and some of it was rotten and had to be replaced.

A great deal of carpentry is mathematics and it turns out I’m not even good at writing down measurements much less taking them. Geometry is not my forte, so last week my husband measured up, bought the “novelty” siding and many lengths of “furnishing strips”, which he cut to size and painted to match the house. Today, we pulled the siding off the chimney frame and adjacent wall. Then I watched him prance around like a ballerina on the roof of our saltbox, hammering new siding onto the chimney frame. I tried to get up there, I really did, but I’m not even any good on the ground much less a roof. I’m an avid hiker but as clumsy as a drunk at midnight, not even able to cross a foot-wide stony brook without slipping off the perilous rocks into inches of water. If the going isn’t level, I will surely stumble, but there goes my husband, every time, nimbly bouncing off boulders like a running back dodging down the sidelines. Today, at the top of the ladder, I was clutching the roof while my husband yelled: “get up here! It’s not like you’re going to fall far!”

A householder’s worse nightmares are things like damp, mold, rotting wood, roof leaks, leaky windows, but it’s really only cost to fix those things that’s frightening. I had about a square foot of mould in my basement once and was quoted $3000 to have it fixed. A friend ripped down the sheet rock, found no mould on the other side of it and so then replaced the sheet rock for a few hundred dollars. This will bother my husband until the day he dies. (“A bit of surface mould that I could have wiped off with bleach!”)

Anyhow, pulling off the siding was the most difficult part of the job and took the longest time. We found some mouldy wood and pulled it out, cut new wood and replaced it. I cleaned the chimney with a broom and swept away the squirrel’s nest. Then the siding went on with – best part of the job – a nifty nail gun with air compressor that bangs nails into the wood like a boss.

We’ll finish this job at the weekend by adding the furnishing strips and an extra coat of paint. There’s a pretty, blue tarp over the chimney in case it rains. Watch this space.

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