How to Install Tongue-and-Groove Siding for a Rustic Look

Better protect your home from the elements with this durable siding. We'll show you how to install tongue-and-groove siding yourself.

Porch Table
Project Overview
  • Total Time: 12 hours
  • Skill Level: Intermediate

Tongue-and-groove or lapped sidings generally have a rustic, cabinlike appearance. A variety of siding types fit together by means of tongues and grooves or over- and underlapping edges. Because the overlap is less than on other types of siding, these provide somewhat less protection from the elements. The wider the tongues or lapped sections, the better they will keep water out. Check to make sure the siding you choose has a successful track record in your region.

Depending on how the pieces fit together, some jointed sidings can be fully attached by blind-nailing through a tongue or underlap that will be covered by the course above. Other types require face-nailing as well. The area where you will blind-drive the fasteners is thin, so there is a danger of cracking the wood when you drive a nail. Preempt any splits by drilling pilot holes. The extra step is worth the effort: A cracked board is seriously compromised and may allow water to seep behind. Some installers choose to drive small-head stainless-steel screws instead of nails. Or you can use a power stapler, which is less likely than a nailer to split boards.

When working with a helper, you'll need a day to install 600 square feet of siding. Before you begin, cover the sheathing with building wrap, and install trim boards and flashings as needed.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Power nailer or stapler
  • Hammer
  • Drill
  • Miter saw or circular saw
  • Table saw
  • Measuring tape
  • Story pole
  • Chalkline
  • Flat pry bar
  • Level
  • Caulking gun
  • Utility knife
  • T-bevel
  • Tin snips
  • Staple gun
  • Ladders and/or scaffolding


  • Wood tongue-and-groove or shiplap siding
  • Strips of felt
  • Staples
  • Stainless-steel or galvanized siding nails or screws
  • Exterior stain/sealer


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    Lay Out Courses

    Apply building paper, self-stick flashings at corners and around windows, and metal flashings as needed. Snap vertical chalklines indicating the centers of studs. Use a story pole to lay out the courses. Because there is no water table, you can probably raise or lower the bottom piece a couple of inches to achieve the course layout you desire. Make sure the bottom course will be at least 6 inches above grade and at least 2 inches above a driveway or sidewalk.

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    Protect Pieces

    Take special care to protect the backs, edges, and cut ends. Apply generous coats of sealer, using a roller or a sprayer. Or build a long trough lined with plastic sheeting and soak each board in sealer for several seconds.

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    Cut Preacher

    Out of a scrap piece of 1X lumber or siding, cut a "preacher" to aid in marking the boards for cutting. The preacher should be about 8 inches longer than the width of the siding boards. Cut notches so the preacher will fit fairly tightly around the board to be marked.

  4. Cut Boards to Fit


    Cut the boards to fit snugly against trim pieces or abutting siding pieces. If you have a miter saw or radial-arm saw, attach it firmly to a table and provide support for the siding boards on either side. Or set up a comfortable cutting station for using a circular saw.

    Editor's Tip: You may choose to install corner trim first and butt the siding up to it as shown. If you want the trim to be more pronounced, install the siding first and then apply the trim over the siding. For a less pronounced reveal, attach strips of 3/8-inch pressure-treated plywood to the insides of the corner trims and install the corners before you install the siding.

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    Apply Flashing

    Apply strips of self-stick flashing (or waterproof shingle underlayment) to the area behind each butt joint, as shown. Flexible flashing is a good choice when applying shiplap because it can mold around the lap and still effectively seal out moisture.

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    Apply Stain or Sealer

    Apply a stain/sealer recommended for use in your area. Use a paintbrush to work sealer into all the joints, especially the undersides of boards. Apply several coats of sealer and inspect to make sure all joints are well protected. Apply high-quality exterior caulk to all joints.

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