Cutting the Clapboards
I measured and rough-cut the first few clapboards to length, offsetting them and cutting several at a time. I marked the rake angle at one end, then set each board on the full-scale layout to scribe the cut line. Because I had snapped the layout lines long, I was able to align my straightedge with the chalk lines at each end of the clapboard, then add the overlap before tracing the cut line. I worked up from the bottom, marking opposite pieces, then placing them back-to-back and cutting both at once. I then placed the tapered boards back on the full-scale layout and positioned the next pieces for scribing. I repeated the process until I was ready for the last piece.
Up to this point I had been keeping a factory edge along the bottom of each clapboard, so that the embossed grain stayed parallel with that edge. I centered the top piece before tracing it, though, so the grain would run parallel to its centerline and perpendicular to the base. After cutting out the last piece, I smoothed both its edges with a belt sander.
I next duplicated the half circle, placing a couple of fiber-cement cutoffs side by side and tracing around the plywood pattern. I cut them out with a jigsaw fitted with a carbide tile blade, which works well for cutting fiber-cement siding.
As I gathered the cut clapboards, I went ahead and predrilled nailing holes about every 2 feet along the blind edges, placing a couple of holes closer together at the more delicate narrow ends, to prevent crumbling. I then laid tar paper across the template and cut it to size so that it would neatly fit the gable. Everything was now ready to be loaded on the lift and installed.
Working in the gable, I first installed the tar paper, then drew a plumb line down from the peak. To guide installation of the clapboards, I screwed the plywood half circle in position, lining up a mark at the top with the plumb line.
Now I was ready to install the siding. I nailed the narrow end first. If you nail the wide end first, you’ll find that the lower corner of the narrow end will be sticking out, and it’s difficult to flex it into place without cracking it. I worked up from the bottom, aligning the narrow end with the marks on the plywood template, and marking the overlap on the wide end to guide the next course. I nailed where necessary, using roofing nails for blind nailing and screw-shank nails for the exposed spots, always predrilling through both courses. Because of the small overlap, I ran a bead of caulk along the top edge of each clapboard.
I worked up both sides, to the top piece, which I caulked along both edges before installing. I then installed the fiber-cement “sun” on top of the plywood template and carefully caulked the joints at the bottom of the rays. I reinstalled the bed molding, and the gable was ready for paint.
Ray Habenicht operates Habenicht Homes in Columbus, Wis.