Ah, the joys of a massive project undertaking. Though most major projects come with long hours, new skills, and inevitable wedded bliss (wink wink, nudge nudge), the joy I'm talking about is my mantra! My credo! My rule to live a DIY life by! It's been a while since I repeated the words I should practically have tattooed on my arm, so I'll give you a refresher.

"Buy at least one new tool for every project you tackle!"

There's no better way to help a project progress, to help your tool collection grow, and to ease the financial burden of packing your workshop full of the necessary tools for future projects than by following this one simple rule. Obviously this has its limits, and once you have enough projects under your belt, it will get much more difficult to find tools you really need, but I guarantee it will take you at least a few years after you embark on your first DIY project before you hit your tool saturation point.

Hey! If you don't follow this rule you'll never get your workshop to the point where it looks like a post-apocalyptic wasteland.

When looking at our list of three items to accomplish before really getting going on our siding repair/replacement project, item #2 provided me with an excellent opportunity to embrace this credo as an excuse to justify the purchase of the tools necessary to re-side our home. As a reminder, here's the list of things we needed solutions for prior to really getting into the mad swing of things.

  1. What kind of siding should we use?
  2. What additional tools will we need?
  3. How am I going to do the work all the way at the top of the house?

Knowing there may be specialty tools necessary to do a siding job, I started to make a list of tools we'd need. From that list I'd be able to determine the tools we had versus the tools we'd need to buy.

You know what I learned from this process? We already owned the vast majority of the tools we'd need to do the job! From pry bars to utility knives, circular saws to miter saws, our workshop was already stocked with the tools necessary to begin tackling our siding...well, almost. But...There always seems to be a big But. Today we're going to fill you in on our really big But!

The most critical tool we didn't own was the nail gun necessary to make the job go WAY smoother. Sure we could use a trusty old hammer with individually placed nails, possibly drilling every pilot hole to ensure no splitting of the clapboards, but I wanted to get done at some point before we reach 2045. Besides, my skill with the hammer, while usually adequate, would surely result in many successful strikes of my fingers and other various appendages, and I'm relatively sure the siding would have looked like it had endured a barrage of tiny meteor strikes once all was said and done.

Now, I know the purchase of a siding nail gun may sound like a pretty simple item, but the initial appearance of simplicity may be a bit deceiving as a siding nailer is nothing like your run of the mill finish nailer, of which I already owned two. Oh no sir/ma'am! A siding nailer is a truly specialty tool. Everything from depth of drive to the type of nail cartridges or ribbons it takes seemed to have a "patent pending" or "special technology" attached to the descriptors.

For this tool decision I didn't follow my normal route of simply reading reviews on Amazon and going for the one with the most positives. I took a much more involved route on this purchase. After all, this had the potential to be one of my more pricey specialty tool purchase to date, and I didn't want to make any mistakes or missteps.

The approach I took for my siding nailer involved lurking on messages boards, reading reviews from users, perusing trade magazines, and reviewing tool websites. But most importantly, I harangued people in the siding trade. If I saw a siding project going on in Old Town, I'd stop and pester the workers and pepper them with questions about their tools. At times, i felt like I was interrogating them, and surely annoying them. "What brand of siding nailer do you prefer?!?! Why?!?! How long have you used it?!?! Is it your favorite thing in the world?!?!?!"

I can tell you one thing, I found that many people just use the tools they were given by their boss, while a few have a true sense of tool loyalty and appreciation based on years of use and abuse. Through all of my research I settled on a particular model of siding nailer from Makita.

The Makita AN611 Coil Siding Nailer came with an excellent reputation attached. It's a high quality and sturdy tool that can take a beating and retain its sensitive settings to ensure the nails are not being over-driven. The tool is weighty, hefty, and maneuverable at the same time. And throughout its use, I never had a double fire. My favorite aspects of this nailer was my ability to finely adjust depth of drive with a circular dial, as well as the ability to keep the trigger depressed and "bounce" the gun along the siding, firing a nail at each impact point. This last feature was an item that can be enabled or disabled based on a setting on the gun. It took a little getting used to, but it definitely makes the job go faster.

The nails this gun takes load in a circular ribbon in the base of the nailer. This was another reason I liked this nailer, but it had little to do with the nailer itself. The specific brand of nails I was interested in using came highly recommended. They are a ring shank stainless siding nail that have a great reputation for quality and reliability. This is another case of "If I'm spending the time to do this myself, I'm going to do it right...dammit!"

Though I often feel like I'm jumping in with both feet when purchasing an expensive tool with little to no previous experience using it or similar items, there's nothing like exhaustive research to put my mind at ease. I'm so happy I pestered so many siding experts and was able to determine one of the better siding nailers for our job. I can't say it's unequivocally the best by any means, but that's only because it happens to be the only one I've used. However, I can say that it did exactly what it needed to do for our project, and I'm quite happy with our purchase.

It's true, I could have rented a nailer, rather than buying one, but for the amount of time we needed it, and for the simple fact that you don't know the quality of the rental item, or it's calibration, it was worth it to me to buy it for my collection. Now, if we ever have another siding project in the future, big or small, I know I have the tool for the job. And though the price was somewhat steep, we still saved way more on the project by doing it ourselves.

Have you ever done a siding project that required a nailer or other specialty tools? Or have you ever stalked tradespeople to determine the best tool for a given job? I'd love to hear your stories as I feel I may be the oddball on that last item.

Did you enjoy reading this post? Want to learn more about our first-hand experiences with other tools, devices or items used throughout our renovation? If so, check out our complete list of product reviews in our Toolbox Tuesday section

Note: We weren't compensated for this review. We simply want to share good products when we see them, and hope that learning from our mistakes can help save you time, money and frustration.

Comments 4


7/23/2013 at 8:52 PM
Hm. I live in fear of owning too many things, so I'd lean towards renting - but your point about quality totally makes sense. Of course, I also rent, so I don't see any siding repairs in my immediate future :)

I really, really like the idea of stalking tradespeople!
7/23/2013 at 9:58 PM
Since buying a home I have become a DIY nut. I'm also a runner and one of my running buddies does contruction for his day job. I have asked him all types of questions from how-to's to tool suggestions. One project I just wasn't comfortable doing solo so I asked him to help if when he had a few hours free. I'm sure he gets a bit tired of hearing about my DIY fun after working on his jobs all day so I try to keep a balance, but he has been a great help. Love the tool per project idea. I don't have that set in stone, but I have more or less does just that with most of my projects.
6/12/2015 at 3:36 PM

First off, I love this site--not only do you two do great work, but your writing and photos are thoroughly enjoyable. Full of really useful information, and fun to read. Thank you both for sharing your adventures.

I'm about to do some siding work on my house (I'm actually over in DC), and I also came across good reviews of the AN611 on some forums, and I'm about to pull the trigger on buy it. What brand of nails did you choose for the siding? Were they wire or plastic collated?

I also have had some trouble confirming that the AN611 uses 15 degree collated nails (not 20)--is that right?

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