Timber Cladding Guide

Stylish And Creative

Timber cladding is making quite an impression on both new build properties and renovation projects

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Are you a fan of television shows such as Grand Designs? One of the most popular features of programs like this is helping homeowners add more kerb appeal to their property. There are a variety of ways to do this and one of the best is certainly cladding. 

Cladding is a way to add another level to the aesthetic of your property. While there are numerous different types of cladding, timber is becoming more popular and is now used by architects across the globe. 

This is likely due to the beauty of the material. The high level of sustainability and the practical benefits of increased insulation. You can use timber on both commercial properties as well as private homes. Many buyers find that timber cladding ensures that their home stands out from the rest of the street. Yet in a way that fits with the design of the home. 

Timber cladding is produced by developing strips of hard or softwood timber. These long strips are then affixed to the property. They can be used in the interior or on the exterior and laid in any direction. 

The most popular choice will be horizontal but you can choose vertical or diagonal as well. You can cover every wall of your home or only in certain areas, depending on your style preference.

So, what else do you need to know about timber cladding before you invest in this possibility? 

A large timber clad house with triple glazed windows set against a blue skyA large timber clad house with triple glazed windows set against a blue skyA large timber clad house with triple glazed windows set against a blue skyA large timber clad house with triple glazed windows set against a blue sky

This house uses both horizontal and vertical timber cladding techniques

Types Of Cladding

Generally speaking, you will find that softwood is also comparatively cheaper when explored directly against hardwood products

There are two main types of timber cladding that you can consider. These are softwood cladding or hardwood cladding. A common misconception is that the names here apply to the hardness or density of the wood used. 

This isn’t true. Instead, it refers to the tree and how it reproduces. Certain trees produce different types of seeds and this is the main variation between hard and softwood.

Hardwood trees are referred to as angiosperm and the seeds have a covering, coating or shell. Softwood tree seeds have no covering and are thus completely exposed to any elements. These are referred to as gymnosperms. 

Softwood

Softwood differs aesthetically compared to hardwood. It is a lighter shade and is often a golden brown. As the name suggests, it does provide a softer surface material but is also remarkably strong and surprisingly lightweight too.

It covers roughly 80% of all timber available on the market and provides numerous practical benefits. As well as being light which makes it easy to work with, it absorbs preservatives and finishes far more easily than hardwood. It’s even more sustainable and can be quite resistant to everything from bacteria to termites or moisture.

Generally speaking, you will find that softwood is also comparatively cheaper when explored directly against hardwood products. 

Hardwood

Hardwood has a slower growth rate to softwood and this is largely due to the complex structure. Aesthetically, it is a far darker shade however it does require maintenance. If this is not completed, then you will notice the colour will fade to a grey silver shade. 

There are a variety of different popular hardwoods on the market right now including Sweet Chestnut and European Oak.

Cladding Profiles

As well as choosing whether you want hardwood or softwood, you need to think about the cladding profile. There are three main cladding profiles to consider. These are:

  • Tongue and Groove

  • Feather-Edging

  • Shiplap

Tongue and groove is widely favoured and provides you with a fantastic level of protection from water damage. The joints interlock which also means that this offers great levels of insulation and a strong structure too. 

Feather-edging has an angular cut so this is ideal if you are completing horizontal cladding. It’s quite versatile and available in a variety of lengths or widths. As such, it’s perfect if you want to completely customise the design of your cladding. 

Shiplap is quite similar to tongue and groove. It offers the same type of protection against rainfall and will reduce issues with moisture build up. This will only be effective if you install it horizontally. 

A modern timber clad house with a balcony and many windowsA modern timber clad house with a balcony and many windowsA modern timber clad house with a balcony and many windowsA modern timber clad house with a balcony and many windows

Timber cladding adds extra energy efficiency to a property

Types Of Timber Available For Cladding

There are numerous different types of timber that you can choose for your cladding. Be aware that the type you choose will impact the final aesthetic, the practical benefits, the level of durability and even the cost. Here are some of the best and most popular choices on the market right now. 

