Board and batten siding has been a staple exterior for residential homes and businesses for many years. Board and batten siding uses wide lumber (boards) and small lumber (battens) to form an attractive, weathertight exterior facade. Today, we will describe in greater detail just what board and batten siding is, what it is made from, and how it is installed.
What Is Board and Batten Siding?
Board and batten siding is a method of applying wide and narrow boards (usually natural wood) to a structure to form a waterproof exterior. Board and batten siding is installed vertically, with the wide boards forming a base onto which the battens are installed.
The battens essentially cover the gaps between the boards to prevent water from getting behind the siding and causing rot. Board and batten siding is always installed with corrosion-resistant fasteners like galvanized, stainless steel, or painted nails.
What Is Board and Batten Siding Made From?
Board and batten siding can be built with virtually any rot-resistant materials like naturally rot- resistant wood, fiber/cement, synthetic lumber, vinyl, or aluminum. To be clear, some manufacturers label 4’ x 8’ sheets of plywood as board and batten, but the label can be confusing.
Sheet material with the look of board and batten siding is usually T1-11 siding, commonly found on detached garages and storage buildings. True board and batten siding is made from individual boards, not sheets of plywood.
Is Board and Batten Siding Good?
Board and batten siding is not only attractive, but does a great job of protecting the structure if it is well maintained. Board and batten siding is installed vertically, with the wider boards being installed first, and the battens installed over the joint between the boards.
By covering the joint, rainwater is directed straight down and cannot pool up and soak into the surface of the siding. Board and batten siding is also do-it-yourself friendly, so it is a great homeowner project.
Board and batten siding can be formed from nearly any flat lumber, but most are made from naturally rot-resistant woods like cedar, redwood, and poplar.
Being natural materials however, these woods do require regular maintenance. As such, several companies have introduced synthetic board and batten materials like MiraTec, fiber/cement boards, vinyl, and aluminum siding. Synthetic materials may require less maintenance, provide easier installation, and last longer than natural materials.
How Do I Install Board and Batten Siding?
Installing board and batten siding is relatively simple, inexpensive, and can be installed by one person. Here we will discuss the standard methods the pros use to install board and batten siding, and the tools required. Board and batten siding is often installed into the gables of homes, meaning ladders are often required. Those DIYers comfortable with power tools, safety gear, and ladders should be able to install board and batten siding successfully.
Common Tools Required to Install Board and Batten Siding:
- Circular Saw or Miter Saw
- Tape Measure
- Hammer (or pneumatic nailer)
- Carpenter’s Square
- Chalk Line
- Safety Gear (eye/ear protection, fall protection, etc.)
Step 1. Measure and Mark the Wall
To begin, you’ll need to know how much material you will need. The professionals do this by measuring the area and dividing that number by the area of the material being used. For example, board and batten siding is very common on ranch style homes with gable ends. A gable end is the area over the uppermost floor between the gutters and the ridge and forms a triangle.
Fortunately, you won’t need sophisticated math to determine how much material you will need. Simply measure the width of the home and multiply it by the distance from the uppermost floor ceiling to the ridge and divide by two.
For example, if the home is 36’ wide and the distance from the uppermost ceiling to the ridge is 12’, the area would be 432 square feet. When we divide by two, we determine that we will need approximately 216 square feet of board and batten siding.
Step 2. Measure and Calculate the Angle (if required)
You will need a level and a carpenter’s square for this step if the siding will be installed in a gable. To calculate the pitch, simply hold the level along the bottom of the carpenter’s square and hold it level against the roof angle.
Set the lower end of the square on 12” anywhere along the edge and pivot the square upward until it is level. Now read the vertical part of the level where it meets the roof. To illustrate, if the number is 4 you have a 4/12 pitch, so you will cut your board and batten siding to this angle.
If your installation will not require any angles, simply multiply the width by the height to establish a surface area. For example, if the wall is 36’ wide and 8’ tall, you will need about 288 square feet of siding. You will want to round up this measurement by about 10% to allow for trimming and scraps.
Step 3. Install House Wrap and Insulation (if required)
Any siding project should be preceded by house wrap and gap sealing. Spray foam insulation should be used to fill any gaps for cracks that could allow water or air infiltration before installing the house wrap. After the house wrap is installed and sealed, the board and batten siding can be installed.
Step 4. Install the Boards
First, mark and cut the boards to length, based on your earlier measurement. For example, if the wall is 8’ tall, your boards will be 8’ long. To install the boards, you will need a plumb line to go by. At one corner (it doesn’t matter which) make a plumb mark with the level and fasten the first board to the mark with a corrosion resistant fastener, like a galvanized #8 siding nail. Install the next board parallel with the first and repeat the process until the entire area is covered with the boards.
*Pro Tip*Most pros leave a small gap between the boards, up to ½” wide. Doing so reduces the amount of material needed and creates a channel for water to escape should it get behind the siding.
Step 5. Trim Out the Borders
After the boards are installed, the next step is to install battens to the perimeter of the area to form a box. Doing so will result in a cleaner look because the battens will all be on the same plane. The battens are usually about 25% as wide as the boards, but 1 ¼” is typically the minimum width. Before nailing in place, professionals will caulk the area with a high quality exterior grade caulk to prevent blowing wind and rain from getting behind the siding. Next, the battens are attached with corrosion resistant fasteners just as the boards were.
Step 6. Install the Battens
If you are using 8” wide boards, the battens should be about 2” wide and cover the entire joint between the boards. Best practices require a bead of high quality exterior grade caulk parallel to the joint on both sides. After the caulk has been applied, the batten is placed over the joint and secured with corrosion resistant fasteners, checking for plumb each time.
Step 7. Seal the Boards and Battens
Always seal board and batten siding, even if the material is rot resistant. Usually this is done with exterior grade paint, but water sealer will also work if the natural color is meant to show through. In most instances, two coats will be adequate, but if the material is rough (like barn lumber) the surface may require additional coats.
Board and Batten Never Goes Out Of Style
Board and batten siding is common on mansions, starter homes, and nearly everything in between. Board and batten siding can be paired with brick, stone, natural wood, and stucco exteriors to form a weathertight, attractive, and durable exterior. With periodic maintenance, board and batten siding can last a lifetime.