Construction projects, whether you are a do-it-yourself-er or a professional, give you plenty of opportunities to explore different uses of building materials. Traditional materials typically work just right with the most commonly used blueprints. However, if you are building something with curved walls, extra-high rooflines, or structures that will face tough use throughout its lifetime, like a barn or workshop, you’ll consider special materials that will fulfill your needs. These choices can include the wooden cladding you select for the project. Here are some pointers for choosing the right wooden cladding for your next building project.

Types of Wooden Cladding

248958185_3914d1a4fe_bThere are several different types of wooden cladding that you can use on your structure. Waney-edge, feather edge, finger-jointed, and tongue and groove are just a few of the different types of assembly available. Shakes and shingles are also popular, giving your structure a rustic look.

Feather edge cladding is one of the most popular, and lends itself to sturdy construction. It provides a nice, rural look that is very flattering for barns and traditional homes. These boards are thinner along the top edge and thicker along the bottom, and are installed from the bottom up. You place the first board along the bottom edge, then overlap the next board over the thinner part of the lower board. This creates a tight seal that will sluice water away from your structure, protecting the framework. The overlap also helps to provide stability, reducing torque n the framework.

Square edge cladding is usually a manufactured product, such as cement board. They have a flat, square edge, and the boards are butted up against each other. While providing good coverage for your structure, it is best to install rubber sheeting underneath so that the interior of the structure will be waterproofed.

Shiplap cladding is a great look that is similar to square edge, but with more moisture protection than square edges. However, the presence of a small ledge across the top of each board may tend to catch water. The top of each board slides underneath the bottom of the board above it, creating a look of having been “butted up” against the adjacent boards. Quite often, you’ll find that PVC cladding is made in shiplap design. It can give a flat, more modern look to the structure.

Tongue and groove cladding is one of the better choices for modern structures. It gives you the flat look you may be looking for, but is more weather tight than square edge or shiplap. The upper board has a groove cut in the bottom, which slips over the tongue cut in the top of the lower board. This creates a nearly watertight joint. It is also a very strong joint that helps to support itself, and is an excellent choice for structures that are exposed to extremes of weather, wind, and heavy use.

Installation of Cladding

While a vertical installation may be visually interesting, it is typically not recommended with wooden cladding. This is because water can run the length of the seams, penetrating the wood and causing damage. If you do want to install your cladding vertically, place it on the side of the building away from prevailing winds.

All cladding will be attached to battens, which are boards installed onto the frame specifically for the purpose of holding the cladding. Without sufficient battens, your cladding will begin to bow and sag. It may also present excess weight to the structure, creating torque that eventually causes failure of the frame. Proper framing and battening will insure that the siding will protect the structure and its interior.

Usually, you should install a vapour barrier to the frame before you attach the cladding. Then, stagger the seams so that no two levels have boards that are butted up against each other in the same spot. This helps to control moisture and makes the structure stronger.

Timber Selections


Cladding is made from many different woods, besides the concrete and PVC you may see at the home improvement store.

The most popular natural wood used in cladding is western red cedar. Grown in the U.S. and Canada, this is a lovely wood that is classified as a softwood. This means that the grain of the wood is not extremely dense, which makes it more lightweight and easier to cut and shape. Since red cedar cladding is naturally resistant to moisture, it seldom needs to be treated to prevent rot. You can, however, stain or finish red cedar to prolong the colour or longevity. This wood has little resin in it, so it is easy to stain. You can even paint it, and it will hold the paint quite well. Although it is a softwood, it is quite stable once it is installed, although it will dent more easily than hardwoods.

Another popular softwood is Douglas fir, also from the U.S. and Canada. Douglas fir from the UK is not quite as durable, and will need protective sealants applied. Fir is similar to red cedar in its easy of use and adaptability.

Larch is a popular wood for cladding, but you have to be careful when using it. Most larch comes from Scotland and Scandinavia, and it tends to leak resin for a while after milling. The good thing about larch is that it is a harder wood than cedar and fir, so it can withstand more physical abuse. This might make it more suitable for barns or workshops. However, since it does leak resin, it can be hard to paint and stain.

Hardwoods, such as chestnut and oak, make beautiful, long-lasting cladding that is an excellent choice for hard-to-reach places. The grain in these woods is tight enough that it is very strong and resilient. It will take stain as well as paint, and can either be left to weather naturally or treated to maintain a golden shade. Hardwood cladding will require pre-drilling, though, because it is so dense.

Your supplier can advise you which treatment will be best for your wooden cladding choice.


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