Thermo wood

As the name suggests, thermo wood is thermally modified softwood. Woods such as pine are heated at a high temperature to get rid of resin and moisture. The timber can also be injected with chemicals to provide the absolute highest level of durability. 

This is seen as a great advantage compared with tropical woods that deteriorate faster. While not as dense as Siberian Larch, it’s far denser than the luxury Cedar option. Since it has been modified it is less likely to move or shrink. 

Furthermore, the wood becomes far more resistant to water which means that a lower level of maintenance will be required. This wood provides a rich, dark, aesthetic that offers a classic design for any home. 

Siberian Larch

Larch is another softwood but unlike most options in this category won’t require a high level of maintenance. As such, it provides similar practical benefits to hardwoods. The wood is more durable because of where it grows in colder climates. 

Since the wood grows slowly, you won’t have issues with any imperfections either and buyers often love the look of this wood. It has a soft, hazel shade that provides a warm design to your property. You’ll find a variety of different shades including a pale yellow to a light straw colour. 

Through the elements, the wood will lose this colour eventually transform into a silver grey. However, it will withstand the test of time and with regular maintenance last around four decades. It is also denser than most hardwoods.

European Redwood

This wood is brought to the UK from Scandinavia, and is popular for both external as well as internal cladding. Similar to Siberian Larch it provides a yellow shade that gives your home a natural glow.

It provides a quality level of protection against fungal decay and rot as long as it is installed correctly. Be aware that how well this wood holds up will depend on the growth factors including soil, climate and elevation. 

This wood is also commonly known as Scots Pine when purchased or advertised on the market.

European Oak

Another European option would be oak. This is a hardwood and is classified as durable according to BS EN 350-2. As such, you don’t need to worry about completing any treatment before you install it. 

This is ideal for a rustic finish that provides your home with a rural look and it does offer fantastic value for money, compared to some of the more expensive choices. Do be aware however that when dry it can shrink up to 7%. 

So, you do need to fix this as quickly as possible once it has been purchased. This one is also prone to both stains and leaks in the early weeks. As such, stainless steel fixings are an absolute must. Although quite expensive, it will last up to sixty years and is one of the heavier woods on the market.

Western Red Cedar

If you’re looking for the most popular cladding choice for external use in the UK right now, this is the one for you. This softwood is definitely one of the most expensive options on the market and provides up to sixty years of life before it needs to be replaced. 

Stainless steel fixings are again required and you need to make sure you fit these in areas where severe damage is not likely to be an issue. Be aware that while British Western Cedar may be cheaper it’s not as durable. So, you won’t be getting the same benefits if you try and cut the cost here.

Sweet Chestnut

You can purchase this option with FSC certification and it does not need to be treated before you install it. So, right away you’ll be cutting down on costs. That said, you do need to be aware that there’s a fast growth cycle with about 20-25 years to mature. 

So, while this does make it more sustainable it also means that imperfections are more likely. It will also stain if it is wet and leeches tannin. Comparatively, it’s one of the cheaper options on the market and it does absorb paint to ensure that it still looks completely natural.

A timber clad house extension using vertical planksA timber clad house extension using vertical planksA timber clad house extension using vertical planksA timber clad house extension using vertical planks

Highlight a new extension to your home with cladding

Installation Requirements

Avoid issues with curling and warping of timber that has been freshly cut, make sure that you are cladding your home anywhere between October and April

When

Do make sure that you are installing your cladding the right way. Did you know that the time when you install your cladding can have an impact on whether it provides the solution that you want? For instance, you should never install cladding before or in the middle of a heatwave. 

The temperatures and humidity will play havoc with the material and cause the property of the wood to change.

If you want to avoid issues with curling and warping of timber that has been freshly cut. Make sure that you are cladding your home anywhere between October and April. Basically, the important factor to remember here is that this is not a summer job! 

