Should my lap siding be nailed at the top or bottom?

By
Industry Observer with Wrenn Home Improvements

How Should I Nail Lap Siding (HardiePlank siding)?

This guy can't see the nails either

This is a common question that I hear a LOT.  A LOT.  And it's still debated among siding professional to some degree.  Mostly that debate centers around maintenance, and the expectations of what the homeowner will and won't do.

 

 

JamesHardie recommends that the siding be nailed at the TOP, or blind nailed as it's commonly referred to.  You can't see the nails on the siding once it is installed in this method, and thus where the term "blind" nailing comes from.

 

Visible nail heads in HardiePlank siding is not the preferred method of installation (currently), but it was a very common practice a few years back in my local area. And you will (or should!) have visible nail heads at the bottom of every butt joint in the siding, as the joints will move otherwise and you will have busted caulk lines at each of those joints.  We repair busted siding caulk joints all the time for home re-sales.  (Butt joints are where the ends of two siding boards meet each other.)

 

Any visible nail heads, as long as they are covered with a thick coat of paint (or preferably 2 coats) should not be a problem. You have visible nail heads on your roof in many places I'd bet!  And hopefully they are caulked/sealed with a strong roof sealant.  And certainly your roof is going to get a lot more water on it than your siding will.

 

I actually prefer nailing the siding boards at the bottom, specifically because it holds the lap siding in much better than blind nailing (i.e. nailing at the top). The siding does not move at all with nails in the bottom of the board, as you have effectively nailed the board at the bottom AND top once the nails go in the bottom of the next board above.

 

However, this method can fail because of a few things:

  • If the contractor left a gap in the butt joint, as caulk WILL fail. The butt joints should be tight in your siding.  This is a more recent installation practice, and you may have 1/8" gaps between your siding joints.  If so, keep them caulked!
  • If there is no flashing behind the butt joints.  I've actually yet to see this done in our area on any HardiePlank installation, even though it's recommended best practice.  But maybe it's because we're only fixing the bad installations.  Let's hope so.
  • If the homeowner doesn't maintain paint over any exposed nail heads.

 

In today's fast paced world, not many folks want to have to maintain things.  And thus, blind nailing/nailing at the top of the siding is the preferred method in that case, as it removes the maintenance issues from the homeowner.

 

So bottom line is this:  if you're going to regularly paint your house (like you should!) then I think the bottom nailing offers many advantages in HardiePlank.  If you're not going to maintain your paint, then you should have it blind nailed, so as few nail heads as possible are visible.

 

UPDATE 7/1/11:  Thanks to Robert Butler for pointing out a wording error:  labelling visible nail heads as exposed nail heads.  His comment below is correct that exposed nails would be a fault, but visible nail heads that are covered with 2 coats of paint on your siding is not a fault.  I confirmed this with the James Hardie regional warranty rep last year after repeatedly having to repair busted caulk joints on homes with blind nailed siding.

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Re-Blogged 3 times:

Re-Blogged By Re-Blogged At
  1. Not a real person 07/02/2011 11:22 PM
  2. Robert Butler 07/06/2011 03:42 PM
  3. Dan Edward Phillips 10/17/2011 05:59 AM
  4. Dan Edward Phillips 11/08/2011 08:32 PM
Topic:
Home Improvement
Location:
North Carolina Wake County Wake Forest
Groups:
Bananatude
Tags:
hardieplank siding installation
blind nailing
wake forest siding
raleigh siding
hardiplank siding

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Rainmaker
352,822
Jeremy Wrenn
Wrenn Home Improvements - Wake Forest, NC
President, Wrenn Home Improvements

Robert, glad we figured out where the difference came in.  That's interesting that you basically have half the amount of reveal/exposure on the siding that we do around here.  I'd say that your climate doesn't allow for sloppy work as much as ours does.

And really interesting that architects are held liable for their work for the life of the work.  Wow!  That'd probably never fly around here.  Which is part of the reason why the building standards are so different around here than where you are, I'd bet.

We use a galvanized patio nail for the siding here.  It's a spiral nail, 8d, and has a larger head to hold well on the surface of the siding.  It's a 2-1/2" nail, so it's really in the stud when it's driven in fully.

Glad we could figure out the naming and practice differences.  Very interesting to see what is allowed here versus in colder weather climates.

Jul 06, 2011 09:32 AM #17
Rainmaker
478,183
Donald Hester
NCW Home Inspections, LLC - Wenatchee, WA
NCW Home Inspections, LLC

Jeremy(and Robert),

That was some dialog. It really is amazing the differences climate and location can be on building practices. In Washington state we have such a variety of climates that you can see vastly different practices with in a few miles let alone a hundred or so miles.

