As one of the most commonly occurring kinds of home siding in America, vinyl is affordable and incredibly durable overall but might also need repairs at some point. When that time comes, you’ll likely need to know how to cut a panel of siding or two to make the proper fix.
Though cutting vinyl siding is pretty simple, it can sometimes be challenging to ensure it doesn’t snap or break in the process. Fortunately, this in-depth guide provides three step-by-step methods for how to cut vinyl siding properly, so it doesn’t crack or break on you. Let’s begin!
Why Install Vinyl Siding?
To start, let’s touch on the top reasons people continue choosing vinyl to protect their homes time and time again.
According to EyeOnHousing.org, vinyl siding covers almost three quarters of American homes across the mid-Atlantic and eastern seaboard, and that’s because vinyl comes with a multitude of benefits (and only a few minor drawbacks):
✅ Pros ✅
- Fast, simple installation
- Wide aesthetic variety
- Broad range of applications
- Popular suburban siding option
- Low-to-no maintenance
- Never requires re-painting (fully pigmented panels)
- Impressive durability and insulating qualities
- Improves home efficiency
- Easy to clean and repair
- Can warp, dent, or crack with enough force
- May retain moisture after storms
- Discoloration is common over time
- Some buyers believe it “de-values” modern homes
- Made with unsustainable plastic materials (PVC)
Can Vinyl Strips Be Cut?
Fortunately for the many homeowners across the US with vinyl siding systems, cutting it to make repairs is pretty straightforward. Yep, that’s just one more great benefit to vinyl siding products and another reason to go this route.
Any handy homeowner can tackle this task with the right step-by-step guide and a few basic hand tools that are bound to be buried in the garage or backyard shed. The only problem is finding the motivation to search those cluttered spots so you can start cutting some vinyl strips!
Tools You’ll Need to Cut Vinyl Siding
Here’s a checklist of the tools and materials you’ll need to cut vinyl siding:
- Tape measure
- Masking tape
- Steel square/triangle, level, or carpenter’s square
- Flat surface (workbench, craft table, etc.)
- Zip tool to remove old siding
- Pair of tin snips
- Table or circular saw (fine toothed plywood cutting blade is best)
- Utility knife
Plus, Proper Safety Equipment
A staggering 24,534 housework and home improvement-related injuries required hospital admission in 2020 alone, so we can’t stress enough the importance of stringent safety precautions.
Like any other home improvement project, you’ll need the proper safety equipment to protect yourself during the cutting process, including:
- Safety goggles or glasses
- Hearing protection
- Mask or respirator
- Utility gloves
- Sturdy shoes or boots
- High-coverage clothing (long sleeves, thick jeans, etc.)
- First aid kit
Safety goggles and masks protect your eyes and respiratory system from harmful particles in the air, while ear protection can save you from irreversible hearing damage down the line.
In addition, items like long sleeve shirts and pants, sturdy boots, and durable work gloves can minimize your risk of any knicks or cuts (and eliminate the need for that first aid kit, though you should always keep it on hand just in case). You can even purchase cut-resistant work gloves at your local home improvement store specifically designed for wear during dangerous jobs like this one.
3 Methods for Cutting Vinyl Siding Safely
Once you’ve gathered your tools and protective equipment and prepped a safe workspace, you can start measuring to cut your vinyl siding. If you’re not sure how to cut vinyl siding just yet, you have a few options:
- Using tin snips
- Circular saws
- With a utility knife (the scored line method)
Depending on how much siding panel you plan on cutting, one method might work better than another, so you’ll need to take exact measurements of each exterior wall. Then, you’ll be better able to determine what best suits your needs.
These are the three main ways for cutting vinyl siding:
Method #1: Tin Snips ✂️
When you only have a few short, vertical cuts to make, a pair of tin snips can provide excellent precision instead of dragging out the circular saw (or if you don’t have one at all). The only downside is that this manual method takes a little longer than the others, as you’ll have to inch your way along the line.
Note that tin snips can only be used to cut vinyl siding vertically, and you’ll have to use another method to make horizontal cuts. Here’s how to do it:
- Hold the snips in your dominant hand and grip the piece of siding tightly in your other. Use a cutting template or carpenter’s square to keep the most precise and stable cut line.
- Use your snips to cut carefully along the marked line you’ve made with pencil or masking tape. You can’t go back after you’ve cut, so concentrate and work slowly.
- Inch carefully along the cutting line, keeping in mind not to close blades completely to maintain a smoother cut and avoid any frayed edges.
