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In this article we seek to cover everything you need to know about board and batten siding, including the cost, different materials that are generally used for the purpose, some of the history and anything else you could possibly want to know.
We’ll also cover other common siding styles so that you can get a better understanding before you proceed to telling your chosen siding contractor what you wish to move forward with.
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What is Board and Batten Siding?
Board and batten is a style in which siding is installed on your home. It is available in a lot of different materials even if wood siding is a very common type of material that is used for it.
If you’re interested in read the pros and cons of wood siding among other things, we encourage you to read the linked article.
This type of style is popular on country homes and more and can help break the pattern of traditional lap siding, providing a slightly different look and curb appeal to your home.
All board and batten is is vertical siding boards installed, typically with even spacing between them and then having overlying smaller pieces of siding that cover the gaps, also known as the batten. While there is a traditional way that this is done in terms of the size of the vertical boards and the overlying battens, it’s not like one option is correct and another is wrong. If you wish, you can play around with the styles to choose what you think is better at accommodating to your needs.
In fact, the word batton comes from the french word “baton”, which also means stick in French. Board and batten siding may also bbe referred to as barn siding because of where it has traditionally been installed.
Board and board siding is a different layout that doesn’t include batten, so it simply means that overlapping wide boards will be vertically stacked basically as if the outer wide board acts as the batten. The image below illustrates the idea pretty well. The picture was borrowed from Yoder Cedar Works.
The vertical boards that make up the “board” are generally somewhere between 6-12″ wide and the battens about a third of that, so 2-4″. The boards are fastened in the middle which allows for their expansion. Wider boards may have 2 fasteners attached to them, attached at 1/3 and 2/3 of the width of the board, which allows for the expansion of the board on either side of the fastener.
The battens are fastened in the middle, in between the boards, rather than to the actual boards, which is what allows the boards to move. This way of fastening the battens will still make them lean against the boards, without keeping them from being able to move.
Spacing Between the Boards
Since the batten is traditionally between 2-4″, you can also imagine that the spacing between the boards will need to be smaller than the batten, in order for the batten to provide water protection. The amount of spacing you want is something you can choose yourself.
If you’re trying to save money on the installation, you can choose an amount of spacing that ensures there’s not too much overlap between the 2 layers. More overlap obviously also means more protection.
Reverse Board and Batten
Reverse board and batten is a different style you can consider going with. Instead of having the batten installed on the outside, it will have the batten installed on the inside which creates little holes, or dents if you will. A picture can be seen below.
While it may look really appealing, the added disadvantage of that style relative to the traditional one is that the small hole in between the boards is now facing the elements, where it was previously the larger space between the batten that was outward-facing and the more traditional style arguably leaves more space for painting and staining the space in the middle.
Problems With Board and Batten
An issue with board and batten siding is how you go about installing those vertical boards since they will naturally need to have support behind them that they can stick to. You don’t have the supporting construction framing that you would otherwise have when you’re installing something horizontally. This means that the project becomes a little bit harder and that an alternative is to install it to thick sheating, although your house may not currently have sheating that is sufficiently strong to support that method. It’s not simply some small remodeling project which you can undertake yourself over the course of a weekend.
Another option is to install blocking, or horizontal framing pieces, to give somewhere where the boards could be attached, although it does provide some complication related to plumbing and the electrical system.
Which Material to Pick for Your Board and Batten Project?
As mentioned, it is only a type of style and not in fact a material, and what that means is that you aren’t limited to using wood which is the most traditional material. Engineered wood, vinyl and fiber cement are all options that can be installed with this style. You will need to look into the specific materials to better understand the advantages and disadvantages of each specific type of material.
Fiber cement and vinyl are both options with less maintenance than wood and with the ability to last for a long time.
If you choose to proceed with wood, it’s a good idea to choose a prefinished option. This will help you make sure that the material last a long time since it can be hard to properly protect the boards otherwise with the sealant or paint.
Great wood options to go with include redwood, cedar and cypress. The more prone the material is to insect and water damage, the more likely you are to end up in a bad situation just a few years down the line. The choice of material is especially important if you live in an area with a lot of moisture.
Using vinyl for your board and batten project includes several benefits that we will briefly outline here:
Vinyl is cheap and comes available in different grades and qualities. It also provides mimics wood reasonably well. Good quality vinyl should also outlast wood, even if it’s maintained properly. Vinyl also usually comes with the color infused, which makes it last longer and will keep it from chipping off. Vinyl is also available in a lot of different styles.
It doesn’t tolerate heat too well, and many homeowners aren’t aware of the different grades of vinyl which also very much help in ensuring you’re buying a quality product that will last for a long time. It also has to be washed yearly to keep its good look. Painting is needed roughly every 9 years. The issue is also taht dents and cracks aren’t impossible to have happen.
With its ability to look like either cedar and its general easy installation, many homeowners will put up with the fact that vinyl only looks like wood without actually being it to get all the advantages that it presents.
CertainTeed is a popular manufacturer when it comes to board and batten siding with either 7″ or 8″ wide planks. Their composite siding is available in more than 20 different colors to help you get the look you desire.
Modeled using real cedar boards, you’re able to get the wooden look without the maintenance. They advertise that it never needs painting, and it also provides great fire-resistance with a lifetime limited warranty on the material. However, the warranty is likely to be voided if the material isn’t properly installed.
