Any garden structure 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 of a shed, garden room or garden office needs to have good outdoor durability and dimensional stability.
Let’s discuss species, profiles and treatments.
What is the best wood for garden shed, garden room or summerhouse cladding?
Any wood that combines beauty with outdoor durability is the ideal choice for exterior timber cladding for sheds, summerhouses and garden rooms. Some popular, widely available species that tick these boxes include Western Red Cedar, European Oak, Siberian Larch, Douglas Fir and ThermoWood.
Your choice will depend on your desired look and budget!
A favourite of designers, architects and home improvers across the UK and beyond, Western Red Cedar (Thuja plicata) is a beautiful, highly-durable choice. With characteristic good looks and phenomenal physical properties, it is arguably the best 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 or garden room that is truly the envy of neighbours and visitors!
Don’t be fooled by cedar’s light weight and softwood status. It actually has remarkable 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 strictly need any treatment — it can simply be left to weather naturally!
Cedar’s exceptional dimensional stability also means your garden shed or garden room 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
Everyone’s heard of oak. European Oak (Quercus robur), sometimes known as English oak, is one particular type of oak that works well for cladding any shed or outbuilding, although most species do a brilliant job.
Oak is a very popular structural timber, speaking to its strength and density. Not only that, but it’s naturally durable and therefore essentially maintenance free — a go-to timber for a posh shed, garden room or garden office that needs to bear the brunt of adverse weather.
Like all woods, if left without treatment, your cladding 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, garden room or outbuilding 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 hideaway or storage area. For an even more natural look, sawfalling grades come with additional knots, providing added 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.
4. ThermoWood® (heat-treated Scandinavian Pine)
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 (also commonly known as Scandinavian Redwood or Scots 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 are impregnated with chemicals to achieve the similar properties.
5. Douglas Fir
Like Siberian Larch and Western Red Cedar, Douglas Fir is a popular softwood that works well outdoors as a result of its inherent decay resistance. Also, like Western Red Cedar, this species originates from the western coasts of North America!
One thing many people value about Douglas Fir is its beautiful variation in colour and character — you can admire the differences between panels all day. With a dry density of 510kg/mᵌ, this species may also surprise you with its strength and scratch resistance!
Douglas Fir can also be a cost effective option for those running a tighter budget, usually coming in at a lower price point than many other commercially available cladding timbers.
What is the best cladding profile type for a garden shed or garden room?
Once you’ve chosen a species of timber, you need to select a profile. There are a number of shed cladding profile types, each determining how the pieces fit together, predominantly affecting appearance but also performance.
Shiplap profile — for a versatile, timeless style
Shiplap is the most popular garden shed exterior wall cladding profile. Designed to be installed horizontally, it provides a versatile, timeless and finished look that’s at home in any outdoor space — a great balance between traditional and modern.
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 profiles that step up to the job equally well. If you’re looking for a traditional feel, you may want to take a look at featheredge. Then there’s halflap, arguably bridging the gap between shiplap and featheredge.
Tongue & V-groove or shadow gap profile — for a modern statement
Both of these profiles provide a smooth, uniform and finished look. The interlocking nature of V-groove’s panels mean it is a very resilient and weatherproofed profile.
Shadow gap takes things up a notch in terms of architectural style; gaps in the panels create a neat effect as the sun moves across your space during the day.
Waney-edged profile — for a truly rustic statement
This is the most natural and rustic as you can get — the panels have limited planing and cutting, usually coming as they were directly from the log. This type of cladding ideally suits a rural, countryside aesthetic, complementing natural surroundings and giving the impression of having always belonged.
For another interesting, rustic profile, consider log lap. As its name suggests, this type of profile is designed to mimic a log cabin, worth considering if this style suits your vision.
Garden room or garden shed cladding: vertical or horizontal?
Both orientations look superb when a quality species is chosen and installed correctly. That said, horizontal has a slightly more traditional look, so if you’re wanting to play it safe, choose that style. Alternatively, to mix things up and impart a modern style for your garden room, opt for vertical cladding, or perhaps even alternate between the two.
Our guide to vertical versus horizontal cladding may help you to decide.
Garden shed & garden room cladding: what treatments & finishes should I go for?
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.
- 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.
What about other types of building material?
Is wood really the best for a garden shed or garden room? Because of its natural aesthetic, outdoor durability, environmental sustainability, insulation properties and ease of finishing, it’s hard to deny that it slots seamlessly into almost any outdoor space. This makes wood by far the most popular material for a garden shed or outbuilding.
Other types of building material — such as plastic, metal and brick — can be harder to incorporate sympathetically into an outdoor space. 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.
Is pressure treated softwood suitable for a garden shed or garden room?
Some types of shed or outbuilding kits, such as those commonly found in home improvement and DIY stores — are 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 naturally-durable timber will always provide the most beautiful end product with the longest service life possible. Don’t forget: ‘buy cheap, buy twice’!
Looking to start a garden shed or garden room cladding project?
We’re Duffield Timber, a leading UK cladding specialist. We stock a wide range of top-quality timber cladding in all the finest species and profiles.
If you’re looking to get started on cladding a shed, garden room, garden office, summerhouse or other outbuilding project, click the button below to message our team of timber experts — we’d be delighted to help!
And if you’re nearby, why not pay us a visit to our 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.