Wood siding, or often referred to as “cladding,” is one of the many options you have to cover the outside of your house. It is an attractive and popular material, offering a classic and timeless look to home exteriors. Not to mention, wood is biodegradable so it is a very eco-friendly option.
However, even wood siding can be broken down into many different styles and types. While some are designed to be installed vertically, in a board-and-batten style, others are meant for horizontal installation such as shakes, clapboards, or shingles. Whereas, the various types of wood available include redwood, cedar, pine, fir, spruce, engineered wood, and more.
Wood is also widely available and easy to install by even the average homeowner. It offers a lot of versatility, as it can be painted or stained to complement the overall design of your home. With that said, let’s take a look at all the different wood siding types you have to choose from for covering and protecting the exterior of your home.
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Why Wood Siding?
Wood is a highly sought-after siding option because it is natural, durable, beautiful, and eco-friendly. It is most often seen complementing traditional architectural designs such as bungalows, cottages, and even Cape Cod exteriors. However, there are numerous different styles and types of wood siding to fit your particular needs and aesthetic desires.
Although the style and type of wood siding that you choose will fluctuate the cost significantly, it is a relatively affordable choice. So long as you perform regular maintenance to maintain its’ rich appearance and durability, your wood siding will have a long lifespan. Undeniably, if you want to refresh the look of your home and enhance its’ curb appeal, wood siding is an excellent choice.
Wood Siding Styles
As far as the various styles of wood siding are concerned, there are some that overlap, while others are installed horizontally, vertically, or even diagonally. The following are seven of the most common styles of wood siding.
1. Lap Siding
Dating back to the early days of the United States, lap siding, also known as clapboard or bevel siding, is a traditional style of wood siding. However, it is still in use today because the design offers durability and a very distinct style.
Lap siding is achieved by sawing wooden boards lengthwise to form a slight pie-shape. By doing this, you create a wide edge along the length of the plank and a narrower edge on the opposite side. When installed, the boards are overlapped, beginning with the first board being positioned at the base of the wall. The overlapping orientation of this style is where the name “lap siding” comes from.
The design of this type of wood siding allows for water to shed easily, especially because there aren’t any edges that can collect moisture. However, your contractor decides how much the boards are overlapped. Generally speaking, the more overlap, the sturdier the siding will be. Average exposure for lap siding is roughly four to eight inches, with the smaller variety having a more expensive look.
The only exception to this is the lap siding boards that have grooves inset. In this case, there is only one way to install and the overlap is predetermined. It’s important to note that with this style of wood siding, you need to perform maintenance such as periodic painting or staining, and caulking to protect against damage from the elements.
2. Drop Channel Siding
Drop channel siding is an incredibly versatile style, allowing you to install it vertically, horizontally, or diagonally. It is a very popular choice for cabin homes, as many cabins are finished with boards that are cut with a drop channel style. This style involves having one long edge of a board milled down so that it is significantly narrower than the rest of the plank.
On the opposite long edge, a small groove is created on the base of the board. To install, the narrow end of one board fits into the groove of another. This forms an overlap that showcases the design of the board, without creating a ledge for water to collect.
One of the major benefits of the drop channel siding style is that allows plenty of room for the wood to contract and expand without negatively impacting the entire structure. Additionally, the beveled edge and slightly overlapping that this style yields displays an attractive shadow line.
The most common type of material used for drop channel siding is rough-hewn knotty pine. It is highly valued for its’ rustic aesthetic. You can purchase drop channel siding in prefinished grades of whichever type of wood you prefer. This style requires the same level of maintenance as any other wood siding, including regular cleaning, power washing, painting, and sealing.
3. Tongue-and-Groove Siding
Like drop channel siding, the tongue-and-groove style can be installed in any orientation desired, whether it be horizontal, vertical, or diagonal. It is available for purchase in smooth or rough cut and is traditionally constructed out of either knotty pines or clear wood.
Tongue-and-groove wood siding consists of boards that are milled to feature a groove on one long edge and a matching tongue on the opposite long edge. The planks are then interlocked by fitting the tongue into the groove, creating a smooth surface. This joinery is most often used for connecting hardwood floors, but is also utilized for siding.
