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Timber Cladding: Best Wood Species, Benefits, Profile Options & More Tips

You might be wondering what timber cladding is, and about its benefits. What are the various profile styles? With over 60 years’ experience when it comes to timber and timber products, allow us to guide you through the cladding basics!

Cladding can transform a building, giving the exterior a beautiful, natural finish. Are you considering some timber cladding to add allure to your house?

If so, plenty of questions may arise... You might be wondering what timber cladding is, and about its benefits. What are the various profile styles? Which are the on-trend timber species that you mustn’t overlook? Maybe you need some top tips on protecting your cladding…

With over 60 years’ experience when it comes to timber and timber products, allow us to guide you through the cladding basics!

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. Timber 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: after all, no one likes looking at concrete, do they?

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 will source their timber from FSC and PEFC-certified suppliers; this guarantees that the timber used is 100% renewable and sustainable.

… Plus, 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, maneuver and install.

What are the profile options for timber cladding?

Cladding doesn’t come in a one-size-fits-all option. One particular profile (how the boards fit together) can have particular benefits over another, making one profile perfect for a specific project. However, understanding these profiles and how they can apply to different applications can be somewhat challenging.

These are the three main profile options for timber cladding - tongue and groove, shiplap and feather-edged.

Tongue and Groove Profile

Also known as V-Groove cladding, this is considered the most popular type of cladding, in part due to its aesthetic neatness.

Much like shiplap (mentioned below), tongue and groove has the ability to shield buildings from water, protecting against water damage. In harsher weather conditions, the interlocking joints act as an effective barrier and a good insulator too.

The interlocking panels are also useful for creating strong, sturdy structures, so this is important to consider.

Shiplap Profile

The main difference between Shiplap and Tongue and Groove cladding is that there’s a scoop on Shiplap cladding, providing further run off protection against moisture and rainfall.

If an installation needs optimum rain resistance, Shiplap cladding is the profile that provides the best defence against water infiltration, minimising the risk of rot, swelling, damp and mould, when installed 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!

Which species of timber are best for cladding?

Wood is incredible and diverse. There’s a mind-blowing range of beautiful, durable timber species that make perfect wood cladding. But which are the best options for your cladding project?

Here are four fantastic options for your timber cladding. Each one ticks the right boxes: durable, rot resistant, highly-workable and beautiful.

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: Western Canada, delivered direct on a container.

Cedar is a softwood that is light in weight, with a relatively low density. Despite this, Cedar 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. Cedar is then machined to profile. Due to its soft properties,

Western Red Cedar takes to machining very well, and it both screws and nails with good results - but can also be glued.

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, delivered on curtain side vehicle.

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 extremely versatile species. It has good overall results with nailing and screwing, so it makes a great cladding material.

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, delivered on a curtain side wagon.

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.

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. Once treated, Thermowood has a gorgeous dark brown tone throughout.

Treating your timber cladding

So, you’ve chosen your profile and you know what timber species is the right match for your installation. Next up - how to treat your timber to ensure it’s up to the job of looking and performing at its best.

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. 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.

Heat treatment

An alternative option for cladding protection is heat treatment. It helps the wood to become more weather durable and stable, ensuring it doesn’t react differently to separate climates and temperature. It also prevents the wood from shrinking or expanding.

The history of heat treatment is particularly interesting. When building defence fencing, Vikings discovered that wooden poles didn’t last as long as poles made from wood with a burnt surface! Though studies exploring thermal modification had been going on for many years, the Thermowood process wasn’t patented until the end of the 1990s.

This patented production of wood involves the controlled process of heating wood until its properties are changed permanently. See our Thermowood species recommendation above for more information about this type of timber.

What time of year shall I install my timber cladding?

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, Thermowood, Western Red Cedar and Siberian Larch cladding is 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.

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 we ethically and sustainably source our timber - meaning it’s all 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 on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram - our team will be delighted to help.

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