That said, you can complete the planning for your cladding through the Summer Season. By doing this, you can make sure that you’re going to be ready to get started as soon as Autumn comes around.

For best results, timber cladding should always be completed by a professional. However, we can provide you with information on how cladding will typically be fitted to a property. Cladding is attached to the backing structure battens of an area and each panel must be fitted individually. 

How To Install

Make sure that you are using high-quality fasteners to fix the cladding to the surface area. Most products will require stainless steel grade fixings to ensure a high-quality finish. You may want to consider using annular ring shank nails and a flat head while avoiding lost or small head fixings. 

Fixings should sit without a difference of height on the surface of the board while you should make sure that the nails are added by hand. By doing this, you can avoid issues with splitting or any visible damage. 

There are two different types of fixing that you can use. 

  • Secret fix profiles will allow you to use just one fixing through the bevel line and are suitable for any profile with a width up to 100 mm.

  • Face Fix involves fixing nails to the thickest part of the cladding while each board is fitted separately. This is suitable for profiles over 100 mm.

You need to think about the structure of the wall that you are adding your timber cladding to as well. This will ensure that you are handling the issue of water vapour effectively and allows you to guarantee it doesn’t affect your timber cladding. 

For an external wall, you will need to attach battens first and then add the cladding onto the battens. Do you have a timber frame wall? If so, then you need to attach battens onto the studs before fitting the cladding. 

You’ll also need to make sure that you add a breather membrane for airflow. If you have a cavity wall, the battens need to be attached with a plug and screw before fitting the cladding.

Do make sure that you are thinking about the different features of the wall you are working on. This includes windows, corners and doors. Taking this into account will be vital for ensuring that you do get a quality finish that looks great. This is something that you need to discuss with your contractor. 

Make sure that each individual feature is being approached the right way. This once again is important for practical reasons too. It ensures that water and dirt don’t build up around these areas. Do make sure that you are caulking gaps around windows and doors to avoid issues here.

Be aware that certain mistakes can create issues during the installation process. An example of this would certainly be installing cladding over wet sheathing. If you do this, then it may not provide the quality and level of durability that you had hoped for. If the material is wet, you must wait for it to dry before you add the cladding. 

You may wish to clad a curved surface. If this is the case, then do make sure that you think about using vertical boards rather than horizontal. These can be bent cold and then fixed into position with both glue and screws. You should make sure that the design reduces the level of water runoff that collects in cavities because this can cause extensive damage. 

Is Planning Required?

Generally, the cladding will not require you to seek out permission however, there are some exceptions

You might be worried that you need to gain planning permission to make this type of change to your property. Generally, speaking though, the cladding will not require you to seek out permission however, there are some exceptions. 

This includes if you live in a National Park, an area of Conservation, an area of Outstanding National Beauty or even the Broads. If any of these are true, then you will need to make sure that you gain planning permission before you complete work.

Be aware this is true for any cladding material you may choose, rather than just timber. If you find that your timber needs repairing, improving or you feel a new layer should be added, the same rule applies. 

It is possible that the contract you agreed to when you purchased the home restrict the aesthetic changes you can make to the exterior. This is usually the case if you are buying the property in a planned development or a similar area. If this applies, then you may need to gain permission from the local council before you make the change. 

Remember, one of the issues here is whether the cladding used is flame retardant. While you may not be required to gain planning permission. It’s possible that you will need to ensure that the cladding used is up to the necessary build standards. Your contractor should provide all the information you need here and prepare the cladding before it is installed. 

A new build house with architectural panels and vertical timber claddingA new build house with architectural panels and vertical timber claddingA new build house with architectural panels and vertical timber claddingA new build house with architectural panels and vertical timber cladding

Cladding can add contrast to more contemporary features

Pros

Using this wood on your home can even help eliminate some of the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and in the future, it is fully recyclable

There is a multitude of advantages of using timber as cladding for your home or property. We can start by exploring the aesthetic advantages. 

