Installing Board-and-batten Siding

This project covers installing board-and-batten siding.


True board-and-batten, as shown on these two pages, is made with vertically installed wide boards and narrow battens fastened over the gaps between the boards. In appearance, board-and-batten siding can look rustic or modern, depending on how rough the lumber is and its finish.

Perhaps the most common arrangement uses 1x10 boards and 1x2 or 1x3 batten. You can also use 1x8 or 1x12 boards and 1x4 battens. To seal out moisture, the boards should be in sound condition and free of open knots, and the battens should lap at least 3/4 inch onto the boards on both sides. Cedar is a good lumber choice because it is soft; harder wood, such as pressure-treated pine, will not seal as well and is more likely to crack.

Board-and-batten can be installed onto solid plywood or OSB sheathing. If your sheathing is not solid, you will need to first attach horizontal furring strips.

Prestart Checklist

With a helper, a day for 800 square feet

Hammer or nail gun, miter saw or circular saw, jigsaw, tape measure, chalk line, drill, pry bar, level, caulking gun, utility knife, T-bevel, tin snips, stapler

Measuring, laying out a job, driving nails, cutting with a power saw

Cover the sheathing with building wrap and install trim boards and flashings.

Boards and battens, board for the water table, Z-flashing, stainless-steel or galvanized siding nails, caulk, primer

Step 1

Prepare the walls as you would for other wood sidings by applying building wrap, self-stick flashings at the corners and around windows and doors, and metal flashings as required.

Step 2

All around the house install a 1x6 or wider water table, with its bottom edge 2 inches below the sill plate. Snap level chalk lines to help you keep the water-table boards straight and attach them by driving two or three nails at each stud. If the boards are not long enough to span across a wall, join them with a scarf joint or a simple butt joint. Attach drip cap or Z-flashing over the water table.

Step 3

On each wall measure from the corners to plan a layout that avoids narrow slivers next to doors and windows. Take into account both the width of the boards and the thickness of the gap between boards. For instance, if you are installing 1x10 boards that are 9-3/8 inches wide (measure to be sure because they can vary in width) with a 5/8-inch gap, figure 10 inches for each board.

Step 4

You may rip-cut the first board to achieve the desired layout. Cut the length to fit or to a determined height if you will stack boards on top (Step 7). Place the board on the water table about 1/4 inch shy of the corner, use a level to check that it is plumb, and drive pairs of nails every 16 inches. Place the nails about 2 inches from the sides of the board. The nails should be long enough to poke through the sheathing.

Step 5

Attach the next boards in the same way. Use spacers (5/8-inch plywood is shown here) to maintain fairly consistent gaps. Every third or fourth board, check for plumb and make adjustments as needed. (The battens will cover modest imperfections.) When you meet a window or door siding, cut the board so that it is about 1/4 inch above the trim's drip-cap flashing.

Step 6

Use a T-bevel to capture the angle at a rake end. Wherever possible, cut the angle first, then hold the piece in place and mark the other side for cutting to length.

Step 7

Where boards are not long enough to reach all the way up to an eave or rake, install all the boards at the same height. Cut and install Z-flashing over the boards and install the upper pieces 1/4 inch above the flashing.

Step 8

Install the battens to cover the gaps. Drive nails (which need to be longer than the board nails) through the gaps; avoid driving through the boards. Use a level to make sure the boards are plumb. If a batten is crooked, stretch a string alongside it and force it straight as you nail.

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