Editorial Note: Forbes Advisor may earn a commission on sales made from partner links on this page, but that doesn’t affect our editors’ opinions or evaluations.
As one of the oldest materials used to build and clad homes, wood siding has long been a top choice for its accessibility and versatility. From log cabins to candy-colored bungalows, wood board siding offers something for everyone. If you’re hoping to tap into the long tradition of siding your house with wood, it’s important to understand both your aesthetic options and the maintenance implications. Read on to learn a bit more about wood board siding and see if it is the right choice for your home.
One of the first things to consider with natural wood siding is what type of wood siding will work best for your area. Softwoods, such as pine, cedar and redwood, are particularly susceptible to sun and salt air and will require a bit more upkeep than hardwoods such as ipe or teak.
While hardwoods require less upkeep, they do tend to be more expensive on the front end. Certain species often work better in certain climates and locations, so consulting with your local lumber yard is a great way to understand what factors you should be considering when you choose a species.
Pattern and Style
Understanding the different styles of wood siding and their installation implications will help you identify what will work best for your budget and your area.
On the more traditional end is clapboard and bevel siding, which are both derived from square stock lumber and are less expensive as they require minimal milling. While the look is very simple and straightforward, installing clapboard or bevel siding can be labor-intensive as each plank will need to be leveled individually.
Most modern siding is of the rabbeted variety, which has a notch along one edge allowing the planks to nestle into each other, requiring less mental and often physical work to achieve an even finish. Aesthetically, there are many variations, such as the ever-popular shiplap, the efficient double ogee and the more contemporary v-groove siding, so it fits well with many different styles of home.
Another traditional look is wood shingle siding, popular among the coastal homes of the northeast, and also as a decorative element in the more ornate Queen Anne homes. Shingles come in all shapes and sizes, including the square, fish scales, diamonds, etc. so creating that classic cottage look or adding a touch of fanciful Victorian grandeur to your home is easy to do.
And lastly, there is board and batten, a vertically oriented siding made from square stock lumber traditionally seen on barns and other farm structures. Because of its countryside history and crisp stepped lines, it is no surprise that this style has become incredibly popular among modern farmhouses.
Take some time to study the surrounding homes in your neighborhood, as well as this year’s siding trends, to see what styles of siding are most prevalent, and learn about whether there are any historic or style implications you should be considering in your choice.
When considering which finish is best for your home, aesthetics are important, but maintenance plays a large role in what will work, too. The most common finishes are paint, stain and clear sealers.
Painting is great to add some color to your home, but it tends to be the most labor intensive and costly option. If you choose to go this route, you will need to repaint your siding every five years or as soon as you notice the finish deteriorating. Chips and cracks open the door to moisture and can lead to issues with rot, so it is important to stay vigilant.
For a rich natural tone, staining is a great option and tends to be less expensive than painting. It’s also easy to DIY (with the help of a rented paint sprayer) if you have a few days to spare. Unlike paint, which is a surface-level finish, stain penetrates the wood itself, making it a difficult finish to change, but one that is more resistant to chipping and cracking, and will protect the wood for longer periods of time.
If you are set on keeping a more natural wood tone, a clear sealer will work well. The application process is similar to staining, but it needs to be reapplied every two years to maintain a level of protection. Clear sealer will also help slow the process of silvering, but all natural wood siding, if left exposed to the sun, will grey and silver over time.
Purchasing Your Siding
With some idea about the pattern and finish you would like to use, you are ready to purchase your siding. It’s important to take accurate measurements of the full surface area you are hoping to cover, including doors and windows, before you go. You will also need to add a five to 10% surplus to account for downfall, or the small percentage of lumber that is likely to have been compromised during milling and is not suitable for use as siding.
Having a surplus is also great so you can keep a few planks for future repairs. Not to mention, you can use them for smaller projects like building a doghouse or a tiny replica of your home as a bird house.
When in doubt, consult a professional at your local lumber yard to discuss the specifics of your project. They can assist you with calculating the proper overage and also answer any questions about the best style, finish and installation strategy for your area.
Conducting consistent and regular maintenance is imperative to ensuring your wood board siding will last. It is recommended that you clean your siding every year with warm soapy water and a soft bristle brush and inspect it for cracks and chips in the finish. A common culprit for finish damage can be your landscaping, so keep shrubs, trees and other foliage off of your siding with regular trimming.
Keep an eye on where your siding butts against windows, doors and corners and seal these locations with caulking to prevent water from seeping in. Check for cracks and gaps in the seal regularly and, if you notice any damaged caulking, simply reapply a bit on a dry, warm day.
Should you discover any damaged siding, be sure to have it replaced to prevent water seepage and rot. Replacing sections of siding without damaging other areas can be tricky, so unless you are particularly confident in your carpentry skills, it’s best to hire a contractor to come and replace the area in question.
With so many options for patterns and finishes it’s easy to see why wood board siding is a popular option for cladding your home. Although it requires a bit of maintenance, its versatility and lengthy history make it a great choice for homes of all different styles and eras.
Whether you’re hoping to craft the beachy bungalow of your dreams or simply spruce up the tired siding on your home, understanding your options and the maintenance required will help you decide whether wood board siding is right for you.
Compare Quotes From Top-rated Local Siding Contractors
Free, No-commitment Estimates