Wood siding holds so much character, but it can also be prone to rotting and cracks. Learn how to quickly fix these problems yourself.
screened in porch neutral exterior

If a wood clapboard is rotted in a small area, you can apply wood hardener and patch with wood filler or epoxy. If the damaged area is large, you'll have to replace the board or a part of the board. You can cut a board almost anywhere if your sheathing is solid plywood or OSB, but if the sheathing is not solid, it must be cut in the middle of a stud so the joint can be firmly nailed.

If there is widespread rotting, the area behind might be getting wet and the problem might be with the building paper or the way the siding was installed.

Siding that is buckling or pulling away from the wall may be insufficiently nailed. Try driving long nails or screws into studs.

Beveled siding made of pressed board, which is no longer made, is notoriously unstable and weak. If it is warping, buckling, or flaking apart, it needs to be removed and replaced.

What You Need

  • Hammer
  • Tape measure
  • Square
  • Flat pry bar
  • Putty knife
  • Keyhole saw
  • Caulking gun
  • Paintbrush
  • Sanding block
  • Utility knife
  • Wood filler
  • Wood hardener
  • Caulk
  • Exterior or polyurethane glue
  • Nails or screws
  • Roofing felt
  • Sandpaper
  • Primer and paint

Filling Holes: Small Holes


Fill small holes (such as those made by screws that have been removed) with exterior caulk. Smooth with a putty knife, allow to dry, and paint.

Filling Holes: Large Holes


For large holes or for dents or gaps at joints, use exterior wood filler. Slightly overfill and smooth with a putty knife, then sand once the filler is dry. Or use epoxy filler.

Repairing a Split

Step 1: Apply Glue


Using a chisel or putty knife, gently pry open a split and squirt in exterior wood glue or polyurethane glue.

Step 2: Nail Shut


Drill upward-angled pilot holes and drive small-head stainless-steel screws to tighten the crack. If the sheathing is not solid plywood or OSB, you may need to temporarily screw a board over the area and remove the board when the glue dries.

Replacing Siding Pieces

Step 1: Remove Nails


If the siding board above has exposed nails that go into the board that you want to remove, pry away the siding board above and then tap it back in. The nailheads should pull out to the point where you can grab and remove them with a pry bar. Tap in shims to hold the board away from the wall. You will probably need to do this for a fairly wide area on each side of the damage. Pry out the nails holding the damaged siding. If you are removing an entire board, pull out all the nails and pry out the board.

Step 2: Make First Cut


To cut out a damaged area, use a square and a utility knife to scribe cut lines on each side of the damage. Using a circular saw set to the thickness of the siding, complete as much of the cut as you can without cutting into the siding above the cut. Be careful not to damage the sheathing.

Step 3: Finish Cuts


Using a scrap of wood as a guide, finish the cuts with a keyhole saw. Measure or use the cutouts as templates. Cut replacement siding boards to fit.

Step 4: Install New Siding


Tap the new pieces in place, using a block of wood so you don't dent the siding. Drill pilot holes and drive nails to attach the new pieces. Remove the shims and tap the upper board back into place. Caulk the joints. Apply primer and paint.


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