Board and batten siding is one of my favorite styles of wood siding that gives a classic, rustic appearance to a home. This type of siding has been around for centuries and has evolved in style very little over the years other than the use of new materials to replace what was historically only done with wood. In this post, I’ll take you on a trip through the history and installation methods of board and batten siding.
Board and batten siding is can be found in a variety of architectural styles. However, it is most commonly associated with rustic and traditional homes, such as barns (or today’s Barndominiums), farmhouses, and cottages.
In particular, it was often used in homes that draw inspiration from the Arts and Crafts movement, which emerged in the late 19th century emphasizing handcrafted elements and natural materials. A marked departure from the high style Victorian architecture that preceded it.
In addition to Arts and Crafts homes, board and batten siding was extremely popular in the Gothic Revival style which was a short lived, but beautiful style in the mid-19th century.
History of Board and Batten Siding
Board and batten siding has its roots in Scandinavia and other northern European countries, where it was used as a simple and effective way to protect homes from harsh weather conditions. The boards were simple to mill and didn’t require complex woodworking. The technique was later adopted by English and Dutch settlers in North America in the 18th century.
Traditionally, board and batten siding was made from wooden boards that were typically between 6 and 12 inches wide, and 8 to 16 feet long. The boards were then installed vertically with narrow wooden strips, called battens, that were typically 2-3 inches wide covering the seams between the boards.
Initially, board and batten siding was made using locally sourced old-growth wood and was installed using hand tools and cut nails. Thankfully, we have power tools like pneumatic nailers to make the job much easier today. Today, board and batten siding is made from a variety of materials, including wood, vinyl, fiber cement, and metal.
Installating Board and Batten Siding
The installation process for board and batten siding varies depending on the type of material being used, but as a traditional building guy I’ll focus on installation of the historical wood options here.
Step 1: Prepare the Surface – Make sure the surface where the siding will be installed is clean, dry, and smooth. For board and batten siding you’ll likely need to install horizontal nailers let into your framing. Once those are installed you’ll want to install a water barrier like a house wrap beneath the siding first, and a good drainable house wrap like Benjamin Obdykes HydroGap is one of my favorites. This allows any water that gets behind the siding to drain out safely and extends the life of the siding because it prevents rot.
Step 2: Meausure and Layout – This part can take time to make sure you have a symmetrical layout and will be very dependent on the width of the boards you are using. Make sure they are evenly laid out around windows and doors so as to provide symmetry from one side of the wall to the other.
Step 3: Install the Boards – Install the boards first using a 6 foot level to ensure the first board is completely vertical (dead plumb). The rest of your boards will be spaced based on this first board so take some time to get it perfect. Vertical boards need to have a space of between 1/4 inch and 3/4 inch between then to allow for wood movement. The boards should be nailed with 2 siding nails on the top plate, bottom plate, and any mid field nailers you’ve installed. Always nail into studs and don’t rely on nailing to the sheathing only. Using a spacer board of the gap size you are planning to incorporate on one side of the level first board setup and install the next board and so on until you have completed all the boards.
Step 4: Install the Fascia – Install the fascia board being careful to notch it for any exposed rafters. Be sure to install this before tackling the battens as it will be much harder to slide the fascia into place if you install it after the battens.
Step 5: Install the Battens – Install the vertical battens, which are the narrow strips that run the vertical length of the boards to cover the gap. These should be centered on the gaps. Again, the first batten needs to be installed perfectly level and then you can use a spacer board as a jig as you go around and install the remaining battens. Nail the battens on the sides so the nail passes through both the batten and the side of the underlying board and nail in the same locations the boards were nailed, top plate, bottom plate, and mid field nailers.
Step 6: Finish the Siding – Once all the boards are installed, fill the nails holes with a quality wood filler, then prime everything, caulk the vertical joints and add a couple coats of quality exterior paint. I recommend sealing the end grain at the bottom of the boards to avoid them rotting from the bottom up which can be a common issue on vertical sidings like this especially the cheaper option called T1-11 siding.
If you are using a different material than wood for your board and batten siding, the installation process may differ slightly so it’s important to consult the manufacturer’s instructions for specific installation guidelines.
Board and batten siding is one of my favorite types of siding because of the rustic look and also the ease of installation. It’s also incredibly easy to repair damaged boards since removing them is just a matter of removing a couple battens and then replacing with readily available nominal lumber. If you have it take good care of it, and it will last you a very long time.
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I love old houses, working with my hands, and teaching others the excitment of doing it yourself! Everything is teachable if you only give it the chance.