One of the beauties of building a tiny house is that you can fully customize your home. Let us explore your tiny house siding options!
Before you go ahead and start thinking about interior siding, you must first install exterior siding. Interior siding will be discussed in Chapter 12 of The Ultimate Guide to Building a Tiny Home!
Here is an overview of what we will cover in this chapter:
Before the siding can be installed, you must create a rainscreen system that prevents moisture from building up behind the exterior siding by creating an air gap between the exterior siding and the housewrap.
A rainscreen is a system that provides a physical barrier between the housewrap and the exterior siding to facilitate drainage and natural evaporation of moisture that finds its way behind the siding.
The rainscreen system can be created using thin pieces of wood or plastic furring strips.
For our tiny home, we bought plastic furring strips from a company called Cor-A-Vent. These strips were sturdy and were hollow on the inside to allow for natural air movement and drainage.
Although the plastic furring strips were more expensive than the wood furring strips, it was really a no-brainer for us knowing that plastic strips will never rot! Basically, we wanted to have the reassurance that the furring strips we install will last for the lifetime of the house.
Since the Cor-A-Vent products were not available at Home Depot and Lowe’s, we had to make a special order through a local building supplies company.
SV-3 is a series of horizontal pieces of plastics with vertical openings that allow air and moisture to pass through. It gets installed at the top and the bottom edge of the sheathing.
SV-3 comes with a pre-installed bug screen that prevents insects from getting inside. This feature is a money saver because you don’t need to purchase and install bug screens separately.
Sturdi-Strips are thin plastic strips that also have vertical hollow columns on the inside. Combined with SV-3, it completes the rainscreen system.
Sturdi-Strips are installed in between SV-3. This creates an unobstructed path for air movement. The air, in turn, allows moisture to naturally escape the behind the siding and keep the sheathing dry.
Take a look at the diagram below for a more detailed view of the Cor-A-Vent rainscreen system.
First, install SV-3 around the top and bottom bottom edge of the sheathing. Then, Sturdi-strips are installed at each stud location in between SV-3.
To fasten the rainscreen to the sheathing, use a nail gun and 2.5″ construction nails to accomplish this task. If you have a hard time finding the wall, use a stud-finder to locate your studs. Then proceed to drive the nails in!
Whenever there is an opening such as a window or a door, place SV-3 on the top and bottom edge of the opening and install Sturdi-Strips around the sides to complete the rainscreen system.
Here is an excellent tutorial on how to properly install the Cor-A-Vent rainscreen system.
When choosing the type and style of your exterior siding, you must consider both the aesthetics and functions of the siding. Here are the top two siding options that people choose for their tiny homes.
Pro: Wood siding is the traditional and the most popular siding option for a tiny home. It is easy to work with and easily accessible.
However, when choosing wood, you must make sure to choose wood species that are naturally rot-resistant such as cedar and cypress. Choosing wood as your exterior siding is also an environmentally clean option.
Con: Considering how much surface the siding must cover, these naturally weather-resistant wood species can get very expensive. Finally, wood won’t resist fire very well when compared to engineered wood siding or metal siding.
Pro: Although the metal siding is not the most traditional option, it has been gaining popularity in the tiny house community for its clean and modern look.
The most common types of metals that are used for the siding are corrugated aluminum and steel. Some people use a combination of wood and metal to give their house more of a contemporary-rustic look.
Con: Just like how wood siding can rot, the metal siding can fade in color and rust. However, with proper maintenance, metal siding can last as long as the lifetime of the house.
You must also take into consideration that metal siding can be dented by debris while you travel with your tiny home.
After choosing what type of material you want to work with, you should decide on the style of your siding. Take a look at different styles of siding in the diagram.
You are not limited to one style of siding. You can choose multiple styles of siding to give your home a unique look.
For my tiny home, I wanted the most cost-effective siding option. After researching and going through all my siding options, I decided on using engineered wood lap siding. Specifically, I went with a product called LP Smartside.
Benefits of Engineered Wood Siding
Engineered wood siding typically refers to the type of materials that contain mostly wood but treated in a way that holds up against extreme weather conditions. It has the appearance of wood and cuts just like wood!