First, be aware that timber is a natural material. As such, it will not look out of place as part of your home. Instead, it can elevate the existing features and complement the shades or colours that are already present as part of your design. 

Both the colour and the grain of this material provides an aesthetic beauty sure to impress you, neighbours, anyone passing by and potential buyers.

Timber also provides a chance for buyers to be creative. Available in a variety of finishes, textures and styles which ensures that your timber cladding won’t look the same as another house on your street. You can customise it to suit your individual style preferences. This wide variety also ensures that you don’t need to worry about timber cladding not fitting your budget. 

Are you worried about how this cladding choice will age? Timber cladding is simply to redecorate and rejuvenate whenever the need may arise. Finishes can be easily added for more protection or to alter the appearance and it is easy to repair. We will explore maintenance further down. 

Timber cladding is also lightweight but does not let the mass fool you. This is a strong material that provides a high level of support for any home. 

When installing the product, you will also be delighted to find that this is a rapid process. A dry installation means the external wall can be fitted more rapidly while no heavy masonry on the outer wall lowers the price for the foundations. 

Timber cladding may even be produced with a breather membrane as well as insulative qualities. 

Do you want a greener home? This material provides environmental benefits too. First, this is a renewable product and is available with source certification schemes which guarantee sustainability. Using this wood on your home can even help eliminate some of the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and in the future, it is fully recyclable. 

So, essentially, with this product, you will also lower your carbon footprint. It even takes less energy to produce when compared to any other construction material available on the market. 

Cons

According to most resources, you should be aiming to repaint at least every three years

Despite the many advantages of timber cladding, there are a few weaknesses that you should be aware of. For instance, there is a significant fire risk with this product. When installed correctly, timber cladding is sealed and or painted but this does not completely eliminate the risk. 

The material is still flammable. That can impact the premium for insuring your property so it is a factor to consider when weighing the costs of this product.

As well as this, one must think about maintenance. Timber cladding is easy to maintain. However, it does need to be-be regularly renovated. This means that you need to make sure that you are painting or staining it on a regular basis. It will ensure that it looks beautiful and lasts a long time. According to most resources, you should be aiming to repaint at least every three years. 

While timber will last for a long time, ultimately the level of wear and tear you see will depend on the elements. While there are ways to protect the material, over time you may notice cracks begin to develop. Depending on the extent of the damage, repairing your timber cladding can be quite costly. 

A tall narrow timber clad building with single windowA tall narrow timber clad building with single windowA tall narrow timber clad building with single windowA tall narrow timber clad building with single window

Vertical timber cladding can emphasise the height of a building

Costs

You might find that a larger project will provide a lower cost per metre squared compared to a smaller job

It is difficult to directly state how much your timber cladding is going to cost. This depends on the type of cladding you choose. As well as the size of the area that you want to cover. The average cost of cladding in the UK is £56 per square metre. Be aware, this is based on brick cladding and covers everything including labour as well as the material. 

Timber cladding is significantly cheaper with the average cost coming in at around £50 per square metre. Do make sure that you add about 5-10% to whatever quote is provided. This accounts for wastage and cutting. You also need to know that it will often include softwood featheredge boarding which will add about £15 more onto the cost per square metre. 

Certain materials such as western red cedar are more popular and cost more money to install. Cedar costs about five times what you will pay for softwood that is untreated. In the long term though, you could be saving quite a lot. Cedar will last about sixty years with the right low level of maintenance while softwood will deteriorate over the first decade.

The total labour cost for timber cladding will be about £27 per square metre. 

There are a variety of other factors that impact cost too. For instance, you might find that a larger project will provide a lower cost per metre squared compared to a smaller job. Particularly, if the smaller job in question requires more detail and elaborate work. Certain cladding will also require a finish to be completed before the product is installed. This is another issue that can add more to the overall cost. 

Make sure you ask your contractor about these possibilities. They should advise you on whether the price quoted covers all potential additional costs. This is important when managing your budget. 