Siding Cost of Your Board and Batten Installation
The cost related to your board and batten installation will depend on whether your home has the support that is needed to install this or not. The boards used for it can cost as little as $2 per board or as much as $6 per square foot, which adds up if you have a big house that you’re installing it on. The design, material and difficulty of the job will all help increase the cost of the project. We do encourage you to get quotes from different contractors when you’re hoping to have it installed, and if you’re on a budget, consider how you might be able to save money on the project.
You can also get some savings by going with standard options and when you have less overlap in the material, you will also need less of it.
While you may be tempted to pick plywood, pine, fir or other affordable options for the project, you should make sure you’re aware of the amount of maintenance that those options will require, and that the cost of maintenance should be factored into the overall cost as well.
There are other costs involved with the installation too, which involves not just the boards but the soffits, fascia, mounting blocks (or additional sheathing) and nails too. If you don’t get good quality nails, the material could loosen and cause water to leak in behind the siding. Traditionally, the batten is chosen in the same material as the boards. The nails that are being used should be corrosion-resistant and could even be made from stainless steel if you have the budget.
If you do not have nails that don’t easily corrode or rust, you’ll soon find that the boards are no longer sticking as intended. Hot-dipped galvanized metal nails is an alternative to the more expensive stainless steel nails.
Pros and Cons of Board and Batten
There are several different pros and cons of using the style of board and batten for your siding that we will walk you through.
- Good resale value – paying attention to maintenance and doing it as needed will let this be a great option that will make your home look truly beautiful for years to come. When matched with everything else in your home style-wise, it can help increase your home’s resale value.
- Allows for expansion and contraction – certain types of siding materials will expand and contract rather significantly depending on the weather conditions, especially wood siding. Installing your home’s siding using board and batten is letting the material have enough space between the boards to accommodate for this cycle, which will also help in limiting the amount of warping that will happen.
- Repairing the siding is easy – if there is a need to replace a panel, you just undo that specific panel and change it out, which is easy since the boards do not lock into each others like is the case with tongue and groove.
- Well maintained board and batten is durable – the better the job you do at maintaining it, the longer it will last without warping or rotting.
- It stands out – it doesn’t look like your average lap vinyl siding home, which can make the house easier to sell too.
- Installation is difficult – you can’t simply do this installation yourself and it will need to be done by pros. We already mentioned the difficulty in finding the necessary support behind the installed material, however making sure that they’re spaced evenly is also more easily done by a pro.
- Maintenance – it’s not the type of siding that has the least amount of maintenance, especially not if it’s done with wood. Washing and sealing are important aspects that can either be done with stain or paint. The shape of the siding is not too easy to deal with as a DIY.
- Prone to termites and other pests – proper maintenance lowers the risk of running into pest problems. Wood is traditionally used for board and batten and improper maintenance only increases the risk of pests going after it.
- Risk of rot – again, you’re dealing with wood. A lack of good protecting sealing will cause some of these issues. To lower the risk of this, choose a type of material that is more moisture-resistant.
- Caulking can become necessary – if the wood does end up warping or splitting, you will need to use caulk to make sure no leaks can potentially end up causing issues. Caulking also deteriorates over time and will need to be inspected.
Alternative Siding Styles vs Board and Batten
Board and batten is not the only style that is being installed on homes, and some of the others may have certain advantages that could in fact make you consider that style instead. Our mission with this article is that you will end up feeling like you’re able to make the best possible decision regarding your siding installation project as a consequence.
Being a vertically installed style, it does potentially provide some problems when it comes to water-resistance.
Lap Siding vs Board and Batten
Lap siding is the most traditional siding style you can go with and is available in basically all the same materials as is the case with board and batten too. The installation is easier too with its vertical installation, and as the name suggests, there’s a bit of overlap with this type of style between the different boards. Clapboard and bevel are different names for this too.
Different from the planks used for board and batten, the ones used for this are saw slightly triangularly to allow for a better overlap between the boards. One end is thicker than the other, with the thicker end pointing downwards. When comparing board and batten vs lap siding, it’s not hard to imagine that lap siding is more water-resistant since the water is more likely to simply run off as it would otherwise need to climb the inner material to get inside.
Seems and vertical edges are ideal places for water to enter through, making caulking important with other styles. You can also get it designed with varying degrees of overlap, where more overlap naturally also means that more material will end up being used.
Wooden Shingles and Shakes
Shingles and shakes are also horizontally installed rather than vertically, with a decent amount of overlap to ensure good water-protection. Shakes are thicker than shingles. They’re generally considered more charming than simple lap siding. During the installation of these, you will also be working your way upwards, and the shingles or shakes are typically somewhere between 16 and 24 inches long each, although it depends on the desired design.
Drop channel can give the impression of horizontal reverse board and batten because there are basically small spaces in the middle of what looks like the two boards. Instead, it’s the upper plan that slightly overlaps the lower one while not fully connecting with it.
The advantage to drop channel over horizontal reverse board and batten is that the cut means the water can’t run down behind the lower board, because once again, like the lap siding, it would need to climb to get behind the siding. While it’s advantageous, you’re still dealing with wood that needs staining or painting to keep rot away, and the alternative design also does not keep termites away.
Tongue and Groove vs Board and Batten
The advantage to tongue and groove vs board and batten is that the prior has a locking mechanism that makes installation easier. The disadvantage being that you don’t get the same unique appeal since the batten is what actually gives the style a lot of its charm.