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Horizontal vs. Vertical Timber Cladding: Which Is Best For My Project?

When you’re planning a new cladding project, you’ve got a few things to consider. The timber species, the profile — but also its orientation.

A well-executed cladding project looks incredible, adds value, provides protection from the elements and can even make your building more energy efficient! But should cladding be horizontal or vertical?

Let’s discuss the orientation of your cladding. Which style will suit my project best? Vertical or horizontal siding — which is better?

Horizontal cladding — a timeless, conventional choice

Cladding fixed horizontally is the most common type you’ll see — as such, if you’re going for a traditional aesthetic, opt for this.

Horizontal cladding in a stunning timber species like European Oak, Western Red Cedar or Siberian Larch is a perennial favourite of architects and designers everywhere. It’s guaranteed to generate admirers.

But whilst it may be seen as a ‘safe bet’, it’s still possible to make a bold statement with horizontal. Consider choosing something quirky, unusual or striking — perhaps a heavy, medium or lightly charred and brushed timber.

This ancient Yakisugi ‘burning’ technique not only looks incredible, but became popular in ancient Japan for adding durability and strength to wood.

Horizontal cladding next to window on house exterior.

Due to it being more common and simpler to install, associated costs for horizontal are usually lower than for vertical. This makes it the go-to cladding orientation for a hassle-free, budget-friendly project.

Many people presume that horizontal cladding is inferior for projects that need to withstand a lot of heavy rainfall. With the correct choice of profile and proper installation, both horizontal and vertical can withstand rain equally well. However, for a badly-done job, there is a greater risk of water seeping through gaps, with the associated problems of mildew and warping.

Shiplap is a popular profile for horizontal cladding — it looks fantastic, and the longer lip on each board allows rain and water to run off easily.

Horizontal cladding is your best choice for a traditional, ‘safe’ aesthetic, but it’s still possible to make a statement. As the most popular type of cladding, if you’re concerned with the value of a property, it may represent the best option.

Horizontal cladding on apartment.
Horizontal cladding on building.

Vertical cladding — to convey height or add rustic charm

Just as vertical stripes can make people look taller, to an extent the same principle applies to cladding! If you’re looking to add the illusion of height — perhaps to visually elongate a ‘short’ building — consider a vertical cladding board, possibly in a single length.

Vertical cladding, at least nowadays, is an unconventional choice — but this wasn’t always the case. Whilst we may now think of horizontal cladding as ‘traditional’, arguably the vertical orientation precedes it — which can make this style useful for providing a ‘rustic’ feel. It’s the most common style you’ll see on log homes, old barns and so on.

Vertical timber overhang.
House with vertical cladding.

Consider vertical cladding if you’re working on a smaller project, possibly. It can add a sense of charm. It can also be used on a certain section of your home, possibly to give an illusion of height or create a unique visual ‘break’ in your home’s exterior design.

There’s also the small added bonus that vertical cladding is optimal as it follows the general direction of rainfall (although well-executed horizontal cladding will also have no problems here). It’s usually easier to clean, which represents another small benefit for any would-be vertical cladders.

But whilst you may save time on maintenance, the installation of vertical cladding is usually more technically challenging than horizontal. Furring strips need to be laid underneath in order to secure the surface against moisture damage, as well as to keep it flat. This usually requires a specialist installation.

Also, bear in mind that vertical cladding isn’t for everyone. If you’re looking to add some cladding that will be acceptable to as many people as possible — perhaps if you’re concerned with the sale of a property — horizontal might be a safer bet.

Vertical cladding
House with vertical cladding.

Both (or diagonal) — to make a real statement

Timber is a traditional material, so when it’s used in a non-traditional way, it can really grab your attention. Incorporating horizontal and vertical cladding, therefore, can be a way of creating real architectural impact.

A building with a mix of vertical and horizontal cladding.
Mix of vertical and horizontal cladding.

As well as the vertical-horizontal mix, it’s possible to experiment with diagonal cladding — by far the most uncommon cladding type, with boards angled at 45 degrees. This was quite popular on homes throughout the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s, so can give your project a standout, retro feel.

Be warned, though — with this architectural expression comes a possibly costly and challenging installation.

A structure showing diagonal cladding
Creative use of cladding.

Choosing your cladding orientation

If you’re looking to keep things traditional yet stunning, horizontal might be the best choice. This orientation is just far more common — probably because many people prefer how it looks!

For the illusion of height, added charm or providing a unique design touch, consider vertical. To make an eye-catching architectural statement, possibly go for a mixture of the two, or even diagonal.

Such is timber’s natural beauty, it’s hard to go wrong with either horizontal or vertical. Cladding is sure to add natural beauty to any architectural or home project, regardless of how it’s fixed. It all comes down to your personal design preference.

Once you’ve made your choice — or if you’d like some more cladding advice — we’re here to help bring your cladding project to life.

Let’s get started on your cladding project

At Duffield Timber, we’ve been a leading UK supplier of timber cladding for over 60 years.

From timeless beauties like Western Red Cedar and Siberian Larch to unusual choices like charred and LIGNIA®, our enviable cladding collection spans many beautiful, high-quality timber species.

Our cladding is machined to a wide range of dynamic, eye-catching profiles, including shadow gap, feather edge, shiplap, V-groove and more.

Whether you’re a home improver, tradesperson, architect or specifier, we’re your timber cladding specialists. Contact our team today to get started on your next cladding project.

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