I must say I have never seen a reveals/exposures of 4" or less other than with small boards. It really makes sense though for the climate Robert is in. Them are some cold winters up there.

That was fun to read though.

Jul 06, 2011 05:33 PM #18
Rainmaker
722,188
Dan Edward Phillips
Dan Edward Phillips - Eureka, CA
Realtor and Broker/Owner

Good Morning Jeremy, an excellent post and follow up on a very important topic for home owners.

Jul 06, 2011 11:53 PM #19
Rainmaker
352,822
Jeremy Wrenn
Wrenn Home Improvements - Wake Forest, NC
President, Wrenn Home Improvements

Donald, it was quite the dialog!  We finally figured out that practices and requirements from his area to mine are quite different.  But we did both agree that we don't like the way the siding is being blind nailed around here.  I would rather face nail than blind nail in this instance.

Dan, thanks for stopping by!  I hope you find it helpful for you and your clients.  The discussion thread below goes into even more detail and is also quite helpful.

Jul 07, 2011 05:17 AM #20
Anonymous
Michael

Hi Jeremy and everyone else, I have a repair to do. Original material is junk board and I can only replace the damaged middle section at this time and was going to use a hardiplank product. 6.5-7 inches exposure about 8 feet horizontal and 20 feet vertical beginning 5 feet off the ground. Would you bottom/Face nail the ends as well as any butt joints? How far apart should the blind nails be? Would you suggest a face nail at the ends and maybe one in the middle? What nails should I use? I am getting different big box recommendations. And... I think I don't see any plastic.. Thank you very much!!

Nov 30, 2015 12:26 AM #21
Rainmaker
352,822
Jeremy Wrenn
Wrenn Home Improvements - Wake Forest, NC
President, Wrenn Home Improvements

Michael, glad you found my blog!

I would recommend that you remove all the siding in the section that is damaged, being sure to remove the nails under the last board you are leaving in place.  We usually drive them through instead of pulling them out (using a nail set), so that the board you leave in place doesn't get damaged.

Since you will start at the bottom and work your way up, I would blind nail all the new boards, butting them tight/snug to each other.  Be sure to put flashing (Tyvek or the like would work fine) behind each butt joint.  The last board you put in will have to be face nailed.

Nail the board on each stud, so that would likely be 16" on center if it's standard construction.  If you put flashing behind each butt joint, you won't have to worry about face nailing at the joints.  And butting them tight should help reduce the cracking of the caulk joints. 

Be sure to use a flexible caulk!  It should say it meets or exceeds ASTM C 920.

Use galvanized nails.  We use 2-1/2" galvanized roof tacks for the blind nailing, and 8d galv. spriral siding nails for the face nailing.

Does that answer your questions?  Hope that helps!

Nov 30, 2015 04:09 AM #22
Anonymous
Feno

Can u blind nail lap siding with 10 inch reveal

Feb 04, 2017 06:55 PM #23
Rainmaker
352,822
Jeremy Wrenn
Wrenn Home Improvements - Wake Forest, NC
President, Wrenn Home Improvements

Feno, that's going to depend on a lot of factors:
  1) What part of the country/world are you in?  And what is your climate?
  2) Do your local building codes say what the maximum reveal/exposure you can have on lap siding?
  3) What material are you using?  Size and make matter.
  4) You would need to have at least a 12 inch piece of material.

I would think that 10 inches of exposed material that is not nailed at the bottom, might not be very stable, depending on the material.  I would strongly recommend contacting the manufacturer of the material and asking this question directly to them, considering the above information.  A quick Google search should get you the contact information for the maker of your particular product.

Hope that helps!

Feb 06, 2017 06:23 AM #24
Anonymous
George C. Schmidt

I have been reading all the dialogue about face nailing hardi-plank siding etc. with great interest. Why? My house ( 9 yrs old) just experienced hurricane Harvey and two of the gables lost a lot of siding. ( the walls are brick veneer but the top triangular gables are hardi siding) I live in Victoria Texas. Up until I got home to look at the house after our evacuation stay in Ft. Worth, the siding was the least of my worries. No other house in our area lost any siding so I have done what you would call a failure analysis. Here goes: the hardi is 8-1/4 inch and according the hardi instructions there should be 1-1/4 inch overlap which would indicate a 7 inch exposure. I have measured 7-1/4 inch exposure which says that the minimum overlap of 1-1/4 inch was not met. Many of the butt joints are not "pinned" as they should be and some are pinned on only one of the hardi planks but not on the adjacent ones. The hardi siding is blind nailed. The studs on the gable part of the house are spaced on 24 inch centers, and it looks like the hardi-plank was nailed only on the 24 inch spacing. ( I think 16 inch centers would be much better or at least add some siding nails even if it would only be thru the sheathing.) According to the wind resistance chart that I found, the wind load capability for 24 inch stud mounting is somewhat less than 16 inch which is what you would expect. Many of the nails were set back from the top edge of the board only about 5/8 inch where hardi recommends 1 inch. So my conclusion comes to the loss of the siding is completely due to poor workmanship. Sad to say that a homeowner buys a house from a "quality" builder and finds this kind of evidence after the fact. Do we need to witness every nail that is put into a house to feel comfortable that it is constructed correctly. I think I agree with your position on the face nailing; possibly that is a little more forgiving for installation errors and I think the hardi literature seems to suggest using this method in "high wind" areas.
Comments ?