Compared to wood siding, it lasts longer and has greater resistance to termites and fungal decay. LP Smartside product that I used can withstand wind speed up to 150 mph. It also comes pre-primed which allows for easier paint adhesion.
Finally, the product comes with a standard 50-year warranty. You can learn more about the product and the warranty here.
After installing the rainscreen, you need to install trims around your windows, doors, and corners. The exterior trims will provide an elegant finish to the exterior of your home!
Let’s talk about your trim options!
There are two main types of trims that are the popular among the tiny house community: wood and PVC trims.
Wood is the most popular option when it comes to trimming your home because it is cheap and easy to work with. However, you must work with wood that is specifically used for exterior applications since it will be exposed to the weather all year around. People also work with wood trims because they provide a more natural finish to the exterior of your home.
PVC is another popular option for your trims. PVC is made up of engineered materials that do not rot and can withstand drastic weather conditions. This type of material requires much less maintenance than wood. Therefore, the price of PVC trims is much more expensive than that of wood.
For my tiny home, I wanted to get the best of both worlds. I wanted to use trims that can resist rot like PVC but wanted my house to look more natural by using wood trims.
After doing research, I chose to work with cedar boards for the door and corner wall trims. For window trims, I used primed pine boards.
Cedar is naturally weather-resistant and primed exterior boards can last longer than untreated wood. Both of these options were cheaper than PVC trims of the same dimensions.
Cut your trim to the desired length and start installing your trims one side at a time. To facilitate water drainage, you should bevel the top trim with the bevel sloping downward (I didn’t do this but it is recommended that you do!)
To lengthen the longevity of your wood trims, you must apply an exterior coat to your wood before installing it. We recommend using Valsparpro Exterior Wood Finish for your wood trims.
To fasten the trims, use 2″ exterior screws. Leave 1/8″ gap on all sides to leave space for expansion of the wood.
When installing the trims on top of your furring strips, the trim may tilt on one side. To fix this, add wood shims to make sure your trims are leveled as it gets fastened to the wall.
If you don’t like the screw heads showing, paint over the screws later on. I actually liked the look of screws on the trims so I left them as-is!
After all trims are fastened, use exterior-grade caulk to seal the gaps between the window and the trims. Wipe away excess caulk and let it dry for a couple of hours.
For corner wall trims, I split 1″ x 8″ x 8′ cedar boards in half using a table saw and combined them together with 2″ exterior screws.
When working with cedar, always drill a pilot hole first. This prevents screws from splitting the wood.
Then, I proceeded to seal the cedar trims using the Valsparpro Exterior Wood Finish sealant and fastened the trims to the wall corners using 2″ screws. Depending on the size of your corner trim, you may have to install extra furring strips on the sheathing to support the trim.
Once the window, door, and corner trims are installed, the siding is then installed. For our tiny home, we used an engineered wood siding products called LP Smartside. These sidings were then installed like lap siding.
When installing lap siding, you must work from the bottom up. As you work your way up, always make sure the siding is leveled.
Rip and install a 1″ starter shim to provide proper angle for your first lap siding. Use a table saw and a piece of siding to complete this task. Using a nail gun drive ring-shank nails through the shim and to the studs.
Whenever you cut the siding to the desired length, the cut edges must be primed prior to installation. This helps your siding last longer and protect it from the weather.
Then, install the bottom siding. The bottom siding should be angled because of the starter shim. Place the ring-shank nails through the bottom siding at roughly 3/4″ below the top edge. Make sure to drive the nails to the studs.
After installing the bottom siding, firmly attach siding gauges to the bottom of the siding. The siding gauges should be adjusted so that they create 1″ overlap.
Check the siding for level and proceed to drive the nails to the siding at stud locations. Leave 3/8″ expansion gap between the siding ends and the trims. Leave 3/16″ gap where two ends of the sidings meet.
If installed properly, the overlapped part of lap siding will cover the nail heads entirely! Cut the next siding to length and continue to work upwards.
Using an exterior siding sealant, seal all gaps between the sidings and the trims. Use the siding manufacturer’s recommended sealant. For LP Smartside, OSI Quad Max sealant was recommended and was used for this project.
Tip from RidingTiny: Try to use whole pieces of siding as much as possible to reduce the number of seams created. This makes the siding look more continuous!
Check the pictures below to see what our siding looked like right after the installation!