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Timber Cladding Guide: Best Wood Species, Profiles, Types, Benefits & Other Tips

Contemplating your next exterior cladding project? This is your handy guide to all the cladding basics — profiles, styles, the best types of wood and tips for installation and care. At Duffield Timber, we’ve got over 60 years’ experience when it comes to timber and timber products!

Cladding can transform a building, giving the exterior a beautiful, natural finish. If you’re looking to add allure to your house, here’s everything you need to know before starting an exterior wood cladding project.

What is timber cladding?

Timber cladding is a widely-used, common exterior finish for buildings; 'cladding' refers to a covering for a structure, as well as all the components attached to achieve this.

It is available in a range of species (the tree that the timber originated from) and is machined to a range of profiles (which determines the way the pieces fit together). Different timber species have varying physical properties and looks. The choice of profile, similarly, can affect the properties and aesthetics of the cladding.

Cladding doesn’t have to be timber, of course. But the natural aesthetic appeal of wooden cladding has made it a timeless, popular choice that will never go out of fashion.

Cladding is an extremely old weatherproofing technique that has accordingly been perfected over time. Some of the most iconic buildings — indeed, feats of architecture — make use of timber cladding. A particularly flamboyant use of it includes the Knarvik Church.

Timber cladding doesn’t have to be restricted to ostentatious displays of architecture, of course. Homeowners are ever-increasingly choosing to add a flourish of luxury and beauty to their own home. It’s also very popular for larger, commercial projects: such as the Redcar & Cleveland Leisure Centre!

What are the benefits of timber cladding?

1. Natural beauty

Perhaps the foremost benefit of timber — the reason many people turn to it — is its undeniable natural beauty. Outdoor wood cladding gives a warm feel and once weathered is able to blend into their natural surroundings.Timber cladding allows you to create seamless transitions between buildings and woodland. Exterior wooden cladding can also give a calming, natural aesthetic to buildings in urbanised areas.It's versatile, too. A beautiful timber exterior finish can be right at home in a traditional or contemporary setting.

2. Sustainable

Aside from its marvellous natural beauty, timber cladding is also an unbelievably eco-friendly material. In fact, it’s probably the greenest building choice you could make. For every tree used to make cladding there is always the opportunity to plant new ones. As well as being 100% renewable, timber stores carbon from the atmosphere, helping to fight global warming.A reputable timber merchant and supplier of sustainable cladding will source their timber from FSC and PEFC-certified suppliers; this guarantees that the timber used is 100% renewable and harvested sustainably.That’s not to mention that any leftovers can be reused or disposed of in an eco-friendly way - seldom so easily the case for other building materials.

3. Customisable and changeable

Timber cladding is far easier to replace than other exterior finishing materials, so if you’re wanting a change in the future or need a cladding spruce - timber is guaranteed to be the least hassle. Wood is one of the cheapest materials to customise since it doesn’t require any special equipment.For those with a keen eye for design, it’s worth noting that timber cladding is highly customisable. It looks fantastic painted and, with various stains available, there are endless design opportunities for creative homeowners. Wood is easily repainted, too, so a cladding colour change is never out of the question!

4. Naturally-insulating: for heat and sound

Inside timber is a cellular structure which contains air pockets. This makes wood a fantastic natural insulator - keeping the home (indeed, any building it’s applied to) hotter. In fact, wood insulates fifteen times better than masonry, 400 times better than steel and 1,770 times better than aluminium. It’s also a good sound insulator, keeping noise out.

5. Time and cost-effective

Cladding projects fulfilled with timber, as a rule, tend to come in at a cheaper price than with other building materials. Of course, costs can vary - but as a rule, timber is a great choice for those on a budget. That’s not to say you can’t splash out on some expensive, exotic timber if that’s what your heart desires!It’s also worth noting that timber is lighter than other building materials, making the cladding quick and easy to transport, manoeuvre and install.

What’s the best profile for timber cladding?

Cladding doesn’t come in a one-size-fits-all solution. One particular profile (how the boards fit together) can have particular benefits over another, making one profile perfect for a specific project.

