8 Siding Tips and Tricks From Solo Installer Desmond Tse

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Whether he’s on a roof or on his siding brake, siding installer Desmond Tse has mastered the art of working smarter, not harder. And he’s built a popular Instagram platform while doing so. Tse, aka @thesidingguy, shares siding tips and tricks to nearly 200,000 followers, teaching other craftspeople how to install vinyl siding (he’s been using Royal® siding throughout his career) and create custom trim more efficiently.

A Long Career Leads to Endless Siding Tips

Tse is a solo siding installer, but it wasn’t always that way. “I had 10 of my own crews working 10 projects at any given time,” he explains. “But I realized I really like installing as opposed to managing people and paperwork.”

Once he decided to make the move to being an independent contractor, Tse took a gradual approach, whittling down as his crews only as they voluntarily moved on to other jobs. Today, after several years on his own, he’s further transitioning in size to smaller projects than he used to.

Along the way, he’s picked up—and continues to learn—quite a few best practices and hacks to make his siding projects more effective and efficient. This includes on his Tapco Tools siding brake, where he has perfected bending techniques to the point of presenting workshops to others. 

Solo siding installer Desmond Tse gives siding tips from the roof

Siding Tips to Improve Your Efficiency

Here are a few best practice, tips and hacks for improving your siding skills, as well as your business approach.

Repetition is the key to improving your skills

Using a brake can feel intimidating. The best way to tackle it is repetition, Tse says. “Gather up scraps and practice. Work on a certain profile. That’s how it becomes muscle memory,” he notes.

The same goes for other aspects of the job: “Even when training crews, I encourage repetition. They’d ask to do siding, but first they need to learn J-channel, so I’d make them go do that over and over.”

Sometimes anything can be used as a jig on your brake

@thesidingguy_

Sometimes anything can be used as a jig. In this case I used the 2’ square and a scrap piece of aluminum as a jig. I do have the material stopper for my brake, but since the aluminum was fed with the material arcing down, it was too floppy to use without getting frustrated. I’ve kept most of my scrap pieces of metal with measurements over the years so I can pretty much just grab the appropriate one for that job and bend away. This way my brain doesn’t have to interpret markings on a tape and it keeps it super simple (not that reading a tape is difficult but I have screwed up before thinking I marked 7” when in fact I went an inch to big accidentally). There are many ways to gain efficiencies in every job. Sometimes different methods work equally as well, it’s up to you to decide which way you like doing it while minimizing the chance of possible errors. I’ve tried many ways and this simple jig is one of my go to methods for bending. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . #aluminum #aluminumbrake #tapcobrake #aluminumcapping #exteriortrim #edmonton

♬ original sound – @thesidingguy

You can use a brake to make finish trim that provides a hidden fastener system

@thesidingguy_

Here’s a video showing the bends to make finish trim or sill trim. It’s a great way to do a hidden fastener system. It’s basically a double hem. The unfinished edges of the aluminum slips into this trim. The black you see in the video is where it gets fastened. I choose to do 3/4” so that I don’t have to pull out a tape measure or gauge, rather just use the lip of the brake. I hope this video is useful. As always, I’m happy to answer any questions, and sometimes I won’t know the answer but I’ll always try my best. . . . . . . . . . . . . #aluminumbrake #finishtrim #aluminumcapping

♬ original sound – @thesidingguy

A good go-bag can save your time and effort

“One of the items that has helped increase efficiency for me over the years is my ‘go bag,’” Tse says. “This bag stays close to where I’m working at all times and holds all of my ‘just in case’ items. I keep spare fasteners of all kinds, tape, pencil lead refills, nail slot punch, spare tape measure, aviation snips, duckbill pliers, a crescent wrench, a folding tool, chalk line, and a pry bar. … By keeping my tool belt light I have more energy through the day and I don’t have to waste time going to the trailer to grab any items.” (See his go bag in action here.)

Sometimes you can leave your tape measure in your belt

@thesidingguy_

I’ve often suggested to people to only pull out your tape measure if you have to. I sided this entire wall without pulling out the tape until the top row where I pulled it out once to double check if that last row was a consistent height. Holding siding upside down determines all of the length and then cut right in the spot instead of measuring, remembering said measurement then measuring the piece to cut saves a lot of time. Seconds here and there add up to many minutes of time saving. Maybe even an hour throughout the day. That will add up to days in saved time over the year. I didn’t have to move quickly at all to get this wall siding quickly. I had the materials sitting just off screen to the right. I did initially have the box of siding propped up in front of the wall, but it stuck up way too high and I would’ve had to pull up the siding past the eaves just to take a piece out so I opted to have it off to the right. Preplanning makes a big difference in efficiency and ease of a job. Preplanning can be done while driving, or as you initially pull nip to the site and finish your coffee or set up a ladder. Think through things in your mind quickly so that the project goes smoothly every day. Happy Friday all . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . #fastsidinginstallation #vinylsidinginstaller #remodel #skilledtradesmatter

♬ original sound – @thesidingguy

Wear your fall protection harness properly

Ensure your social media posts add value

If you’re putting your projects and practices on Instagram, Facebook, X, or TikTok, consider what will benefit your audience in terms of both content and delivery. “I’m pretty easygoing, but I’m pretty particular. I try to keep my posts semi-serious but add humor once in a while,” Tse says. “My mentality for anything I post is ‘Is it going to add value?’ And if it’s not, I won’t post it.” (And, yes, sometimes something for just a laugh has value in its own way.)

Siding tips from solo siding installer Desmond Tse: Sometimes it's good to have fun

Not everyone is wired to be a business owner

Owning your own business provides a lot of freedom, but it also requires a lot of heavy lifting when it comes to paperwork, dealing with numbers, and getting and retaining customers. Tse encourages new business owners to be true to their word and to always under-promise and over-deliver.

To learn more siding tips, follow Tse on Instagram at @thesidingguy.

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