What Is The Best Tool To Cut Vinyl Siding?

New vinyl siding on a home can improve its looks and add value. Some people choose to skip the professionals and do the work themselves. If you're one of those people, you may be wondering what the best tool for cutting vinyl siding is. We've researched it and have some answers for you.

The best tool for cutting vinyl siding depends on the type of cut you're making. Most people find a circular saw with a vinyl siding blade the best overall, but there are some types of cuts that other methods work better for. Common options for cutting vinyl are:

  • Circular saw
  • Utility knife
  • Tin snips
  • Rotary saw

We discuss each of these options in more detail and explain which cuts they work best on below, so keep reading.

A worker cutting vinyl siding for a house, What Is The Best Tool To Cut Vinyl Siding?

Tools To Cut Vinyl Siding

When you're cutting vinyl siding, you need to use the proper tool to do it. Vinyl siding is very flexible, but it can end up jagged or cracked if you cut it the wrong way. While there are several tools that will work, some work better for different situations than others.

Circular Saw

Many consider a circular saw to be the best method to cut vinyl siding. In the past, people would install a fine-tooth plywood blade backward to achieve the best results. If you are only making a few cuts and already have it on hand, you can get by with that. But the preferred type of blade for vinyl siding is one made specifically for it, such as this one:

IRWIN Marathon Vinyl Siding Blade

Click here to see this blade on Amazon.

Circular saws work best for short cuts across the siding panel. While they work on longer cuts, some of the other methods below are better for those. A circular saw won't work well for a curved cut.

To cut vinyl siding with a circular saw:

  1. On the backside of the siding, mark the location of the cut. Be sure to check this with a square if you are cutting a piece to length.
  2. Put on your safety glasses.
  3. Support the siding on a workbench or table, allowing only the part you are trimming off to extend over the edge.
  4. Using your circular saw equipped with the proper blade, cut carefully across your siding. Move slowly and don't force it.

For cutting along the length of a panel, follow the same process, ensuring to support the area you are cutting to ensure a good cut.

Utility Knife

Some people may think that it would be difficult to cut through vinyl siding with a utility knife, but it is a method that almost all installers need to use at some point. It is one of the preferred methods for long horizontal cuts but also works for shorter cuts.

WORKPRO Folding Utility Knife

Click here to see this knife on Amazon.

To cut vinyl siding using a utility knife:

  1. Carefully mark the location of the cut on the siding using a straightedge.
  2. Put on your safety glasses.
  3. Lay the vinyl siding on a suitable flat surface, such as a workbench. It must be supported well since you will be pushing down on the knife.
  4. Score the siding along the line. If possible, use a straightedge to guide your knife so that your cut is as straight as possible. You can also use a cutting template designed for vinyl siding, such as this one:

    Malco Double Siding Gauge

    Click here to see this gauge on Amazon.

  5. Carefully bend the vinyl siding at the location you score. It may snap right away, but you may have to bend it back and forth a few times before it separates. If it doesn't come loose after a few bends, lay it back on the work surface and use the utility knife to score it again in the same location.

This is basically the same process you use cutting sheetrock, so if you’ve ever done that, then you have the idea. A utility knife works better than some of the other tools for long cuts. It is often much easier to get a straight cut this way than using a circular saw, for example.

Tin Snips

While they aren’t specifically designed to cut through vinyl siding, tin snips are great tools for the job. They are one of the only ways to trim a curved edge accurately. While they work best on shorter cuts, you can make longer cuts with snips. All you need are standard tin snips, such as these:

Amazon Basics 3-Piece Aviation Snip Set

Click here to see these snips on Amazon.

To make cuts with tin snips:

  1. Carefully mark a line on the vinyl siding where you need to cut.
  2. Put on your safety glasses.
  3. Support the siding on a workbench or other firm surface.
  4. Starting at one edge, trim along the line you marked earlier. For the smoothest cut, only close your snips 23 to 34 of the way, not all the way to the end.

