Timber cladding: what to choose

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An increasingly popular choice for both residential homes and businesses, timber cladding is a great alternative to bare brick or rendered finishes. It’s practical and sustainable, with a warm, natural appearance that’s both inviting and secure. Timber cladding suits a variety of buildings and is easy to maintain, standing up to extreme weather and developing in character over time.

With a wide range of options available, the world of timber cladding can be bewildering for those who want to make use of it but don’t know where to start. In this matter, expert advice is invaluable, but so is knowing your own mind and the qualities you require from your cladding. Are you going for a traditional style or something more contemporary? Do you want a knotty, rustic look that comes over as natural and unfussy, or a modern design that is clean, crisp and minimal? 

The beauty of timber cladding is that it can encompass all of these possibilities and is suitable for everything from office exteriors to home upgrades. Knowing what you want, and setting a realistic budget, will allow you to make informed decisions about your choice of wood and treatment. 

Hardwood or softwood?

Timber cladding can be divided into two main categories, hardwood and softwood. Hardwood is more naturally durable and doesn’t necessarily require preservative treatment. However, as a premium choice, it is naturally more expensive. In addition, once-popular tropical hardwoods such as teak and mahogany are endangered and non-sustainable. 

Softwood cladding is less expensive but requires regular painting and staining to maintain its appearance and durability. It’s recommended to add three coats of stain when the timber is first installed and to update regularly. Hardwood cladding should also be oiled when fitted to lengthen its lifespan, and a clear or coloured coating should be applied every few years.

Western Red Cedar

One of the most popular softwood cladding choices, western red cedar is naturally durable and visually impressive, standing out from the crowd with its innate character and beauty. While it does require treatment, it’s extremely easy to work with and has a pleasing texture. It comes in a range of subtle hues. Cedar Sales provide custom cladding and panelling in western red cedar and hemlock for both residential and commercial clients, working with you to meet your needs.

Oak

Oak cladding is naturally durable and aesthetically pleasing, but as a premium hardwood, it is one of the more expensive options out there. However, it requires very little maintenance once installed, though if left untreated, it will develop a silvery patina over time that is not unattractive. Solid, stable and versatile, oak comes in a range of distinctive shades, from dark brown to honey.

Larch

Another popular softwood cladding option is larch, with a knotty, rustic appearance that takes to staining and paint very well. Natural colours range from a rich golden brown to autumnal amber tones. If left untreated, it will weather to a silvery grey, and if properly maintained, it can have a lifespan of up to 50 years.    

Accoya

Accoya timber is actually pine wood that has been chemically modified for durability and resistance to rot and weather. Because it is altered at a molecular level, it is extremely versatile and easy to cut. The process is known as acetylation and involves treatment with acetic acid for enhanced stability. Its warm, attractive appearance and suitability for extreme weather settings make it one of the most popular long-life woods worldwide.

Kebony

Kebony is also modified pine and is used as an alternative to endangered tropical hardwoods, as the eco-friendly process gives it a similar uniform appearance as well as improving durability and stability. Often used as an alternative to Accoya, Kebony timber comes in two grades, character or clear.

Other considerations

Your timber cladding needs to be durable, so check its heartwood durability rating before making a decision. One is the highest rating, meaning the wood is extremely durable; you should look for wood rated one, two or three. Wood choices like spruce, fir and pine need to be treated before use, and remember that the sapwood in all timbers is non-durable, so if this is exposed, the wood will need preservative treatment before use.

Horizontally-mounted boards are generally preferred to vertically mounted ones, as they are more resistant to moisture penetration. If you do go for vertically mounted boards, the overlap should face away from the prevailing wind and you should allow at least 30mm per overlap.

Whatever form of timber cladding you choose; regular care and maintenance will help to extend its lifespan and support its appearance. With proper attention, your timber cladding should continue to provide a solid, attractive façade for decades to come.