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Vinyl siding is a great addition to the walls of many different kinds of homes. Made of the same material as PVC pipes, it’s become nearly ubiquitous thanks to its versatility and ease-of-installation.
If you’re looking to make modifications to your own property or boost the aesthetic value of your rental property, you might be considering cutting your own vinyl siding to give it a clean look and finish. But you don’t have to hire someone to do this relatively simple task for you.
How to Cut Vinyl Siding
We can show you the optimal ways to cut your own vinyl siding. Cutting vinyl siding is actually very easy to understand and carry out with a little preparation beforehand.
All you need to know how to do is make simple measurements and possibly operate a circular saw.
There are three primary methods you can use to cut vinyl siding effectively. These are: using a circular saw, using handheld tin snips, or using a handheld utility knife.
None of these methods is necessarily better than the other, but they are each exceptional for particular kinds or lengths of cuts. We’ll explain what each one is best at during their individual explanations.
Materials You’ll Need
No matter which method you decide to go with, there are some materials you’ll need to collect beforehand. These are:
- goggles and a good mask for breathing safety
- a flat surface such as a workbench
- possibly gloves for protection
- a pencil or light marker, or light-colored masking tape
- a carpenter’s square
- a measuring tape
The goggles need to be worn during each method. It’s not just the circular saw that can potentially spray pieces of vinyl siding up into your eyes.
Even a particularly forceful cut with tin snips can cause a small shard of the material to fly upwards and cause damage. Wearing goggles is a worthwhile safety precaution.
You don’t have to have a specific workbench to accomplish good vinyl cutting. Any regular flat table such as a farmhouse dining table out of wood or your living room coffee table will do. The key part is that is to be perfectly flat to allow for ultimate accuracy during the cut itself.
Gloves are optional, but they might be a good idea if you use the circular saw method.
The pencil and marker are for drawing out the line before you cut, and you’ll use the measuring tape to find out how far to mark in the first place.
The masking tape and marker can be used when making measurements on darker vinyl siding types which may block out the dark color of a pencil marking.
Finally, the carpenter square is also there to assist you in making the perfect measurement, which will hopefully translate into the perfect cut.
Tools You’ll Need
There are three possible tools you’ll need to collect.
- Circular saw
- Tin snips
- Utility knife
Each of these tools can be purchased at a local hardware store. A circular saw will require a power source, just like a table saw would and is by far the most expensive of all three options. However, it’s also the fastest and the tool that relies the least on human muscle accuracy and power.
Tin snips and utility knives are both much cheaper than a circular saw but are much slower as a result. They also allow for more user error since each cut is derived from pressure from your arm or fingers.
Each method will need you to measure the amount of vinyl siding you’ll be cutting beforehand. Any crafting project for beginners or professionals relies on accurate measurements and you don’t want to guesstimate how much you should cut.
Instead, measure the length of the wall that you’ll be covering with the vinyl siding. Use a measuring tape for best effect. Then, subtract this number from the total length of your vinyl siding piece. The resulting number should be how much vinyl you need to cut off of the main siding section.
Mark the line that you’re going to cut with a pencil and a carpenter square to keep your lines straight and even. If your vinyl siding is dark, you can always use chalk or another light-colored marker to do the same thing.
Do this measuring tactic for each method before moving on to the individual steps.
1. Using a Circular Saw
Using a circular saw is the first method that you can use to cut vinyl siding. This method is best for cutting a lot of short or long vertical cuts since the circular saw will create clean incisions relatively quickly.
You’ll need a fine-tooth plywood saw blade to do this correctly. Not just any circular saw blade will do. The reason for needing this kind of blade is to keep the cut clean and neat, which affects the aesthetic of the vinyl siding and how well it fits together with other pieces.
After making your initial measurements and marking out the appropriate line with a pencil and carpenter’s square, mount your fine-tooth saw blade so that it is positioned backward inside your circular saw.
This means that the points of the teeth should be oriented opposite of the spinning direction. Once again, this contributes to giving the vinyl siding a clean cut.
Lay the vinyl siding on a flat table or workbench. You should position the siding so that the cutting line is hanging off the edge for obvious reasons.
