Top ten tips for timber cladding

Published Monday 27th February 2017

For those who aren’t sure what timber cladding is – otherwise known as timber weatherboarding or timber siding - it is the art of finishing the timber on the outside of commercial and domestic properties.

People carry out timber cladding on their properties as it makes them more visually appealing, and it’s economical. Why? Because depending on how you clad your property, it may last longer with cladding than without.

So, if you’re looking into some timber cladding of your own, here are our top ten tips:

A matter of moisture

Moisture content can really change timber’s longevity and performance, so it’s important to consider the width of the boards. By limiting board widths to 150mm, the swelling and shrinking remains manageable.

It’s also important to note the water and light penetration when an open-jointed cladding system is used, as these can shrink or warp your timber. Think about waterproofing details, particularly around window and door openings.

It’s all about support

Cladding boards should be fixed to softwood cladding battens – normally perpendicular to the cladding boards. The board profile and installation method will decide whether vertical counter battens will be needed to provide drainage and ventilation. Horizontal battens should be angled to dispel water.

Get fixed for the right fixings

The fixings you use are really important. First and foremost, look into the length of the nails. If you’re using plain nails, there should be a penetration of just over double the thickness of the cladding board into the support batten.

If you have softwood cladding you should use stainless steel nails, whilst hardwood cladding requires stainless steel screws to fix the support battens. Helpful tip: pre-drill holes slightly bigger than you need to allow for shrinking or expansion of the wood!

Use proper installation

Take care of those cladding boards! If you keep them well ventilated, slightly covered and well spread out you will limit moisture exposure and ensure minimal discolouration.

16% to 18% is the best moisture content for timber cladding during installation – this ensures there’s very little movement or distortion.

Watch out for weathering

If you don’t coat your external timber cladding, it’s going to be exposed to the weather.  Uncoated timber changes colour (normally to an unattractive grey), and the moisture and sunlight can swell or shrink your timber. Get a good finish on your timber to keep it in ship shape condition.

Keep your colour

Timber contains water-soluble components which can be brought to the surface and cause extractive staining. Certain timbers like oak and cedar have particularly high levels of extractives. If staining occurs, it can be removed or left to fade over time – it’s entirely up to you.

Get your design right

Depending on the design of your cladding, you can avoid water traps and actively manage water exposure. Cut the ends off your vertical cladding boards to ensure any excess water drips off – this protects your timber and will increase its longevity. It’s also a good idea to use an 8mm gap where end grains are exposed so water can’t sit against them.

Durability is key

It’s important to take cost, durability and style into consideration, but the key aspect you need to look into is durability. There’s no point in getting a particularly attractive wood if it’s only going to last 5 years. Common woods used for timber cladding include Western Red cedar, oak, larch and Douglas fir. Decide how long you want your timber cladding to last, and once that’s decided, you can choose which wood aligns with your budget and aesthetic.

Don’t forget your coat!

Coating your timber is important and you need to consider how long your chosen coating is going to last. Oils and varnishes normally need reapplication every year or so, so they’re not very practical. Paints and stains have a much longer life and require less maintenance.

If you want to avoid weathering and discolouration, remember to coat!

And breathe

Make sure you maintain good ventilation and draining behind your cladding – this will ensure greater durability and will allow your timber to dry quicker.

If you need further information or have any suggestions you would like to share on timber cladding, why not drop us a tweet, or if you need some timber to start off your cladding then get in contact.