Upgrade your curb appeal with this siding option that's worth the hard work. With our step-by-step instructions, you can install siding shingles to gain a richly textured home exterior.

By Jessica Bennett
Updated March 03, 2020
John Merkl

For curb appeal that will make your house stand out in the neighborhood, consider installing shingle siding. Although cedar shingles take more time to install than most other types of siding, they lend a rich, textured look to your exterior. If you're thinking of installing shingle siding, it's important to note that this option can be used only if the sheathing is boards, plywood, or OSB. The shingles should also be installed to provide triple coverage, with three layers of shingles covering the wall. To achieve this, the exposures should be slightly less than one-third the length of the shingle. For example, 16-inch-long shingles should be installed with about 5-inch exposures.

You could first install outside corner trim made of 1x boards and then butt the shingles up to the trim, but a woven corner is more attractive. A woven inside corner is much more difficult to achieve, so the usual practice is to install inside corner trim prior to shingling. Because shingles can swell slightly, it is sometimes recommended that you provide 1/8-inch gaps between the shingles. However, as long as the shingles are not completely dried out, they will shrink slightly after installation, so gapping is usually not needed. Check with your supplier to be sure. If you decide to trim outside corners, you may choose to install corner trim pieces and simply butt the shingles up to the trim boards.

Although this project can be hard work, if you're determined and have a helping hand, it will be done before you know it! Check out our step-by-step guide to siding shingles below.

  • Start to finish 4 days
  • Difficulty Hard
  • Involves Power Tools, Drilling, Attaching Shingles
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What you need

Tools
Materials
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How to do it

Step 1

Prep the Walls

To prepare the exterior walls, apply building wrap for a water-resistant barrier beneath the shingles. Apply self-adhesive flashing tape to corners and around windows and doors. Take special care not to crease the wrap or flashings.

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Step 2

Apply Trim

Install exterior trim around the windows and doors as needed. Be sure to choose a wood stain or material for the trim that will complement your new shingle siding. If you plan to weave the shingles at outside corners (see steps 6 and 7), you don't need outside corner trim.

Step 3

Lay Out Courses

Use a story pole to lay out courses and help you avoid using narrow pieces above or below windows and doors. You may choose to raise or lower the bottom course to achieve the desired layout (see step 10) or use the swing-stick method to keep the layout consistent. Mark the layout all around the house.

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Step 4

Corner Trim

Install inside corner trim pieces. Ideally, these should not be too visible, but they must be wide enough to provide room for caulking after the shingles are installed. A 1x1 board ripped from 5/4 cedar decking is often the ideal size. Hold up several layers of shingles to make sure the trim is thick enough.

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Step 5

Begin Installation in Corner

Install the first starter-course piece at a corner. It should run past the corner by about 1 inch. Use a small level to hold it plumb and attach with two nails or staples. Less-expensive, low-grade shingles can be used as the starter course.

Step 6

Continue Starter-Course

Install a piece on the other side of the corner butted against the first piece. Use a utility knife to roughly cut the first piece. Slice once or twice, then snap the shingle apart.

Editor's Tip

Editor's Tip

If needed, you can cut shingles using a table saw, chop saw, or radial-arm saw. In the example shown, the miter gauge is used to cut corner pieces at a slight angle, which eliminates the need to knife-trim (perhaps even planing smooth) the corner pieces. If you use a circular saw, clamp the shingle first to keep your fingers away from the blade. If the grain is straight and knot-free, use a utility knife to make simple cuts. 

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Step 7

Trim Shingle

You may need to touch up the split for a smooth edge. Use a small block plane or Surform tool to trim the shingle edge flush. When building a corner, trim and plane each piece before moving on to the next course.

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Step 8

Set Up Jig

Make a jig (as shown) as a quick, failsafe way to keep the courses even. Use a straight 1x4 as the guide and 1x2s as the hangers. Check that it's level and fasten it with 3-inch screws.

Step 9

Attach Second Layer

The starter course is made of two layers of shingles. Attach the second layer so its joints are offset at least 1-1/2 inches from the joints of the underlying layer. You will likely need to cut the last pieces in each row.

Editor's Tip

Editor's Tip

You can hand-nail shingles, but the job goes faster with a pneumatic nailer or stapler. A stapler is used most often because it is less likely to split the shingles. Even if you are shingling just a single wall, renting power equipment will be worth the cost.

Adjust the stapler so it drives the staples just flush and does not indent them. When you hit a stud, the staple may not sink in completely; drive the staple flush with a hammer. Use galvanized nails or staples for most of the job, but stainless-steel nails are the best choice wherever the heads will show.

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Step 10

Continue Along Corners

Build up the corners. The bottom course (which is on top of the starter course) may be anywhere from 1 to 4 inches above the starter course, depending on your layout. To maintain correct exposures, use a homemade exposure guide. Drive nails or staples about 1 inch above the exposure so they will be covered. Be sure to check your layout marks every few courses. Trim and plane a corner board before you install the next course.

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Step 11

Build Inside Corners

Build the inside corners. Follow the same steps you used for the outer corners. However, you will not need to plane any shingle edges.

Step 12

Mark Next Course

Once you have built up the corners by about 10 courses, snap a chalk line to mark the bottom of the next course. Attach vertical pieces to a long, straight guide and attach to the wall as shown. Place shingles on the guide board and fasten them, offsetting joints by at least 1-1/2 inches.

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Step 13

Work Around Windows

Continue installing your shingle siding around windows and doors. To accommodate corners, install wide notch-cut shingles. Avoid having a joint closer than 1 inch from the corner.

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Step 14

Add Shingles Above Windows and Doorways

The shingles above windows and doors require special attention since they're not layered on top of other shingles. To ensure a consistent look, you will need to cut and install strips of the correct thickness underneath the row of shingles. That way, the full-thickness pieces installed over them will be correctly flared out from the wall.

Step 15

Work Around Hose

Work around your home's exterior features, such as spigots. Turn off the water and remove the hose spigot. Use a drill and a hole saw to cut a neat hole in the shingle. The hole should be large enough that there is at least a 1/4-inch gap between the pipe and the shingle to avoid damage from condensation. Caulk the gap before replacing the spigot.

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Step 16

Install Along Gable

Set a scrap of wood on the roof and use a T-bevel to capture the angle for cutting along a gable. Where possible, install the angled pieces first, then fill in with full-length pieces.

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Step 17

Install Roof Flashing

Along a roof, install flashing. Then install shingles 1 or 2 inches above the flashing. To cut a series of shingles that follow a roofline, align four or five of them on a worktable and snap a chalk line across them all, using the T-bevel as a guide.

Step 18

Finish With Caulk

Once all the shingles are installed, apply caulk at all the trim joints. To finish your shingle siding, apply two or more coats of sealer or two coats of primer. If desired, paint the shingles, taking care to cover all surfaces evenly.

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