Joining planks of wood using a tongue-and-groove method is one of the sturdiest construction techniques. It results in uninterrupted contact between the planks, running along the length of the boards.
4. Board-and-Batten Siding
Another type of wood siding that you can choose when updating your home’s exterior is the board-and-batten style. This is a historic style that is used to cover both the interior and exterior of a house. Board-and-batten siding is most often seen on barns or other farm structures. It is thought by many that this construction method was created to allow farmers to hang siding using unseasoned wood.
This style of wood siding is oriented vertically, consisting of evenly spaced wide planks and a batten nailed over the space between each board. A batten refers to a particularly narrow piece of wood. Installing wood siding using this method allows for the wood to expand and contract more.
One popular way to install board-and-batten siding is to use boards and battens of varying lengths and batten, resulting in unique and appealing patterns.
5. Split Log Siding
The split log style is categorized as the traditional log cabin look. It is especially popular in woodland settings and can create a cozy atmosphere, regardless of the size of the structure. Split log siding is custom-built, usually using a hardwood material like cedar, oak, or cypress.
The wood used in the siding has to be sawed in such a way that leaves the natural bark attached. It is this area that is then attached to the wall. Though they appear to be solid logs, they are actually split pieces of logs – hence the name “split log siding.” Prior to install, the boards need to be dried out completely to avoid shrinkage. If the planks shrink after being installed, you risk failure of your entire siding.
The majority of split log applications are finished in a clear coat, sealing out pests and moisture. Maintenance of split log siding is the same as any other type of wood siding, including frequent reapplication of clear coat. However, any cracks that form in the split log siding must be properly filled and sealed to prevent the bark from sloughing.
6. Shingle Siding
Though you may be more familiar with roof shingles, it’s very common to see homes and other structures finished with wood shingles. They are particularly popular due to their smoothness and consistency. Not to mention, they are also relatively easy to install and many homeowners may feel confident completing the installation themselves.
Wood shingle siding is the ideal choice for homes with oddly shaped walls, such as turrets. The shingles prevent you from having to worry about large planks of wood fitting correctly. They are also incredibly versatile and can be painted or stained to achieve your desired look. For example, shingles are very often painted in historic or bright hues, such as those seen on the exterior of Victorian-style homes.
The shingles involved in shingle siding can be made out of any type of wood used for the other siding styles. However, the wood must be treated to ensure that it is fire-resistant. You also want to consult local building codes before installing wood shingle siding, as areas that experience frequent fires may not allow it. Proper maintenance is also important to keep the shingles from becoming infested with insects, damaged, or simply dried out.
7. Shake Siding
Although shakes appear like shingles, they are actually much thicker and more durable. The wooden blocks, or bolts, that shakes are cut from are usually sawed by hand. This generally results in shakes with varying thicknesses, which contributes to the appeal of this style of wood siding.
Shakes can be purchased individually in lengths of 16, 18, or 24 inches. Beginning at the base of the wall, the shakes are attached to the sheathing, which each layer overlapping the previous. In most cases, shake siding is purchased in cedar or redwood, creating a very coarse, rustic appeal.
Like shingles, it’s important that you check with your local building codes if you’re considering installing shake siding. Some prohibit these types of siding, citing that an increased fire hazard involved in a significant amount of rough-finished wood.
With that said, shakes should be treated using a fire-retardant chemical and maintained to prevent them from splitting or becoming infested with insects.
Wood Siding Types
In addition to styles, there are a wide array of wood materials that you can choose from for your wood siding project. The options are a combination of softwoods and hardwoods, with some variation in regards to the wood’s density. There is even the option of engineered wood, a man-made alternative to conventional wood materials.
Each type of wood siding offers its own unique set of advantages and disadvantages. Let’s examine each in detail to help you decide which is the best choice for you.
Cypress is a type of hardwood that is a highly desired siding application due to its’ durability. Oftentimes, it is salvaged from demolished centuries-old properties to be repurposed as a durable wood siding option. Cypress is similar to redwood and cedar, due to the fact that it naturally resistant to rot and insects. It is also relatively lightweight, compared to the woodgrain and density.