Vinyl panels typically range from 4 to 7 inches in width, so you won’t have to work long to make your cuts. That’s why tin snips are mainly used when you only have a small amount of vinyl to cut vertically.
Method #2: Utility Knife (Scoring and Snapping)
Another fast and easy way to cut your vinyl siding is the score and snap method. Again, this is only recommended for short vertical cuts because it leaves a rough edge and isn’t really that fast compared to using a circular saw.
It’s usually used to cut outside edges and corners that will be covered by trim later since it’s hard to get smooth cuts with the final snap. However, the steps are still quite simple:
- Use your pencil to mark a precise cut line vertically along the vinyl from one edge to the other. Your carpenter’s square can help you draw a straight line every time.
- Lay the vinyl on a flat table or workbench with the siding face up, and make light, short vertical cuts along the line using a sharp utility knife. Apply medium pressure without actually pushing through the material entirely; this is called “scoring.”
- With the scoring done and your siding firmly secured between two benches or off a table edge, it’s time to snap. Use one hand to hold the siding steady against the flat surface while the other free hand starts working the siding back and forth until you can feel it start to break along the score line.
- Tip: Utility knives are a nice little tool, but they’re not the strongest. If you struggle to snap the siding on the first go, give your scoring line another cut-through, then keep trying. It may take a few times to get those scored longitudinal cuts to finally crack, which is why you won’t want to use this method for long vertical cuts.
Method #3: Circular or Miter Saws
For those long vertical cuts or depending on how much siding you have to cut, consider using a handheld circular saw or static miter saw instead of the manual methods mentioned above.
As the preferred tactics professionals use to cut vinyl, this is the primary way to make:
- Precise horizontal cuts to the vinyl siding plank that covers the space where your top row of siding meets your roof eaves
- Accurate angled cuts for siding spaces around gables, bay windows, balconies, roofing structures, and other exterior features
- Many short vertical cuts you want to be done quick
Like any other power tool, circular and miter saw blades are dangerous and definitely not something to mess around with. Always wear safety goggles, cut-resistant gloves, and other protective gear around any kind of saw blade to ensure you get out of this project with all ten fingers intact.
- After using your measuring tape, level, or square to make your exact cut marks, ensure the fine tooth plywood blade is mounted backward in your circular saw’s housing. The teeth should point in the opposite direction of how the blade spins for a smoother result after cutting.
- Tip: Whether you’re going handheld or have a static table, no regular circular or miter saw blade will do. That’s why we specify the need for a fine tooth plywood blade, which is best for neat, clean siding cuts that fit seamlessly together upon re-installation.
- With your safety goggles tightly strapped, set your vinyl siding on a flat surface with the marked line hanging over the edge. Line up the vinyl cutting blade against your siding piece and prepare to cut. If you’re on a flat table, take time to ensure you’re not going to cut through the top with your handheld circular saw.
- Now, move the saw blade backward across your marked line, ensuring you work slowly to avoid any damage to the saw blade itself. Once you get the hang of using a circular saw, you can start to move a bit quicker with each cut.
Final Verdict: Best Way to Cut Vinyl Siding Without It Breaking
Ultimately, when it comes down to it, it’s up to the individual homeowner or siding professional to decide which method works best for them to cut vinyl siding. If you’re going to DIY this project and only have tin snips or a regular utility knife on hand, you’ll have to work with what you’ve got and go with method #1 or #2.
Professional remodelers with access to a high-powered saw blade (or people who need a solid excuse to buy a circular saw blade) might be more inclined to complete the job using a table or circular saw. As you can see, whatever makes the most sense for your unique situation and skill (or tool) set is the way to go.
Get Expert Help Installing Vinyl Siding
Although after reading this step-by-step guide, you might feel more confident in your ability to cut your own vinyl siding, it’s always a smart idea to leave this kind of stuff to the experts to avoid any irreversible mistakes and ensure everything goes smoothly throughout the process. Most vinyl siding companies can get the job done in just a few days, not weeks; this way, you’ll have nothing to worry about.
So, when you want to refresh your home’s siding and start a replacement, put your trust in the team of professionals at Dreamworx. Our expert home exterior specialists can properly cut vinyl siding and install it fast, helping to protect your family, improve curb appeal, and boost home efficiency by a mile.
Make Dreamworx your preferred choice when it comes to vinyl siding. Schedule an appointment and get peace of mind today!