Sep 07, 2017 07:06 PM #25
Anonymous
john cory

Stupid question but on the first course of hardie board do you nail at the bottom and the top. All I see is nailing at the top and I intend to face nail not blind and seems a fastening at the bottom of the first course make sense.

Nov 15, 2017 07:17 PM #26
Rainmaker
352,822
Jeremy Wrenn
Wrenn Home Improvements - Wake Forest, NC
President, Wrenn Home Improvements

George, I'm so sorry to hear of all the damage to your house!  Harvey was not nice to you.  

For the siding, I am much more a fan of the face nailing.  It keeps everything nailed in place, literally.  It just requires that the nails be painted over with (2) coats of paint.

The blind nailing is all the rage, but as you experienced, in high winds will not work well.  The bottom edge of the siding can easily be lifted from high winds, and torn off.  Fiber cement siding is very brittle, so it's not hard to do.

 

John, depends on your situation, but a lot of times the first row laps over a brick foundation wall.  If so, you can't nail the bottom, and likely not in the middle as the siding board is covering a gap between the brick and the sheathing.  So you risk breaking the siding.

I would recommend seeing if a "starter" row would work for you, to fill in that gap between the plane of the sheathing to make your first piece of siding installed flush over the brick foundation wall.

You should watch this video from James Hardie, and the starter strip is talked about at the 1 minute mark.

 

Hope that helps!

Nov 16, 2017 04:31 AM #27
Anonymous
john cory

Thanks Jeremy, I can blind nail but since I am replacing only four board of fiber board from the bottom up I will need to face nail the last board , is that a problem.
I am in Texas and all the siding was face nailed , probably because of wind.

Nov 16, 2017 06:33 AM #28
Anonymous
john cory

It just seems to me that with a large exposure blind nailing would be a problem. I don't understand why you would want the bottom of each course not tacked in place. I would think you would have all kinds of movement in high winds.
While not recommended it Hardie does say you can face nail, correct?

Nov 16, 2017 06:56 AM #29
Anonymous
john cory

Why on earth can't you put trim over hardie board? It looks much better on corners if the siding is under the corner trim boards, what does it hurt?

Nov 16, 2017 02:13 PM #30
Rainmaker
352,822
Jeremy Wrenn
Wrenn Home Improvements - Wake Forest, NC
President, Wrenn Home Improvements

John, yes, you can face nail the last board.  We do it all the time in replacement situations, as you can't blind nail the last board when it goes under another board not being replaced.  Again, just make sure it's painted with (2) coats of a quality exterior paint.

I personally called a James Hardie field rep a few year back, and he agreed it can be done, and it is allowed under their warranty, as long as the nail heads are well painted with a quality paint.

Trim over lap siding is not a good idea in general, because you end up with voids that you need to seal, where two siding boards overlap.  Those voids would let water, insects, & critters into your house framing & sheathing.  I don't recommend that at all.

I do strongly recommend you use a true 1" (called 5/4 board frequently) thick board for your trim if you are building.  That allows both 3/8" boards to overlap to a 3/4" depth, and not stick out beyond your trim.

 

Hope that helps!

Nov 16, 2017 03:00 PM #31
Anonymous
john cory

I saw Feno question and I have a 10 reveal and am putting Hardie board in to repair the fiber board that failed. I guess i should see from Hardie if that is okay or I could start at the top and face nail going down to the first course, right ??

Nov 16, 2017 06:23 PM #32
Anonymous
frustrated

Eighteen years ago we installed Cemplank fiber cement siding on our home - 6" beaded smooth with a 4 3/4 reveal. Great product, however, due to termite damage to studs in the three-car garage and to a 25' lam beam and its support, I will have to replace a substantial amount of siding.

However, Cemplank was purchased by Hardie and the line was discontinued. Hardie is the only company that I have found that has a similar profile, though it has a less desirable bead profile (not rounded like the Cemplank).