In fact, this made cypress the preferred wood material for constructing water reservoirs in early America. Not to mention, rumors suggest that Noah’s Ark was constructed out of cypress! Its’ strength allows it to be enjoyed for generations, making cypress one of the most cost-effective wood siding types – when you don’t concern yourself with the upfront costs. Since cypress can be challenging to mill, the initial price is somewhat expensive.
Pros of Cypress siding:
- Cypress is the ideal choice for wood siding due to its low maintenance costs and reliability.
- It stands up to most elements and is durable enough to last you decades.
Cons of Cypress siding:
- Although cypress is a long-lasting material, some variations are toxic and can irritate individuals with certain respiratory diseases.
- It has also been reported by some that cypress gives off an unpleasant odor.
Redwood is considered to be one of the most durable and popular wood siding choices. It is very commonly seen used for various indoor and outdoor applications. Redwood is easily distinguishable by its texture and rich tone. Since the wood possesses very little resin, it accepts stain and other finishes effortlessly.
This type of wood siding also does not shrink as much as the other alternatives, meaning its’ shape will not change much. This helps to reduce both warping and cupping of the wood. As a result, redwood tends to require far less regular maintenance. Simply give it a good power wash annually and apply a sealant every three years, or as needed.
Like cypress, redwood contains naturally occurring insect repellants and does not tend to rot. This reduces the risk of insects destroying your wood siding, and burrowing between your siding and moisture barrier.
Since redwood is grown in the western part of North America, it can be challenging to acquire if you live in a different area. Uninstalled, redwood siding will run you between $8 and $20 a foot.
Pros of Redwood siding:
- Redwood holds up to the elements.
- It resists shrinking, warping, and cupping, making it the ideal choice for virtually any climate.
- Requires less maintenance to maintain its’ color.
Cons of Redwood siding:
- Can be challenging to obtain and purchase in areas other than the West Coast of the United States.
- Due to redwood’s popularity, it is much pricier than other alternatives.
A softwood, cedar is a popular choice for shake or shingle wood siding. Due to its strength, durability, and sturdiness, cedar is often seen as a hardwood. Though it is a softwood, it is much harder than other options that fall under the same category. It is also relatively simple to work with and offers a stunning finish when stained.
In fact, when a stained finish is required, cedar tends to be the preferred option. Like redwood, cedar is less likely to split, swell, warp, or cup. It is structurally rigorous and resists rot and pests. Redwood generally has white and red wood grain, with the latter being referred to as the “heartwood.”
The amount of heartwood in redwood is usually what determines the cost, as this feature is what makes the material stronger and more resistant to insects. Although heavily variegated cedar can still be a great siding option, the planks that consist of more heartwood are the ideal choice. This type of wood is most often referred to as “red cedar.”
Although cedar is notorious for resisting insect and moisture damage, it still must be properly maintained. Periodic sealing or painting, along with power washing, must be done to prevent damage and keep the wood looking and performing its’ best.
Pros of cedar siding:
- Cedar is a very stable type of wood siding that holds up well against the elements.
- It is very easy to stain and resists swelling, splitting, cupping, and warping.
- The wood is also very desirable due to its durability and longevity.
Cons of cedar siding:
- To enjoy the full benefits of cedar, you must purchase a high-quality variety. Unfortunately, top-of-the-line cedar is generally extremely expensive.
- The wood must be treated and maintained regularly to prevent damage from moisture and insects.
Another very popular option for wood siding is fir. It is an excellent western softwood that is a very cost-effective choice for exterior siding. Fir is also very easy to cut, due to the fact that it contains little resin or sap that could potentially clog saw blades. As a result, fir tends to be most popular for the wood siding styles that require more milling, such as tongue-and-groove siding.
In addition to being easy to cut, it is also easy to install and has an even grain that receives finish exceptionally well. While it is generally more common to paint fir, the grain can still look great when stained.
Unlike many of the aforementioned options, fir is not naturally resistant to rot or insects. With that being said, this wood requires much more maintenance to ensure that it doesn’t host destructive pests or absorb moisture. Unfortunately, fir is known for warping when it is exposed to too much moisture. To help maintain the structural integrity of fir wood siding, it must be painted or sealed regularly.
