Guide to Wood Siding

A finished and unfinished wood siding sample.

There is a reason other types of siding such as vinyl and aluminum are often made to resemble wood. The grains in wood provide a natural, rustic look that is both desirable and welcoming. Manufactured siding can't match the beauty and scent of real wood. Not only is it attractive, but wood is also organic, recyclable, renewable, and a natural insulator.

Because it's the most natural siding available, precautions need to be taken to protect against water damage, dry rot and insects. To avoid moisture, wood siding should be installed 6 to 8 inches from the ground. Any dirt that builds up along the bottom of the siding could hold moisture and should be cleared to avoid mold, mildew, and rotting.

Paint and stain can help protect against water damage. To ensure the best protection, wood siding should be painted every 5 to 10 years or stained every 2 to 5 years. Cracks and holes should be repaired to keep out moisture and pests out. Damaged areas may need to be replaced. With proper installation and maintenance, wood siding can last for decades.

Types of wood siding include clapboard, rectangular planking, plywood, shingles, shakes, and hardboard.


Clapboard siding consists of long boards installed horizontally and overlapped. Because they are more resistant to decay, clapboard is most commonly made from Cedar or Redwood, but comes in other types of wood as well. The edges can be beveled or tapered to create a smooth look.

Rectangular Planking

Rectangular planking is similar to clapboard, but it's applied vertically and has a smooth look. The joints are covered with battens, which are narrow strips of wood, to help keep out moisture.


Plywood is popular for its natural look and is most commonly made of Yellow Pine, Douglas Fir and Western Red Cedar. It's usually applied horizontally, but can be applied vertically as well. Moisture causes it to expand and contract at a different rate than the frame it's attached to, which creates warping and can cause the nails to pull out and the siding to fall off. It's also prone to rotting, so it's important to check for moisture damage and paint or stain regularly.

Shingles and Shakes

Shingles are made of Redwood, Cedar, or Cypress. They are machine cut and uniform. Pieces are applied from the bottom up, so each layer overlaps the one below it. Shingles are prone to cracking and warping. They also fade, which creates a rustic look many people enjoy. However, the fading can be uneven and affected by shadows created by landscape and nearby buildings. Paint and stain can help prevent fading.

Shakes are similar to shingles, except they are hand-split and the size is not uniform. Like shingles, shakes are prone to cracking, warping, and fading.


Hardboard, also known as composition board, is manufactured wood siding. Made of compressed wood and weather resistant adhesive, it's lightweight and less expensive than natural wood. Because it's manufactured, hardboard is often treated with EPA approved preservatives, which help resist decay and insect damage. There are also no knotholes, so it's easier to work with.

It's also more prone to moisture than natural wood siding. The moisture can cause it to expand and bow out. Because of this, hardboard is best in dry climates. Paint and stain can help protect it from moisture, but hardboard does not hold chemicals well and needs to be painted or stained more often than other wood siding. Hardboard may be bought pre-primed or pre-finished.

Deciding on the materials used to protect the exterior of your home can be difficult. This guide to wood siding makes it a little easier.

(Looking for other siding ideas? Look at today's siding options.)