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How to Install PVC Bevel Siding Over Rainscreen

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How to Install PVC Bevel Siding Over Rainscreen

It’s a lot like installing wood bevel siding, except it won’t warp or rot. And it expands and contracts differently and for different reasons

By Sal Alfano October 25, 2022
how to pvc rainscreen
This article first appeared in the September/October 2022 issue of Pro Remodeler.

In 2021 (How to Build a Rainscreen for Open-Joint Cladding and How to Install Siding That Lasts), we wrote about new rainscreen materials and open-joint PVC siding. The project was part of what was then a new video series at ProTradeCraft.com about construction in extreme climates, called “Building Resilience.”

In this article, we look at siding again, but this time it’s from episode 10 of the second season of Building Resilience. The project is a remodel of beautiful home built in 1904 that is also the international headquarters of OA Design + Build + Architecture in Minneapolis, an extreme climate indeed.

In this next-to-last episode 10, the exterior walls have been prepped for siding using a variety of products from Benjamin Obdyke, all of which are covered in more detail in earlier episodes [1]

wrb pvc rainscreen
The water-resistive barrier (WRB) is self-adhered Hydrogap SA, with seams sealed using HydroFlash GP Self-Adhered Flashing tape (episode 6), followed by a layer of Slicker Max, which creates the ventilated rainscreen (episode 7). 


rainscreen bevel pvc
Wall penetrations are flashed with liquid-applied Hydroflash LA (episode 7), which OA Founder Michael Anschel likes to use because, as he puts it, “you know, old house, weird pieces of wood, things coming together.” 


The project includes areas clad in open-joint boards, which provide a contemporary detail, but most of the building will be clad in beveled siding, partly, as OA Founder Michael Anschel explains, “to pay homage to the period it was built,” but also to have a go with a new PVC beveled siding product from AZEK [2].

Anschel notes that it looks just like smooth cedar, then asks a question you’re probably asking: “If you’re trying to make it look like smooth cedar, why not just use smooth cedar?” To answer, he points to rotted trim boards and peeling paint on the wood-clad building next door. “All of the challenges that come with wood, which is a great material and it’s beautiful, but let’s face it,” Anschel explains, “when it comes to our cladding, something that is really, really weather-resistant is probably our best bet.”


azek siding
Anschel holds a scrap of the new PVC beveled siding product from AZEK in which most of the building is clad. The material is virtually impervious to decay from exposure to moisture, and as with other PVC products, can be easily worked with wood-working tools. 


Step-By-Step Installation

Installing PVC beveled siding is just like installing wood beveled siding, with one important difference: PVC expands and contracts differently from wood―and for different reasons.

(To learn more about how it behaves, why it behaves that way, and what you should―and shouldn’t―do to avoid problems, see “Understanding How PVC Trim Moves")

Fastening is important to control movement in PVC, so the first step is to mark lines on the Slicker Max to locate the studs [3].


rainscreen pvc
Marking stud locations on the rainscreen helps ensure alignment of the fasteners, which will be exposed.


rainscreen bevel how to
Fastening the PVC siding through the rainscreen to the framing also helps prevent movement. To promote drainage, a temporary spacer block holds both the 1½-inch-wide starter strip and the first course of siding ¼ inch off the metal flashing.



slickermax pvc rainscreen how to
The crew adjust for level before nailing both pieces in place.


Next is to use a 1½-inch-wide piece ripped from the top of a siding board as a starter strip, which will properly align the bottom of the first course of siding. The two-man crew uses a block to hold both pieces ¼ inch off the metal flashing, and rather than tack the starter strip first then nail the first course of siding, they fasten both pieces at the same time. 

azek beveled

The nails, which will be exposed, are placed about 5/8-inch up from the bottom of the board, one nail per stud and no closer than 2 inches from each end.

The crew used two sets of spacer blocks to keep the courses even. One set are simple 4-inch squares used only to set the second course because the wider skirt board doesn’t leave enough room to hook a spacer under the first course. The main set are cut from heavier PVC stock into an L-shape, with one 4-inch leg, which is the amount of reveal they are looking for, and a short ½-inch leg, which hooks under the course below [4].


slickermax rainscreen siding
After setting a 4-inch reveal with the second course, the crew uses a set of L-shaped blocks that hook under the course below. They serve a dual purpose: they ensure a uniform reveal and they provide a straight edge that makes it easy to square up from the nails below, ensuring a straight line of exposed fasteners. Metal butt flashing behind the joints directs any water out before it can get behind the siding.


As with wood siding, it can get tricky at penetrations, particularly profiled head casings at windows and doors. But the tools you use to work wood―power saws, coping saws, multi-tools, even sharp chisels―also work with PVC. But there is no grain, so boards with deep cutouts can be floppy, and longer lengths may require two people to maneuver into position on the wall.

After that, it’s rinse and repeat around the rest of the building.


written by

Sal Alfano

Executive Editor

Sal Alfano is executive editor for Professional Remodelersal.alfano@gmail.com, 202.365.9070

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