Fiber cement siding is very easy to install in a shiplap pattern (called lapstrake on boats). This pattern of siding works very well to shed rain water and keep the house dry. Shiplap needs to be installed from the bottom to top, and progress proceeds quickly.
They do sell tooling to install the planks evenly, but these tools cost around $50 to $80 for a set.
These tools are great, and make installation quick and easy. Shiplap siding needs to be even and consistent. If the amount of overlap varies, the siding will look crooked, uneven, and ugly. These tools also let you install the siding alone!
If you don't have any tools, you need two people to install the siding. Each person needs to hold the plank, measure the overlap, and secure the plank. If there are any variations between the amount that overlaps, the job will look sloppy and the end result will look unsightly.
Tools are set to a specific amount of overlap, and simply slip on to the lower plank and hold the next plank in perfect place. A single worker simply sets the plank on the tools and screw it to the wall. Each plank will go on exactly the same as the previous plank with no variation. The result is a very even job that looks professionally finished. All of a sudden, an expensive tool sounds worthwhile!
It's a small price to pay for a high quality result that will last for years to come. The truth is, you can make your own set of tools for a fraction of the price.
I purchased a pair of metal straps which I bent into an "S" shape for $0.92 per metal strap. While the expensive tools are adjustable, allowing you to vary the amount of overlap, these tools are fixed in their size.
I wanted 6 inches of exposed plank, so I need 2.25 inches of overlap. To manufacture this, I clamped both strips into a vise and beat them into shape with a hammer. I made sure that the bends occurred at the same position on both by forcing the bend to occur at the edge of vise jaw. Both tools were verified for symmetry, and measured to make sure that the length of the body was 2.25 inches.
Installing the siding was very simple, all I had to do was set the tools on the top of the current plank, and then rest the new plank in the tools. The tools held the plank in place while I screwed the plank into the studs.
Some tricks to using these inexpensive tools are:
- Put the tool on the edge of the plank before you tighten the screws all the way, this makes it much easier to get the tool between the plank and the wrapping.
- Tighten the plank once the tool is in place.
- Place the tool half way on and halfway off the edge of the plank to facilitate removal after the new plank is installed.
- Alternate the side you use the tools on with each plank to avoid manifestations of any discrepancy in the lengths of the tools you created.
- If the tools are off but just a little bit, the planks will not lie evenly and the problem will compound as the siding goes on the house. For example, if the tools are off by 1/16 of an inch, this means that at the 16th plank, the planks will be off by a full inch!
- If you alternated the side you use the tools on, the planks would only be off by 1/16 of an inch on each plank, and the 16th plank will still only be off by 1/16 of an inch.
- From a distance, 1/16 of an inch discrepancy is very hard to detect, so if your tools are made even better than that, any discrepancy will be even less notable and the end result will be a professional looking job.