Maintenance

Cladding should be treated before you fit it. It should be UV and water resistant while allowing the wood to breathe

There are a plethora of different options you can consider when you care to explore how to maintain your timber cladding. One of the more popular options is heat protection. Heating cladding dates back to the Viking era when the warriors used burnt wood rather than wooden poles. 

It wasn’t until the 1990s, that this was implemented as a way to maintain the exterior of a property. Heating the wood changes the properties of the material, ensuring that it provides a higher level of stability and durability. Furthermore, it guarantees that the wood does not shrink or expand, depending on the outside temperature.

As already mentioned it is possible to repaint the cladding regularly. This provides aesthetic advantages as well. With this option, you can remove the grain from the wood and create a smoother, cleaner surface. You may wish to avoid paint because it does tend to bubble. 

Virtually every type of timber cladding will be exposed to direct sunlight. You need to make sure that that you take steps to prevent damage here. UV rays will change the appearance and colour of the wood leaving you with a remarkably different material to the one that you purchased. UV protectant can be used to prevent sun damage and should be utilised once every couple of years. 

Be aware that the protective system you use will determine the level of durability for your cladding. For instance, with an opaque finish, you can ensure that your cladding needs to be repaired far less frequently. However, this will impact the aesthetic of the exterior material. In contrast, translucent finishes maintain the natural look of the timber cladding. 

If you do not use a form of protective treatment, you will quickly notice a difference in the appearance of your cladding. Maintaining cladding at this point will become more time consuming and costly. 

Be aware that it is important to ensure that the cladding is sealed the correct way for the best possible effects. Failure to seal the exposed end grain will result in in-service moisture ingress. This can cause mould to start to grown, the material to become stained and ultimately substrate failure. 

There are a few basic elements of maintenance. First, cladding should be treated before you fit it. It should be UV and water resistant while allowing the wood to breathe. 

There is a range of different protection options for cladding. Sioo Wood Protect is one of the best. It provides UV protection, keeps your cladding free from mould and protects it from rot for a decade. It will cost you about £1000 for just 50 square metres of timber cladding. More budget friendly choices include Dulux Trade, Sadolin and Osmo. 

Looking up at a timber clad building against the skylineLooking up at a timber clad building against the skylineLooking up at a timber clad building against the skylineLooking up at a timber clad building against the skyline

What will be your choice of timber for your cladding?

Mistakes To Avoid

Be aware certain types of wood oils provide easier levels of maintenance because you don’t need to sand off the old finish

There a few mistakes that you should avoid to ensure that your cladding lasts longer and looks great. For instance, you do want to make sure that you avoid cladding North or East facing sides of your property. 

This will help reduce levels of moisture. Where your home is located will impact how much you need to maintain your cladding. Both dirt and pollution in urban areas will cause your cladding to lose the natural colour faster.

Do set a maintenance schedule too based on the level of sunlight, rain and wind the cladding will be exposed too. Maintenance can be anything between every two and five years. 

Be aware certain types of wood oils provide easier levels of maintenance because you don’t need to sand off the old finish. Instead, you can simply re-apply it. 

Make sure that you are also finding an expert solution to complete your timber cladding and install it on your home. 

Are You Ready To Get Started?

Remember, while certain timber cladding options are more expensive they can also last for years with incredibly low levels of maintenance

Now that you have explored a guide to timber cladding, you should have a good idea of whether this is the right choice for your property. With countless benefits and a more affordable solution compared with other cladding materials, this could be the perfect fit for a wide variety of homeowners. 

If you’re ready to begin, do make sure that you take into account the costs of cladding. You must ensure your plans fit your available budget. We recommend seeking out a few quotes before settling on a final carpenter to complete the work. 

Make sure that you have a firm idea of what you want to achieve, how you want your cladding to look and how much maintenance you’re willing to take on. Remember, while certain timber cladding options are more expensive they can also last for years with incredibly low levels of maintenance and still look fantastic.