Boards, Battens, and Bevels: Wood Board Siding Types and Their Uses

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By Kate Reggev / Published by Dwell
Wood siding is one of the most prevalent and beneficial building materials on the market—not to mention its vast varieties that are available today.

Because wood siding has become so commonly utilized in the construction market, various shapes, lengths, finishes, and detailing have been imitated to produce similar cladding materials—including aluminum siding, vinyl siding, and fiber-cement boards.

Boards, Battens, and Bevels: Wood Board Siding Types and Their Uses - Photo 1 of 9 - Historically-inspired wood siding can provide a subtle nod to local traditional architecture, design, and materials.

Historically-inspired wood siding can provide a subtle nod to local traditional architecture, design, and materials.

However, wood siding and its seemingly endless varieties stem from two basic necessities. These include its use as an exterior sheathing material (although it's sometimes used on interiors as well), and the need to create shielded joints between boards—while simultaneously allowing for the wood to shrink and swell as it absorbs and releases moisture into the air. 

Boards, Battens, and Bevels: Wood Board Siding Types and Their Uses - Photo 2 of 9 - Clapboard siding prevents wind and rain from entering a building by overlapping the tapered boards.

Clapboard siding prevents wind and rain from entering a building by overlapping the tapered boards.

These two requirements have lead to the development of several ways to join separate boards together—each joint method providing a distinct aesthetic appeal.

Boards, Battens, and Bevels: Wood Board Siding Types and Their Uses - Photo 3 of 9 - Individual wood shingles produce a different visual effect compared to board-and-batten, lap, or other types of wood siding.

Individual wood shingles produce a different visual effect compared to board-and-batten, lap, or other types of wood siding.

One of the most common traditional wood siding types is board-and-batten siding, which uses wide planks that are spaced apart with narrower boards (called battens) that cover each joint. The boards can be oriented horizontally or vertically, and can also be reversed so that the wider boards cover the joints of the narrower boards. The result of both arrangements is an exterior sheathing with regular, measured changes in depth and shadow patterns.

Boards, Battens, and Bevels: Wood Board Siding Types and Their Uses - Photo 4 of 9 - The typical arrangement of board-and-batten siding (here, in painted white pine) consists of wider boards with narrower battens covering the joints.

The typical arrangement of board-and-batten siding (here, in painted white pine) consists of wider boards with narrower battens covering the joints.

Other types of wood siding joints often have more subtle or virtually hidden joints, like tongue-and-groove siding and shiplap siding—where the long edges of the wood planks interlock with those of their neighbors. 

Boards, Battens, and Bevels: Wood Board Siding Types and Their Uses - Photo 5 of 9 - Tongue-and-groove wood siding will often create a smooth surface, because the interlocking edges are hidden. Without the shadow lines from other types of siding, this house employed varying widths of a cedar siding to create a subtle pattern.

Tongue-and-groove wood siding will often create a smooth surface, because the interlocking edges are hidden. Without the shadow lines from other types of siding, this house employed varying widths of a cedar siding to create a subtle pattern.

The long edges of wood boards might also be detailed or finished with a specific edge like a beveled edge, indented channel, or cove to emphasize the joint between boards. This is particularly common with beadboard siding.

Boards, Battens, and Bevels: Wood Board Siding Types and Their Uses - Photo 6 of 9 - Indented channels of the oak overhang contrast with the smooth surface of the horizontal planes of the house.

Indented channels of the oak overhang contrast with the smooth surface of the horizontal planes of the house.

Shingles are another type of popular wood siding, and are comprised of individual rectangular pieces of wood that are about 16 inches long. They’re thin and tapered to allow for overlapping in order to keep out the elements, but are small enough to be easily installed by a single person. 

Boards, Battens, and Bevels: Wood Board Siding Types and Their Uses - Photo 7 of 9 - Even the typical 16-inch-long rectangular western cedar shingles can be manipulated to play with pattern and texture.

Even the typical 16-inch-long rectangular western cedar shingles can be manipulated to play with pattern and texture.

One of the most distinctive characteristics of wood shingles is the wide variety of "fancy-cut" wood shingles that vary in shape. While rectangular shingles are the norm, fish scale, cover, V-cut, octagonal, and arrow patterns are available and were especially popular in the Victorian era on Queen Anne-style buildings.

Boards, Battens, and Bevels: Wood Board Siding Types and Their Uses - Photo 8 of 9 - "Fancy cut" shingles are less common but equally effective in protecting interiors from the elements.

"Fancy cut" shingles are less common but equally effective in protecting interiors from the elements.

Finally, traditional clapboard siding is a mixture of elongated boards of other types of wood siding, and tapered profiles of overlapping wood shingles. Like individual shingles, the layering of the clapboards produces deep horizontal shadow lines, and the long wood planks emphasize this.

Boards, Battens, and Bevels: Wood Board Siding Types and Their Uses - Photo 9 of 9 - Horizontal clapboard siding in an off-white hue is contrasted with a darker gray standing seam-metal roof with vertically-oriented seams.

Horizontal clapboard siding in an off-white hue is contrasted with a darker gray standing seam-metal roof with vertically-oriented seams.

If installed and well-cared for, wood siding of all types, shapes, and sizes can be one of the most durable and appealing building materials. Do you have any favorite wood siding details or types? Let us know in the comments!