Wood siding materials, wood types, grades, moisture content, profile images: this article discusses choices of wood siding materials for buildings: shingles, clapboards, and wood product grades and appearance profiles.
This article series discusses best practices construction details for building exteriors, including water and air barriers, building flashing products & installation, wood siding material choices & installation, vinyl siding, stucco exteriors, building trim, exterior caulks and sealants, exterior building adhesives, and choices and application of exterior finishes on buildings: paints, stains.
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Adapted/paraphrased with permission from Best Practices Guide to Residential Construction. Steven Bliss.
Solid wood siding materials (clapboards, drop-leaf or novelty siding, wood shingles, vertical wood siding, board and batten, etc.) have been used for hundreds of years and remain popular in many sections of the United States and other countries despite their need for regular refinishing.
Our photo of a wood clapboard-sided home (left) shows the Daniel Vose house, referred to historically as the Suffolk Resolves historic home (1774) relocated to Milton MA.
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(More about this building is at ARCHITECTURE & BUILDING COMPONENT ID.)
In the Northeastern U.S., the most popular wood siding profile remains a simple bevel siding, or “clapboard.” In the western states, heavier profiles such as channel rustic are more common.
Plywood building siding products such as "T-111" grooved siding products installed in 4' x 8' sheets has been widely used throughout the U.S. since the 1970's.
Above left, traditional board and batten siding (Pleasant Valley, NY) traditionally used on barns. Battens are nailed over gaps between vertical board siding, taking care to nail only on one side to avoid splitting.
Above: wood clapboards installed rough-side out for a more rustic look and one that according to some, may provide better paint adhesion. See PAINT FALURE, DIAGNOSIS, CURE, PREVENTION
Above left, 1960's vintage aluminum siding installed over pre-1900 wood clapboard siding in a New York Home in the U.S.
Above [click to enlarge] is an interesting use of wood clapboards on an antique barn in Herefordshire, England in the U.K. These clapboards are nailed to the interior side of vertical rough-hewn barn beams supporting the wall structure. You can see that the original barn was expanded on its right side using concrete blocks.
Our close up of T-111 type plywood siding (left) is provided courtesy of Carson Dunlop Associates.
Above we show weathered plywood grooved siding (popularly called "T-111") on a 1980 constructed addition that by 2000 showed uneven weathering.
At Building Sheathing Wrap - House Wrap Installation, Purposes, Guide is a photo of this same building addition under construction twenty years previously.
Above left, Masonite-type wood product siding: hardboard.
Above HardiePlank wood siding with some peeling stain concerns. Details are at JamesHardie HardiePlank Siding. Also see
Above left, wood shingle siding, Two Harbors MN.
Below: this 1960's ranch home in New York was sided with brushed cedar shingle siding.
Red cedar remains the wood siding material of choice due to the natural decay resistance of the heartwood and its attractive appearance when stained or finished clear.
Other decay-resistant woods are popular in the regions where they are produced: for example, redwood on the West Coast and cypress in the Southeast and Gulf Coast.
On projects where premium wood species are not affordable, builders also use a wide variety of softwoods, including pine and spruce, which are not naturally resistant to decay.
While most suppliers of wood siding now recommend back-priming and priming of cut ends, these details are even more critical with the less decay-resistant species.
Our photograph of brushed wood cedar shingle siding (above) on a Canadian home was provided by Carson Dunlop Associates.
Hello, I am a 73 year old retiree living in Arkansas. I would like to find information on the care for our cypress home. I am not too good at computers and hope you can point us in the right direction to obtain help from your technical people or your website.
Our home is 7 years old and when we built we chose cypress external siding believing it was a very durable wood and would naturally turn a nice gray color and would not require a lot of maintenance. We elected not to seal it. Needless to say we probably did not do the proper research. While the cypress siding is still in very good condition with no cracking and no warping the color is not what we had hoped for. Some days it is ok but as weather and humidity changes some parts of the siding will turn into a blackish color but go away as weather changes again. Also some areas have aged more than others. We are at somewhat of a loss as to what we should do. My basic questions are as follows.
We are retired (fixed income) and are searching for the best solution both for the cost and the proper maintenance of the cypress while hopefully also gaining a much better appreciation for the color and appearance.
Any help would be appreciated, best regards, - Anonymous,in Arkansas, by private email 2016/05/18
Thank you for the interesting question - it helps us realize where we need to work on making our text more clear or more complete. A competent onsite inspection by an expert usually finds additional clues that would permit a more accurate, complete, and authoritative answer than we can give by email alone. You will find additional depth and detail in articles at our website including in some wood siding articles I'll recommend just below.
That said I wrote a detailed reply to you by email and now have repeated those comments with considerable additional information in a new article
at SIDING, WOOD CLEANERS, STAINS, PAINTS - please take a look at that material and let me know what questions remain. If you use our page top or bottom CONTACT link to send me photos as I request in that article I can also comment further.
Please use the page top or bottom CONTACT link to send me photos of the problem areas of your siding, shown both from a distance (whole side of the building) and close-up views of the stained areas ( but in-focus please). I'd also like to see photos of all sides of the home and to know directions faced as that helps understand the home's exposures and weathering conditions. With that data I can comment more specifically about your siding and its areas of discoloration.
Since wood siding is a nonstructural application, grading is generally for appearance only and is not governed by building codes. Most western species used for siding are graded according to one of the established grading agencies such as the Western Wood Products Association (WWPA). Still, manufacturers are free to name the grades as they choose for marketing purposes.
So one company’s “Select” grade may be quite different from another’s. For this reason, it is best to examine the material before specifying or purchasing.
Western woods are generally labeled either premium or knotty grades. Premium grades have more heartwood and fewer defects and are typically kiln dried.
The highest grades of cedar are typically
Premium grades for other western woods include
In general, “sound tight knots” or “select tight knots” (STK) indicates that there are no knots that will come loose or affect the performance of the siding.
Other common designations are Select Knotty, Quality Knotty, 2 & Better Common, 3 & Better Common, and NPS (no prior selection).
Since there are no uniform standards for these designations, an inspection of the material is important.
Ideally, the siding should be installed at close to its equilibrium moisture content for the local climate (see Table 1-2 below). In general, unseasoned or green wood is shipped with a moisture content of greater than 19%. Air-dried or kiln-dried siding is shipped with a moisture content of 15 to 19%. In western woods, dry has a different meaning for premium and knotty grades.
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In premium wood siding grades, dry means that the siding has no more than 15% moisture content. In knotty grades, dry means that the moisture content does not exceed 19%. Dry siding stored on the site (stickered if possible) will usually acclimate to local conditions in a week to 10 days. Unseasoned wood may need 30 days or longer to acclimate.
Because horizontal profiles naturally shed water, they resist water leakage better than vertical profiles.
Also vertical wood siding is prone to wick up moisture from the bottoms of the boards, particularly where there is snow buildup or splashback.
Diagonal siding is the most prone to leakage since water is conducted down the joints to window headers and other possible entry points. The most common profiles with typical installation details are shown in Figure 1-7 above.
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-- Adapted with permission from Best Practices Guide to Residential Construction
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(Jan 27, 2012) Moore Woodworks ccb 173756 Domi said:
Thank you for your detailed information on siding and proper applications, so much of the internet has become commercialized.
Thank you Domi, we work hard on our information to make it useful and reliable, we welcome critique, and we are committed to having no conflicting interests. - Daniel
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