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Handy Tips to Restore Clapboard

September 06, 1997|From Associated Press

Maintaining an old house's original wood clapboards is one of the major components of a successful restoration. It's usually not difficult.

In most cases, you should be able to make spot repairs or replace damaged boards for the end result of a unified period exterior.


A common problem with lots of old clapboard is that it tends to split and crack over time. If the split or crack is small, often restorers simply glue the board back together without causing much disturbance to the rest of the side.

Use a good waterproof glue, then clamp the split together until it dries. You can do this by driving nails below the lower edge of the damaged board and turning them up so they brace the pieces together. Small wood blocks secured with a nail or two will do the same thing. Take care to avoid splitting the siding.


Where warping, rot and the weather have taken their toll on old wood and the board is damaged beyond repair, you can usually cut out the bad piece and replace it with a freshly milled clapboard.

Use a hacksaw to cut out the damaged section. Angle it carefully while you work to avoid cutting the siding below. After the board is cut, a sharp hammer and chisel is usually all that's needed to remove pieces of the damaged wood.

Chances are the board is nailed to the one above it. If the nail is visible from the surface, try to pull it out. Otherwise, insert small wooden wedges or a screwdriver up under the siding to pry it out slightly, then cut the nails with a hacksaw.


Traditionally, most beveled clapboards were layered from the bottom up. It's still the preferred way to side. The historic way the hand-rived boards were secured to the structure is also the one that those milling riftsawn clapboards today recommend: nailing through two courses.

Spaced less than 1 inch above the butt of the clapboard, the nails also penetrate the top of the board in the course below. Because of vertical grain clapboard's limited expansion and contraction, this is the best way to install this type of siding. We recommend 5d galvanized wire box nails. Their thin shank prevents the wood from splitting.

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