Any shed in the UK has to stand up to a punishing range of elements — wind, rain, freezing cold, snow and even the occasional smattering of sun! Therefore, as well as looking good, wood used for the exterior siding needs to have good outdoor durability and dimensional stability.
For a beautiful, functional shed with the longest service life possible, what’s the best type of wood? Let’s discuss species, profiles and treatments.
What is the best wood for garden shed cladding?
A favourite of design-led home improvers and architects across the UK, Western Red Cedar (Thuja plicata) is a beautiful, highly-durable choice. With characteristic good looks and phenomenal physical properties, it is arguably the best commercially-available choice for cladding a shed, garden room, summerhouse or other similar outbuilding.
As its name may suggest, this Canadian-imported species boasts a stunning reddish-pink brown colour along with occasional darker chocolate and lighter salmon streaks. When it comes to attractiveness, it’s truly part of the timber elite; whether you’re going for a contemporary or traditional look, cedar guarantees a shed that is truly the envy of neighbours and visitors!
Cedar is lightweight and has impressive rot resistance — the timber itself contains natural fungicidal substances. These decay-preventing chemicals (thujaplicins) survive for many decades, even after the tree has been felled. Therefore, although it finishes very well, cedar doesn’t actually need any treatment — it can simply be left to weather naturally!
Cedar’s exceptional dimensional stability also means your cladding won’t warp, shrink or expand as it might with an inferior species. Take care during installation with fixings, however — the wood leeches black stain with certain metals, so stainless steel nails or screws are essential.
2. European Oak
European Oak (Quercus robur) is a hard-wearing, durable species for cladding any shed or outbuilding. With a distinctive straight grain and an alluring golden honey colour, you can’t go wrong with this timeless traditional favourite.
Species of oak are classic favourites in outdoor construction for pergolas, gazebos and sheds — and for good reason. Thanks to its natural durability, European Oak is essentially maintenance free — a go-to timber for a high-quality posh shed that needs to bear the brunt of adverse weather.
Like all woods, if left without a finish, your shed will still perform well but will gradually attain that distinguished silvery-grey aesthetic. As we’ll mention later on, this is something that can be arrested with a quality finish containing UV filters.
It’s also available in a wide range of sizes, placing it near the top of the class when it comes to exterior versatility and applicability. A quick warning, however — as with cedar, be careful during installation! Oak reacts with iron, so stainless steel nails or screws are a must!
Siberian Larch (Larix sibirica) is another type of timber species that ticks all the right boxes for a garden shed cladding project — attractive, durable and strong.
With the unsorted grade having few knots, a straight grain and coming in a variety of beautiful shades from yellow to reddish-brown, Siberian Larch is a formidable choice for that garden storage area or hideaway. For an even more natural look, sawfalling grades come with additional knots, providing extra rustic character.
Siberian Larch hails from the ice-cold forests of Russia — as a result, it is an extremely slow-growing, hard-wearing and resinous wood, clocking in at a density of 575kg/mᵌ — remarkably high for a softwood.
Taking finishes very well, Siberian Larch can be stained or left to weather naturally with a service life of over 50 years!
Our Siberian Larch timber is sorted into Grade A (Unsorted I-III) and Grade B (Sawfalling I-V). As mentioned, Grade A allows for infrequent, smaller knots, whereas Grade B has more knots per plank — but both perform excellently for garden shed cladding.
If you’re on a slight budget but still want a high-performance, good looking wood for your shed cladding, don’t discount ThermoWood®.
ThermoWood® is a timber product that starts its life as Scandinavian Pine softwood before undergoing a thermal treatment of heat and water vapour. This process drastically improves the outdoor performance properties of the timber, resulting in a resilient, decay-resistant, stable and eye-catchingly beautiful dark brown colour.
This makes it a rather eco-friendly alternative to other types of modified timber, which usually make use of chemicals.
What cladding profile type should I use for a garden shed?
Once you’ve chosen a species of timber, you need to select a profile. A cladding profile determines how the pieces fit together, affecting both appearance and performance.
Shiplap is the most popular garden shed exterior wall cladding profile. Designed to be installed horizontally, it provides a versatile, traditional look that’s at home in any outdoor space. As well as being synonymous with garden sheds, shiplap is functional, too — the smooth curve to its shape helps with rainwater runoff.
Of course, there are other types of cladding profile that step up to the job equally well, includinghalflap, featheredge and log lap. For a touch of sleek, contemporary style for your garden shed or outbuilding, consider shadow gap and V-groove.
What is the best material for shed cladding?
Wondering what to clad your shed with? Because of its natural aesthetic, outdoor durability, environmental sustainability, insulation properties and ease of finishing, wood slots seamlessly into almost any outdoor space. This makes it by far the most popular material for a garden shed.
Other types of shed material — such as plastic, metal and brick — can be harder to incorporate sympathetically into an outdoor space. Materials like metal can easily rust, as well as being prone to dents. They can also be more expensive to construct, less eco-friendly and often offer poorer insulation.
‘Buy cheap, buy twice’
Not all woods are created equal though, of course. Some types of shed kits, such as those commonly found in home improvement and DIY stores — are often made of cheaper softwood which is then pressure treated with chemical preservatives to bolster their outdoor performance.
Whilst these can perform an adequate job, a quality natural timber will always provide the most beautiful, durable end product with the longest service life possible. Don’t forget: ‘buy cheap, buy twice’!
Because of their good looks and natural durability, all of the woods listed earlier are also suitable if you’re creating any other sort of garden outbuilding — such as a summerhouse, garden room or garden office.
A word on treatments for your garden shed cladding
Quality natural timbers like European Oak, Western Red Cedar, Siberian Larch do not strictly need any treatment before being used outdoors for garden shed siding. That said, to retain their original colour (if that’s something you’re interested in) and to maximise service life, applying a finish can be worthwhile.
There are an incredibly wide range of woodcare finishes for cladding on the market. These can be broadly placed into three groups:
- Transparent finishes — these types of treatments offer protection against moisture-related damage with no immediate change in appearance to the wood. They don’t contain UV filters and therefore, over time, allow the shed to slowly turn grey under the power of the sun’s ultraviolet light. A great choice if you want the distinguished ‘silver fox’ look, whilst offering the timber a good level of protection. A popular product of this type includes Owatrol H4 Wood.
- Semi-transparent finishes — available water-based or oil-based, these types of finishes are usually the most popular. Depending on the product chosen, they offer a modest change in appearance whilst still preserving most of the timber’s original colour and grain. With UV filters, they guard against age-related ‘greying’, providing a substantial level of protection against any potential weather-related damage. A great example includes Owatrol Textrol HES (Clear).
- Solid-colour finishes — these sorts of acrylic-based paint finishes are suitable for those who want to change the colour of their wood, completely obscuring the original colour of the wood. Whilst it may seem a shame to be concealing such a beautiful, natural product, solid-colour stains offer the maximum level of protection from the elements.
Looking to start a garden shed project?
We’re Duffield Timber, a leading UK cladding specialist. We stock a wide range of top-quality cladding in all the finest species and profiles.
If you’re looking to get started on a shed, garden room, summerhouse or other wood-based project, drop a message to our friendly team of timber experts — we’d be delighted to help!
And if you’re nearby, why not pay a visit to our Joinery & Woodworking Centre and cast your eyes over our enviable selection of wood? Go on, you know you want to… we’re just off the A1 near Ripon, in Melmerby, North Yorkshire.