Failing to do this can result in your circular saw cutting into the workbench or table beneath the siding itself.
Cut the line with your circular saw. You’ll want to push the saw head carefully and at a steady pace without going too quickly. Remember that you can’t take back any cut you make so taking your time is a good idea.
You should use your non-dominant hand to push down on the vinyl siding, keeping your palm flat, to prevent the siding from sliding around as the saw interacts with it.
2. Using Tin Snips
Method two involves the use of tin snips. These small tools are easy to hold in one hand and give you a lot of precision control over each cut since you can only make incisions a little bit at a time.
Because of this, using tin snips to cut vinyl siding with short, vertical incisions is a good idea. It’s better to use tin snips when you only have to cut a few vinyl strips as opposed to many since using tin strips tends to take longer than using a circular saw.
Use tin snips for vertical cuts, not horizontal cuts. Horizontal cuts can be difficult to finish due to the presence of pieces of vinyl on either side of your cutting hand.
Grip your vinyl siding steadily with the hand that doesn’t hold the tin snips. For most people, this will be a left-hand although the key is just making sure that you use your non dominant hand for the holding.
Your dominant hand should hold the tin snips since you’ll likely be more accurate with that hand. For tin snips, accuracy and stability is key to keeping and even cutting line.
Next, carefully cut along the line that you drew out with a pencil and carpenter square beforehand. It’s important to go slowly during this process since you can’t take it back and human error is all the more likely using tin snips as opposed to a circular saw.
When cutting, be sure to keep the blades of the tin snips from touching all the way. About two-thirds of the way is ideal. This will help your cut stay clean and prevent the edges of your cut siding from fraying or marring.
3. Using a Utility Knife
Finally, you can also use a utility knife. It’s ideal to use a utility knife to cut your vinyl siding if you need to cut vinyl strips lengthwise. This tool is also ideal for making longer cuts since utility knives allow the best control out of all three types.
In addition, your utility knife will never dip below the vinyl siding itself, so you can safely perform horizontal cuts of any length so long as you’re careful.
After making the standard measurements and marking them with a pencil and carpenter’s square, make sure to lay the vinyl siding on a totally flat surface.
This is imperative since the straightness of your line will rely on you being able to press down firmly on the vinyl siding itself.
A workbench or flat table is a good solution.
You’re not going to cut the utility knife straight into the vinyl siding right away. Instead, follow the line with the utility knife and carefully press down to “score” the line.
Basically, you’re making a pre-cut that will make the actual cutting easier in just a moment.
Not pushing the utility knife all the way through prevents you from damaging both the knife blade itself and the workbench surface beneath the vinyl siding.
Once you’ve scored the marked line on your vinyl siding, push down on one side of the scored line with your hand, keeping it flat against the table or workbench.
With the other hand, pull the other side of the vinyl apart, bending if necessary. You can do this on the edge of your table if it helps. You should hear a satisfying snap as the vinyl breaks.
If done correctly, this process should result in the vinyl siding coming apart cleanly without having to chop all the way through with the utility knife. You should have a clean break.
If the vinyl starts to fray or tear instead of coming apart easily, score the line again with your utility knife.
It’s a good idea to do longer cuts in smaller chunks to ensure accuracy over time.
Benefits of Cutting Vinyl Siding Yourself
Cutting your own vinyl siding comes with several important benefits. These are:
- It saves you money. Cutting your own vinyl siding can potentially only cost as much as the materials described below. This is much cheaper than hiring a professional to do this easy task.
- Customization. You control the size and lengths of your vinyl siding cuts. This gives you even greater control over the final look of your property.
- Immediacy. If you do this yourself, you don’t need to wait for the construction crew to come out and do the job. Get it done on your time, however fast you need it.
As you can see, cutting vinyl siding is easier than you might have thought. The truth is that it only takes a small amount of preparation and some patience with the cutting process.
So long as you don’t rush through the cutting, you’ll be able to make perfectly straight cuts and have fantastic looking vinyl pieces in no time. Good luck!
If you also want to learn how to cut tin metal for your roof, we have a complete guide on that here.