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When you have to match the level of distant points - say, fencing or rock walls - you can make a level of any length you want. Use clear plastic flexible tubing filled with water. Hold one end with the water level at the desired point. The water at the other end will seek the same level no matter how far away.
To improve the drainage away from your house, you can buy pulverized topsoil. Check the Yellow Pages for dealers. It is purchased by the ton and delivered to your driveway. With a wheelbarrow, add soil around your foundation so that it slopes away from the house. Be sure to keep the soil at least four inches away from the siding to avoid attracting termites. An average house will take at least two tons.
If you have water damage to the bottom edge of Masonite hardboard siding, it can be covered. Board and batt siding consists of 4' wide sheets with a 1-1/2" batt nailed vertically every 16". If the siding has bubbled at the bottom, it is because of water damage.
With a circular saw, cut the batts up from the bottom 5 1/2" (the width of a 1X6). Nail a cedar 1X6 to the bottom, butted up to the batts. Caulk the top edge and paint.
If you have Masonite or hardboard siding, it is important to keep it sealed with paint. The siding is primed when it comes from the factory, but problems can develop after installation. Each nail must be caulked before painting. Special care must be taken to get a good coat of paint on the bottom edge of the laps and the full sheets.
Most of the water damage to hardboard siding comes from raindrops that "hang" on the bottom edge. If the edge is not sealed with paint, the water will wick up into the siding.
When installing metal or vinyl siding, sometimes it is necessary to start the bottom row on the concrete foundation. Instead of trying to nail starter strip to the concrete, try using cedar shingles. Just snap the thick end of the shingles into the siding, establish the level you want, and nail the top of the shingle to the studs.
When installing lap siding of any type (vinyl or hardboard), leave your level in the shop. If you try to make the siding level, it will look crooked when you are done. Measure down from the soffit or frieze board to find a starting point on each face of the house. Match the corners and take a measurement down every two or three rows.