A Little Board and Batten History

Have you ever wondered why they call it board and batten.  Want to impress your friends? Continue Read below.


When the colonist first came to America, trees grew everywhere and they were very plentiful, so everyone just cut down a bunch of trees and built their house, or as they called them log cabins.

As more and more people came, they needed to build more and more houses. So they just cut down more and more trees.




It took a lot of trees to build a single cabin. It was not very efficient.  Trees come in many different sizes, so when you cut them down and stack the logs on top of each other, they didn't fit together very tightly and would allow the cold winter winds to blow between the cracks. 

Early homeowner's had to stuff 'mud' in the cracks between the logs to keep harsh winter winds from coming in.




As more and more colonists came, people begin to build sawmills.  Then they would cut down a tree and saw it into many long strips of wood about an inch thick, called boards or planks. These wooden planks or boards were about 12 inches or more wide and an inch or so thick and could be 25 feet or longer.  Great stuff for building houses with.


Now, instead of using whole trees to build houses with they would first build a frame, and then they would nail the long narrow boards onto the frame, completely covering the outside of the house. The whole house was completely covered in long wooden boards.  Nailing long strips of wood onto the frame of the house made the home very weather tight and would kept the cold winter winds and rains from blowing through the cracks.  


When people would nail the long wooden boards up and down or vertically that was called 'board and batten'. Where the boards fit together, they would nail a small wooded strip of wood  a couple inches wide, called a 'batten' over the cracks to make it air tight. Hence the name 'board and batten'.  It was used by farmers all across the U.S. to build their barns for generations and is still sometimes called 'Barn Siding".


Board and batten or vertical siding was already popular in Europe in places like England, Norway and Sweden. So the colonists were familiar with this type of building already readily adopted the style.


This weather tight way of building houses that protected against the harsh winter winds became the most popular style of home siding.  And they could build more houses using fewer trees! The colonists were the original 'Green' builders.


Clapboard is style of siding where the long boards are nailed horizontally, or from end to end. Clapboard was also very popular and was sometimes called 'ship-lap' because it looked like the side of an old sailing ship.


These two styles became the most popular methods of building homes for generations. If you built your house out of wood, this was what you used.  So began the first house siding 'styles'



Board and Batten History 101

Board and batten is one of the older types of siding used on houses, especially in Europe.  When early settlers came from Europe to America and started to build houses, trees were plentiful so they cut down trees to make log cabins.

As more and more people came, they needed more and more houses built, so they would cut down trees and saw them into long planks. Each tree produced many long planks. They used these long wooden planks to cover their houses. 

When they started to build two story buildings, it was convenient to cut big trees down and saw them into long, 20'-25' wooden planks. The long wooden planks were long enough to run from the bottom of the house to the top of the second story.  And since these planks were 12" wide or wider, they covered a lot of wall space with a few planks.  An efficient use of wood and it saved a lot of trees. 

Since farmers are very good as being efficient, they would cut down the trees on their farms to clear the land for their crops.  Then they would saw the trees or logs,  into long planks and use them to build two and three story barns. 



Note how the framing goes from top to bottom, one long framing board. This type of framing is called 'Balloon Framing'.

Once the frame was built, they used the long wooden planks, 10 to 12 inches wide, to cover the frame.

They could nail each wooden plank from the bottom of the house all the way up to the top of the house with one long board. When they had nailed all the long vertical planks onto the house, they would come back and nail a small two or three inch strip of wood called a 'batten' where the planks came together.

This made the siding very weather proof.  Keeping out the harsh winter winds and driving rains and made the barns and houses much warmer in the winter.

Farmers used this type of construction to make barns all over the county. They could cut out forest areas so they could plant the crops, and then use the cut trees to saw into long framing and siding planks.  This was so common on farms that the style became known as 'Barn Siding'.



Then they would then use the long planks or boards to completely cover the outside of the house. Where the boards came together there would be a small crack between the two boards. A small strip of wood about 2 or 3 inches wide called a 'batten' would then be nailed over the crack or seam to make it weather tight. Hence the name Board and Batten.

It was when early settlers started to build two and three story houses that this type of siding became so popular.


Back to Board and Batten Siding. 

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As more and more people needed homes, the settlers began to take the logs and saw them into long planks or boards. They could get many long boards out of each tree. They could cut down a 30-40 ft tree and saw it into many very long boards.

They would use the long wooden boards to build a frame, sometime two or more stories high.  This is called Balloon Style Framing and was common up into the 1900's.

If you live in a two story home that was built in the early 1920's, it is most likely to have this type of construction.


Since trees were so plentiful when they cut down a tall tree, they cut very long planks. They used these long 25+ feet planks to build frames that were two and three stories high.

This method of construction was very common and used all over the U.S. for many years. Even though the framing method is different today, the board and batten siding style is still very popular and used on a wide variety of home styles.

Common Woods used for Board and Batten


Cedar; Colonist used Cedar for their first choice because of the rich texture of the grain, and it's resistance to rot and water problems. Cedar is a strong wood that does not split easily, grows tall and straight and each tree could be cut into many very long, very wide planks. Today Cedar wood is expensive and requires frequent maintenance, but still at the top in popularity.

Redwood: Redwood is an excellent choice for board and batten siding. It has a rich texture and beautiful color hues. Redwood resists warping, has little shrinkage and requires less maintenance than other woods. It is also insect resistant.

Redwood is expensive and hard to find outside western states. 

Pine: Pine is the most common wood used today for board and batten siding. It is plentiful, fairly inexpensive and can be found throughout the U.S. Since Pine is a softwood it is prone to splitting, warping and must be painted often to protect it from harsh weather.

Vinyl: Vinyl board and batten recreates the board and batten style siding with strong vinyl panels that look exactly like real wood. Vinyl siding comes in every possible color, texture and style. It is affordable, covers most existing home exteriors, and can be installed very quickly.

Vinyl board and batten siding never needs painting, will never rot and termites won't eat it. Just wash it down a couple times a year and your house will look like brand new for decades.

Some homeowners try to do it themselves but we recommend that you always hire a quality licensed contractor.  Someone that installs siding every day can do a much better job than someone who has never done siding before.

Vinyl Board and Batten siding is one of the most popular material used today.

There are other materials that deserve looking into. Concrete board or Hardie Board is a strong alternative to both wood and vinyl sidings.

Submitted by Joe Wright Tampa Fl. 




Sumitted by Old Contractor Dan, Pinellas Park Fl.