There are three common profile types for wood cladding — Tongue and V-Groove, Shiplap and Feather-Edged, but currently the trend is for Shadow Gap and Rainscreen-style cladding.

Tongue & V-Groove

Tongue & V-Groove cladding is considered the most popular style of cladding, in part due to its subtle aesthetic neatness.

Much like shiplap (mentioned below), tongue and groove has the ability to shield buildings from water, wind and the cold — creating great all round weatherproofing.

Shiplap Profile

The main difference between Shiplap and Tongue & V-Groove cladding is that there’s a scoop on Shiplap cladding, providing further run off protection against moisture and rainfall. It is usually fixed horizontally.

Feather-edged Cladding

Consider feather-edged cladding if you want a secure and sturdy surface.

Cut at an angle, it’s perfect for horizontal cladding for sheds or buildings. The way feather-edged cladding is cut is to allow for an overlap, giving more control over how the finished result looks. This gives the fitter flexibility over the cover size.

Feather-edged cladding is versatile and can be machined to many different sizes from the angle to the thickness and width. This can make it quite a unique, bespoke choice!

What’s the best timber for exterior cladding?

Wood is incredible and diverse. All the timbers of the world have varying technical attributes — so which are the best types of timber cladding for an external cladding project? A species is usually suitable if it ticks these boxes — durable, dimensionally stable, rot resistant, and attractive appearance. Here are four fantastic exterior wood cladding options.

1. Western Red Cedar

  • Average Dried Weight: 370 kg/m³.
  • Grain: Straight grain, medium-to-coarse texture.
  • Colour: Reddish to pinkish brown with darker red/brown streak. Varies in colour.
  • Rot Resistance: Very high.
  • Workability: Excellent machining properties, takes both screws and nails well.
  • Sourced from: British Colombia

Cedar is a softwood that is light in weight, with a relatively low density. Despite this, it is one of the most suitable timbers to use for exterior cladding as it is stable and not prone to weathering. Thanks to this, this lightweight species lasts a long time and is easy to maintain.

Popular for its aesthetic properties, cedar’s variation of colours range from brown to yellow or even pink (not forgetting, of course, that timber can also be painted according to preference!).

It is naturally resistant to decay, however, so it’s unlikely to need treatment before being installed. That’s not to say that a little UV protection is a bad idea.

As the stock is delivered in a ripped strip form, the boards have already been sawn to a specific thickness and width - this means that, often, the timber is sorted and “sticked” into length specification before being air-dried and machined to profile.

Due to its soft properties, Western Red Cedar takes to machining very well, and it both screws and nails with good result. Make sure stainless steel fixings are used, however!

2. Siberian Larch

  • Average Dried Weight: 575 kg/m³.
  • Grain: Generally straight or spiralled. Medium-to-fine texture.
  • Colour: Yellow to a medium brownish colour.
  • Rot Resistance: Moderate.
  • Workability: Good machining properties, takes both screws and nails well.
  • Sourced from: Siberia.

Siberian Larch is, like cedar, a softwood. However, with a density of 575kg/mᵌ it’s actually more dense than many hardwoods.

Popular for use in decking and flooring projects, Siberian Larch is an extremely versatile species. It has good overall results with nailing and screwing, so it makes a great cladding material.

People often ask us about differences between larch or cedar cladding. Both are perfectly suitable for an exterior cladding project — your choice will be down to personal preference and budget, as the two types of timber have distinct differences in their colour and appearance.

Siberian Larch’s heartwood can range from a pale yellow to a medium straw yellow in colour, so, for a natural finish, this is a great timber to choose.

3. Finger-Jointed European Oak

  • Average Dried Weight: 720 kg/m³.
  • Grain: Straight, with a coarse, uneven texture.
  • Colour: Golden-brown colour.
  • Rot Resistance: Very high.
  • Workability: Good machining properties, takes both screws and nails well.
  • Sourced from: France

Unlike larch and cedar, European Oak is classed as a hardwood, with high density. A golden-brown colour, the grain of European Oak is generally straight, although its growth conditions can cause this to vary.

