Most wooden siding is installed as horizontal planks, but board and batten siding is installed with the planks vertically oriented. Board and batten siding gives a home a rustic appearance; the reason it gives a rustic appearance is probably because it is used traditionally for barn exteriors, and is sometimes called Barn Board and Batten, also Board and Batt. It looks particularly good on ranch style houses, at least to me.
You know what a board is, but might be wondering what a batten is. A batten is a thin strip of wood used for different construction purposes, like in roofing where they are used to provide the fixing point for roofing sheet or roof tiles, and in cabinetry, to cover joints or make panels stronger. In siding, they are attached in between the boards, which are spaced about ½ inch apart, in order to cover the gap. The battens are designed to allow for the expansion and contraction of the boards, so they are not nailed to the boards, but to the furring strips.
Board and Batten Construction
The boards, which can be supplied as surface matched boards, pattern matched boards, and square edged boards, are nailed to horizontal blocking or furring strips. There is a small space between the wall and the siding boards, due to the furring strips, and insulation can be added there. Be sure to use a vapour barrier over the insulation so moisture collecting on the walls or siding will not penetrate it. This type of siding doesn’t do the most effective job of keeping out wind and cold air, so it is better to use horizontal wooden siding or some other material if you live in a colder climate.
There are no set widths for battens or boards; different combinations are used for various effects, depending on the size of the building. I’ve seen it used on storage sheds with 6 inch boards, but usually 8-10 inches for the boards and 3 inch wide battens works well. For an unfinished rustic look, cedar is top choice, having good decay and moisture resistance; knotty pine boards are also used. Fir or spruce siding boards are typically painted, giving a smooth look.
Board and batten siding should be inspected for damage every few years; battens can split and dry rot if not properly sealed or painted, and this will affect the insulating capability of your exterior wall. Wood boards can also attract woodpeckers, so check for knot holes that have been dislodged and other bird damage. Exposed or rusty nails should be countersunk below the wood surface and the hole filled with wood putty to prevent staining.
In addition, you will need to repaint the siding completely every seven years, or apply new weather seal or stain every 3 to 5 years. If you really want the look of Board and Batten but don’t want the hassle of the maintenance and upkeep involved, then you can purchase vinyl siding panels with a faux board and batten profile molded in, such as that manufactured by CertainTeed, Mitten and others.
There is also an alternate form of board and batten called reverse board and batten or batten and board, where the battens are attached first and the boards go on the outside; this gives the appearance of an indented channel or groove between the boards.
Yet another form of board and batten siding is an imitation siding used on less expensive buildings, in which large vertical plywood or composite sheeting is applied, over which vertical battens are nailed over the joints and at intervals between.
Photo by molajen, Creative Commons Attribution License