Old house with wood siding removed.

Demolition Day:

Removing Old Wood Siding


In This Article:

Old wood clapboard siding is ripped off, thrown into a trailer, and hauled away.

Related Articles:

Skill Level: 2-3 (Basic to Intermediate)

Time Taken: A Couple Of Days

By , Editor

This article is part of a series on siding replacement. The entire story can be found in Replacing Old Wood Siding and Trim With Low-Maintenance Materials - A Quick Tour


Before siding can be replaced, the old siding needs to be removed, sometimes.

I have seen many cases of contractors installing vinyl siding over old wood siding. I guess it's standard procedure in the siding business, but I don't prefer it.

In addition to replacing the old wood siding, one of our goals was to add more insulation to the exterior walls. With the price of energy these days I think it's irresponsible to replace siding without making an effort to add a significant amount of insulation. I often see houses where a contractor nails on a thin sheet of foam fan-fold insulation before hanging the vinyl siding, but that insulation has an R-value of about 0.25. The purpose of that thin stuff is to provide a smoother substrate for the vinyl siding.

We had many reasons for removing the old siding, which will become apparent in the articles that follow.

The 1907 farm house near the beginning of the siding replacement project.


A Top-Down Approach:

We set up a pair of heavy-duty 28 foot extension ladders against the side of the house. From these ladders we could reach any point on the gable ends. The highest points of these gables are about 25 feet above the ground.

We salvaged some of those wavy boards, so we could trace the shape and cut new boards from fiber-cement siding.


Cutting siding nails with Sawzall.

The careful method for removing siding:

  • Jam a small pry-bar under a piece of siding.
  • Pull carefully, to loosen the board.
  • Repeat at several places nearby.
  • Slide reciprocating saw blade under board and cut the nails. This makes the board looser, and once this process is started it usually gets easier to pry the board and cut the nails


Often a window casing board can be removed by simply prying it away from the house and cutting the nails with a reciprocating saw.

Prying window trim off.

Of course you're supposed to use a metal-cutting blade to cut nails. Wood-cutting blades may cut nails for a while but they will dull quickly.


Removing wood siding with prybars, from the top down.

We removed the siding down to a point just above the ladders.

For most of this work we just used pry bars to rip the siding off, with no regard to whether the boards got cracked or broken. We have tried to re-use old wood siding but we have concluded that it just is not worth the effort unless there is something special about the old boards.


At this point we lowered the ladders so we could remove the siding on each side of the window.


The Secret Weapon For Demolition:

We parked a small utility trailer next to the house. By using a trailer dolly we could easily place the trailer right against the building. The trailer dolly is the black thing at the front of the trailer, with the small wheels and the handle.

We simply ripped siding boards off the house and dropped them into the trailer. Of course some boards would bounce out, but with a little cleanup we could haul away the debris with minimal effort. I avoid handling junk more than once.

To avoid getting a flat tire, we used a rolling magnetic nail picker to pick the nails off the ground before moving the trailer.


In less than a day we had stripped this gable-end section of the house. This section is almost 16 feet wide and about 23 feet tall.


One small problem was the electric meter. What you CANNOT do is cut the little metal lock to reach inside and remove the mounting screws. Only the power company can remove the lock.

I simply used a reciprocating saw with a long metal-cutting blade to reach behind the meter and snip the mounting screws. I suppose there is a risk that the cut screw head could fall and short out some live electrical parts... but the most likely result is that the screw head simply falls to the bottom of the metal enclosure.

However, it's important to fasten the meter or surrounding conduit to the wall. We used a few conduit clamps to temporarily hold the pipe secure to the wood sheathing.



While there should be no exposed live wires anywhere near an electric meter, there often are bare live wires at the weatherhead, which is the top of the conduit that supplies the electric meter. Near the weatherhead there is usually a connection between the wires that feed the meter and the wires that run from the utility pole to the house. These connectors are typically wrapped in insulating tape, but I have seen MANY older homes where that tape has fallen off, exposing live wiring. These bare wires are not a problem unless someone touches them. Be careful when working around service entrance wiring. Using an aluminum ladder around wiring is NOT recommended, because it will conduct electricity.

Between the utility lines and the main panel there is no circuit breaker or ground fault interrupter to stop the power if you were to accidentally short two wires together, so the sparks are dramatic.


This is the north face during the replacement of the siding, a couple of weeks later.

After this picture was taken we removed the "gingerbread" at the top of the gable. After some repair and restoration work we will replace it.


We removed the frieze board and bed molding. This was kinda tricky because these boards were about 11 feet long.

Our original plan was to strip the paint from these pieces of wood and re-use them, but later we re-thought that idea.



We used a pair of 28 foot Type 1A aluminum ladders, which were quite expensive (about $300 each). The ability to safely reach all parts of the the wall is crucial. These heavy-duty ladders are very stiff and stable, so they don't flex wildly while you climb them. Some Type III ladders (consumer grade) are so flexible that I get nervous climbing them, and I climb ladders often.


Read the next article in the series: Wall Preparations For New Siding


HammerZone's Recommended Remodeling Tools



Tools Used:

  • Pry Bars
  • Basic Carpentry Tools
  • Reciprocating Saw
  • Utility Trailer
  • Ladders

Materials Used:

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Written April 7, 2005