The stunning aesthetic beauty of European Oak can be further enhanced by choosing one of a variety of staining options which exist.

European Oak stock imported into the UK has already been through the kilning, machining and finger-jointing process all prior to delivery. As the boarding is glued and finger jointed, it can be supplied in longer, more stable 4.5m lengths.

Though it machines relatively well, nailing and screwing can be a bit more difficult - so pre-drilling is advised. It’s also worth noting that Oak reacts with iron, so stainless steel nails or screws are your best bet.

For a beautiful, longer-length hardwood external cladding, oak is your best bet.

4. Thermowood

  • Average Dried Weight: 450 kg/m³.
  • Grain: Generally straight. Medium-to-fine texture.
  • Colour: A dark brown tone throughout.
  • Rot Resistance: Moderately durable against rot.
  • Workability: Good machining properties, takes both screws and nails well.
  • Sourced from: the Baltic region, delivered on a curtain sided wagon.

Thermowood is a heat-treated pine, with a medium density, making it a softwood. It’s denser than cedar but not as dense as Siberian Larch.

However, as it’s thermally modified, the wood provides stability, less shrinkage, movement (swelling), cupping and distortion. It also takes well to both screws and nails.

Thermowood has a gorgeous dark brown tone throughout. For those in search of a dark timber cladding option, look no further than Thermowood.

How to treat timber cladding

If you’ve chosen a profile and suitable timber species for your cladding, you might want to learn more about treating your timber to ensure it’s up to the job.

Sadly, there’s no such thing as cladding that doesn’t weather. Exterior cladding is nearly always, at some point in the day, exposed to direct sunlight. This will eventually discolour the cladding, turning it into a silvery or grey colour.

Some people enjoy natural timber cladding as it’s left to weather. However, if you wish to prevent this, a UV protective finish can be applied.

UV protectant

UV protectant (Owatrol Textrol HES) can be applied by brush, cloth or spray. This type of protective treatment shields the timber cladding from sunlight damage, resulting in the timber preserving its colour for a much longer period of time.

If the cladding is in an area of direct sunlight, we recommend recoating once every two years, but if it is in a shaded area, give it a slap of treatment every three years. Think of it like a sun-cream you need to apply every couple of years!

Protective paint

Paint can also be applied to coat the timber. However, this process will hide the natural grain of the wood and replace it with a solid colour.

What time of year shall I install my timber cladding?

Cladding a building in wood is no mean feat, and there are a range of things to consider — even the time of year to install it! Though you can install new cladding year-round, the best period of time is between October and April. This is to ensure the timber does not shrink or curl in warm weather.

Therefore, consider planning for your new cladding during the summer months. That way, you’ll have plans in place in plenty of time, giving you plenty of time to choose and source the timber species that’s right for your project.

How long does timber cladding last for?

If it is properly maintained, weather-proofed timbers like Thermowood, Western Red Cedar and Siberian Larch cladding are known to last for more than 30 years.

Ready to get your cladding project off the ground?

Here at Duffield Timber, we have over 60 years’ experience when it comes to timber. As well as understanding our customers’ needs, we know each species inside out. Whether an experienced woodworker or homeowner redesigning their outdoor space, our expert knowledge will help you choose the right product for any project.

Explore our range of cladding products at Duffield Timber. If you are ready to select your cladding and begin the installation process, why not visit our showroom in Melmerby (right next to the motorway, near Ripon)? We have large, high-quality stocks available across a range of timber species.

We machine timber on site here in the UK, and ethically and sustainably source our timber — meaning all of our cladding products are 100% renewable.

Don’t forget we also have a Cladding and Decking Centre — a must-visit for anyone considering installing new cladding.

We don’t just stock timber cladding, but everything else you need to keep your cladding in tip-top condition: Cedar angle beads, nails, screws, shingles, ridges, solid colour stains and UV protective finishes.

In the meantime, if you have any cladding questions, don’t hesitate to contact us through our website, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Our team will be delighted to help.

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