You are better off with the utility knife method for longer cuts, but tin snips work great for short cuts or any location where you need a curve. They work well to cut panels to length and are a great alternative if you don’t have access to a circular saw.

Rotary Saw

In some instances, a rotary saw is the best option when cutting vinyl siding. For example, if you need to trim a hole for an external outlet or a pipe that protrudes through the siding.

When choosing a rotary saw for this, you can use a standard Dremel you may already have, like this one:

 Dremel Rotary Tool Kit

Click here to see this on Amazon.

Or you can use something like a drywall cutter, such as this:

DeWalt Rotary Saw

Click here to see this on Amazon.

An advantage to these types of cutters is that they can make a cut even after you've installed the siding.

To make a cut in your vinyl siding with a rotary saw:

  1. Carefully mark the location of the cut.
  2. Put on your safety glasses.
  3. Turn on the rotary saw and plunge the bit into the center of the area to be removed.
  4. Cut toward the line you marked earlier, then carefully follow your line around to complete the hole.

All of the methods above can work in the right situation. If you have a pair of tin snips and a utility knife on hand and are only doing a small section or a repair, you won’t need to go out and get a circular saw and blade; use what you have. For a larger project, the circular saw may save time. If you are in the planning stages, plan to use multiple methods to get the best cut for each circumstance.

What Tools Do I need To Install Vinyl Siding?

When you install vinyl siding, you need a few tools. Most are basic tools that you likely already have, but not all of them are as common. Here's a list of what you'll need:

  • Safety glasses
  • Hammer
  • Carpenters pencil
  • Utility knife
  • Square
  • Chalk line
  • Level
  • Tape measure
  • Snap lock punch
  • Circular saw with a vinyl siding blade (optional)
  • Tin snips (optional)
  • Rotary saw (optional)

While some of these items are optional, they can each make the job a bit easier.

How Do You Cut Vinyl Siding On A Ledger Board?

When you are installing vinyl siding to an existing ledger board, there are certain steps you should follow to make sure it is properly sealed.

  1. Place J-channel along both sides and an inverted piece along the bottom of the ledger board. Ideally, this bottom piece should sit underneath a piece of Z-flashing that extends behind the ledger board.
  2. Install Z-flashing along the top edge of your ledger board. This flashing should extend past the edge of the side J-channel pieces.
  3. Install your top J-channel piece above the Z-flashing. Leave just enough room for the decking to slide between the Z-flashing and the J-channel.
  4. You can now install your siding around the ledger board.

If you are installing a new ledger board to a home with vinyl siding in place, the process is similar.

  1. Mark the location where the ledger board will sit.
  2. Trim vinyl siding away in the location you marked, making sure to leave room for J-channel along the side of the new ledger board. You also need to leave room for Z-flashing and J-channel on the bottom. The top will need room for Z-flashing, the decking, then J-channel.
  3. Install the bottom Z-flashing.
  4. Install bottom and side J-channel pieces.
  5. Attach the ledger board.
  6. Install Z-flashing along the top of the ledger board.
  7. Install the top J-channel.
  8. Lock all siding into place in your J-channel pieces around the ledger.

How Do You Cut Corners On Vinyl Siding?

When cutting corner pieces on vinyl siding, you can use most of the cutting methods mentioned above. If you cut with a utility knife, you may need to make multiple scores along your line until you cut all the way through since you won’t be able to snap the vinyl corner at the score line.

Your corner strip should extend from ¼ inch below the soffit to ¾ inch below the bottom of your starter strip. Trim away about an inch of the nailer strip at the bottom before installing so it will not be visible below the siding when your project is complete.

In Conclusion

It's important to use the proper tools and methods when installing vinyl siding on your home. This includes the right tools and methods for cutting the siding. Above, we outlined the best tools for the job and what types of cuts each is ideal for. Follow these recommendations, and your project can turn out great!

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