Their board is 8 1/4" (with a 7" reveal). Because Hardie's profile is different than our siding and the difference will be obvious, I may have to replace all siding on the back and end walls, including the second story gable end. I'm hopeful the front walls (with walls between garage doors) won't have to be replaced as the siding continues down the wing past the mud room to the main body of the house. (The main body is tongue and groove cypress on top of wainscoting.) If so, that not only would mean even more siding/work -- but it is siding that is less desirable to me.

And, even if the siding on the front walls don't have to be replaced, I'm hopeful the difference between the new siding on the end wall and the Cemplank on the front will not be noticable. We also have the Cemplank on the front garage dormers, the dormers on the front of the house and, also, the two wings beyond the main body of the house.

So to make a long story short, two questions: (1) Does anyone know where I can find the discontinued 6-inch Cemplank beaded smooth siding, or (2) if I have to use the Hardie siding, can the 8 1/4 inch siding be overlapped for a 4 3/4 inch reveal so I can at least better match reveal for the siding on the balance of the house, or would it have to be ripped to 6 inches?

Apr 02, 2018 08:45 PM #33
Rainmaker
352,822
Jeremy Wrenn
Wrenn Home Improvements - Wake Forest, NC
President, Wrenn Home Improvements

Hi, Frustated!  Sorry you are going through all that.

To answer your questions, I don't know of any source for Cemplank.  I haven't heard of it before, so I'm not familiar with that line at all.

Secondly, if you are going to overlap the siding to get such a small reveal, it will depend on where you are as to best practice (refer to Robert Butler's comments at the top of the thread).  If your current siding is 6" with the 4-3/4" reveal, then it's likely that's good practice where you are, and you may be able to do that approach.

I'm in the south of the US, with very little snow and ice, so a 1-1/4" overlap works fine here.  Not so in the cold weather of Canada.  So I would advise you to consult with a local siding contractor with a top notch reputation with your local inspectors.  They would know what's right for you.

If you do end up just overlapping the full 8-1/4" siding for that small reveal, then be sure your corner boards are beefy enough to cover the ends of the siding when it's overlapped so thick. 

Hope that helps!

Apr 03, 2018 02:15 PM #34
Anonymous
HC

okay - I have a good person installing Hardie 12'x12" lap siding. But this is the second installer. The first blind nailed and also nailed the bottom. Also, my painter caulked all nail heads and he caulked all edges of the lap siding. The end result looks really nice and no waving. However, my new installer told me that it is incorrect to nail at the bottom and that it is incorrect to use caulk at all the bottom edges of the lap siding. So far, I have not painted the new installation - but it is beginning to look wavy and I cannot see how caulking is going to be able to be used by my painter because the "gap" seems a lot wider than the siding that was nailed both blind and at the bottom.

I am a woman who basically has no idea what is right and wrong in this situation and have to trust what I am told.

We are in Austin, Texas, and it can be very windy and wet. I cannot afford for this to fail. I purchased almost all my Hardie through leftover projects on Craigslist - so I have no warranty on most of my product. Some was purchased new - but very little.

Also, if the product is brittle - does it mean that it is not good anymore?

Sorry to sound so ignorant about this - but I am!

Apr 10, 2018 02:46 PM #35
Rainmaker
352,822
Jeremy Wrenn
Wrenn Home Improvements - Wake Forest, NC
President, Wrenn Home Improvements

Hi, HC!  Sounds like you have a lot to figure out!  Hopefully I can help some.

 

JamesHardie has standards for installation of HardiePlank siding.  You can find your standards for HardieZone10 (your zone) here (a .pdf download).

 

I'm not certain that nailing it both blind & face are wrong by installation, but I do know that it's usually one or the other.  I did see in the "Best Practices" document, that face nailing may be required in high wind areas.

 

Wavy siding product is not usually the result of top or bottom nailing in my experience, although I suspose it could be.  Usually it's a result of studs not being flush with one another on the surface (thus pushing the siding out, or allowing it to go "in" more, and creating waves), no OSB/plywood sheathing, or studs being installed at greater spread than 16" on center.  I can't tell you specifically in your case.

 

If the product is brittle, it will be hard to install.  Fibercement products that are exposed to sun and/or weathering for a duration do become brittle, and that can lead to siding failure.  I don't recommend installing any material that is already brittle.

 

I'm not sure about the caulking at the bottom of the siding.  We've never done that here, and I'm not sure if it's a good practice or not.  So I can't help there.

 

For more resources, you can also check out www.AskTheBuilder.com.

 

Hope that helps!

 

 

Apr 16, 2018 02:51 PM #36
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