Pros of fir siding:
- Fir is a great option for DIY projects or those on a tight budget.
- It is easy to install, cut, and offers a smooth finish.
- The wood is widely available in long planks, cutting down on labor costs.
- Serves as a great alternative for those looking for a pine look, but need longer boards.
Cons of fir siding:
- Fir is much more challenging to maintain than other wood options.
- Unlike, cedar or redwood, this softwood will absorb moisture and warp, if not properly maintained.
- It must be well-sealed to safeguard against damage from insects and the elements.
Another type of softwood, spruce technically belongs to the pine family. In fact, when pine is not available, spruce is often used as a comparable substitute. It is also another option for those who want wood siding that looks great, is easy to install, and is budget-friendly. Though, the wood is available in many different grades, which impacts the price.
Spruce is often found in much longer lengths than pine and since it is a softwood, it can be milled into many different siding styles. Unfortunately, like fir, spruce is not resistant to rot or damage from insects. It needs to be appropriately maintained to keep it from absorbing too much moisture and warping or rotting.
Pros of spruce siding:
- Spruce is ideal for those looking to achieve a smooth pine finish, but in longer lengths.
- The best option for clapboards and board-and-batten siding.
Cons of spruce siding:
- Spruce does not hold up well against moisture.
- It requires frequent maintenance to prevent rotting and warping.
- The level of maintenance that spruce needs can be both costly and time-consuming over time.
Of all the wood siding types, pine is the most common material found in North America. White pine is most used for finish projects, while yellow pine is generally used for framing. This is due to the fact that yellow pine contains a sturdy, yellow streak that alternates with the white. The yellow streak found in the wood is filled with sap, which gums up saw blades and rejects stain or paint.
On the other hand, white pine accepts both stain and paint, with the latter being the most popular application because pine does not have a distinct grain worth showcasing with stain. One downside to using pine as a wood siding material is that it can be challenging to find longer lengths that are knot-free. Additionally, the wood that comes from fast-growing species of pine is highly susceptible to cracking and splitting.
Pine is also not resistant to rot and does not repel insects. Like fir and spruce, it requires paint or stain to seal the wood and retain its’ integrity. Despite the drawbacks, pine is an affordable option and is much easier to access than alternatives.
Pros of pine siding:
- The price point of pine siding makes it an excellent choice for beginners or DIYers looking to remodel their home.
- Since the wood is less expensive to produce, it is cheaper to purchase.
- It is a great choice to achieve a wood lap finish on a home’s exterior.
- Pine is easy to stain and paint, often providing a very smooth finish.
Cons of pine siding:
- Some variants can be difficult to work with.
- Using pine as exterior cladding requires longer pieces, which aren’t readily available without knots.
- It is not resistant to the elements or pests.
- The wood needs to be properly sealed and maintained to prevent decay and moisture damage.
7. Engineered Wood
The final type of wood siding on our list is engineered wood, a man-made alternative to conventional materials. This option can be an excellent choice, as it is incredibly durable and could last you upwards of 30 years when properly maintained. Since it is man-made lumber, engineered wood is specially designed to have the utmost strength and durability, while maintaining the appearance of real wood.
Engineered wood is made out of sawdust, woodchips, and other castoff wood pieces, then combined using bonding agents. What results is a lightweight, yet durable, product that is easy to mill and comes in a variety of lengths. Without the presence of natural flaws or knots in conventional wood, engineered wood is often much easier to install. It can also be easily milled into any wood siding style you may desire.
Although finishes are often applied during the manufacturing process, the material still does need to be painted and maintained. Should the exterior become damaged, moisture can get inside and cause the material to warp or swell. However, this option can hold up to major temperature shifts, as well as mold, mildew, and impact without damage.
Pros of engineered wood siding:
- Engineered wood is made to be stronger and more durable than natural wood materials.
- It is an excellent option for virtually any climate.
- This man-made alternative stands up to moisture and is less susceptible to rotting.
- It is also much easier to maintain and lasts longer than other options.
Cons of engineered wood siding:
- Although it may look like real wood, it is not natural. This may be a drawback for those who desire otherwise
- The quality can also vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, meaning it’s important to inspect the product to ensure that you’re purchasing the highest quality engineered wood.