Closing gap in vinyl siding
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Q: There's a 1/4-inch vertical gap in our vinyl siding that I see every time I pull into the garage. It doesn't look very good, and I worry about the condition of the wood behind it. What should I do to fix it?
—Pam Robinson
Helton, Morrow, Ohio

A: Tom Silva replies: A gap that big is definitely not right. Vinyl-siding manufacturers usually recommend a 1-inch overlap to allow the vinyl to expand and contract, but the installer who worked on your house must have cut one of the siding lengths too short.

Caulk won't solve this problem. And a new piece—one that's long enough to provide the proper overlap—will probably look different from the weathered pieces around it. So before you replace it, try sliding the panels together first.

To do that, you'll need a zip tool, available at hardware stores and home centers, to unlock the overlapping piece above this gap. Once it's free, you'll see the perforated nailing flanges that holds the siding to the house. Take the nails out of the ends of the pieces on each side of the gap and slide the panels together until they overlap slightly, even if it's less than an inch. Check to make sure you haven't opened another gap at the panels' opposite ends. Then drive a nail through the right side of the flange hole at the end of the left–hand piece, and into the left side of the hole in the right–hand panel. Don't drive the nailhead tight against the flange; you want the siding to be able to move a bit. Now take your zip tool and lock the upper piece of siding back on.

I wouldn't worry too much about wood deterioration. Your siding should have a layer of building paper underneath it to protect the sheathing. If you see exposed plywood or OSB sheathing when you unzip the siding, someone made a mistake, and all the existing siding will have to come off.
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