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How to Specify: Wood Siding


Architizer Editors
GuideSept. 25, 2017

In line with our new content direction, Architizer is highlighting a different building-product and how to specify it. This week’s topic is wood siding. If you’re looking for the perfect wood siding for your next project, search for it on Architizer’s new network marketplace for building-products. Click here to see if you qualify. It’s free for architects.

Wood siding is the grandpa of architecture. Bad when he’s full of knots, easy to get bent out of shape and he’s been around for a while. And sometimes he has shingles! (I’m so sorry). This concludes our terrible joke portion of the morning …

Wood siding works pretty similarly to other cladding options like metal or veneer. Check out some of our earlier guides on how to specify cladding. Wood siding usually is meant to be a rain screen, meaning it keeps moisture out of the building and protects the rest of the wall package from damage.See related imagesWhat really distinguishes wood siding from other cladding options, like metal or brick, is that wood was once a living thing. That means it doesn’t hold up in quite the same way that other inorganic materials might. Wood siding will age after even just a season or two, to say nothing of years or decades. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Cedar boards take on an elegant gray patina, and reclaimed barn siding is prized for its nicks and scratches. Treatments, stains and paints can keep wood in shape for many years. But in order to age gracefully, what wood siding needs most, like all of us, is a little TLC.

A big pro of conventional wood siding is that almost any builder knows how to install it and can talk you through the pros and cons. But if you want to be extra-prepared for meeting with your perhaps intimidating contractor, read up on the basics and everything you need to know for specification below.


Basic wood siding may need to be refinished every couple of years because rain and bugs can destroy it. More sophisticated treated timber products like Accoya and Kebony can, hypothetically, last much longer, even decades. Accoya is impregnated with acetyl alcohol, which resists rot and water damage. Certain species of wood, like redwoods and cedars, are also more naturally durable and have chemicals in them that are unappetizing to termites and other pests.

Also pay attention to the weight of your wood. Lighter woods, like redwoods and cedars, expand and contract less with the change of seasons and fluctuations in temperature, so they are less prone to warping and shedding any layers of paint on them.

Not that you need another reason to be partial to redwoods and cedars, but they also hold onto paint better than other woods because of the timing with which they grow. You’ve probably noticed very patterned woods that have strong bands of alternating light and dark colors. These stripes come from the wood’s growing pattern. Lighter wood generally results from early springtime growth and darker wood from later summer growth. Paint has a hard time holding onto darker wood, so painted woods that have a very visible grain will age poorly, as compared to woods that don’t have a very strong grain like, you guessed it, redwoods and cedars.

In general, boards without a lot of pattern from the grain make a more durable choice for wood siding.

One of the most popular trends in wood siding is shou sugi ban, or the traditional Japanese technique of charring wood to make it more durable. It gives the wood a pretty charming burnt texture, black color and surprising durability. We’ll have more info about this, along with an interview with wood manufacturer Delta Millworks, in another article later this week.

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