Finding the best solution to clad buildings is important for several reasons – as well as defining the look and feel of your design, it also has a major role to play in the safety and longevity of your building. Choosing exterior wood cladding cladding offers many benefits over alternatives, including sustainability, durability, and visual appeal.
With a vast range of cladding options to choose from, this decision can be difficult to make without the right knowledge. That’s why we’ve created this timber cladding guide.
We have identified the key factors to consider when selecting exterior timber cladding materials, walking you through some of the most popular timber species that you can choose between and the features and benefits they offer.
Why use timber cladding at all?
Before we get into the details of what you should consider when choosing wooden cladding, you might be wondering whether timber is the best option for your cladding projects in the first place.
There are a number of considerations to keep in mind when selecting a cladding material, with multiple options that could be right for you depending on your priorities in terms of looks, quality and functionality, including stone, brick, concrete, tiles, PVCu, glass, and metals such as steel and aluminum.
We firmly believe that timber cladding is the way to go though, and here’s why:
Being renewable, recyclable and biodegradable, timber clad buildings offer numerous long-term sustainability benefits over the alternatives. Despite being a natural material, timber offers quite good quality, weather resistance and thermal insulation.
Wood production also boasts lower carbon emissions than options like brick and steel, and this natural material can also help enhance the wellbeing of inhabitants when it is used in abuilding by reducing stress and enhancing concentration.
As sustainability considerations are more important for building and construction sector, timber is increasingly popular choice.
For example, the Snøhetta architects team built the Powerhouse Telemark building to be as energy-efficient as possible, and much of it, including its windows, are covered with Thermory pine boards.
Powerhouse clad with Benchmark by Thermory thermo-pine cladding. Architect: Snøhetta Architects / Photo: Jeanett Teigen
Timber cladding has a timeless style
There is a certain beauty to wood. Simply put, timber-clad buildings look great – and they will never go out of fashion. It is a traditional, high quality cladding option that can be used in very modern ways. Timber cladding works equally well for residential and commercial projects.
There are many creative ways to use timber for your cladding, including using different species, shades or colors to create an accent, laying the panels in an attractive pattern or choosing a distinctive style such as charred timber.
Architects from Contekton Arkitekter Fyrstad AB have mixed Thermory’s Benchmark thermo-ash cladding boards with Shingles for building a schoolhouse in Sweden.
Schoolhouse in Sweden with Benchmark by Thermory thermo-ash and Shingles
It’s safe, durable and easy to use
Timber is has been used for construction for centuries and the quality stands the test of time. As a material that is natural, familiar and lightweight yet strong, timber cladding is easy to install, repair and replace, and presents no unwanted surprises.
Thermally modified cladding is also highly durable, making it a serious alternative to materials that are traditionally considered to be longer-lasting. As the nutrients in wood are modified during thermal modification, there is less risk of insect attack and no chemical treatments are needed.
Timber provides almost limitless customization options, with a vast range of timber species, finishes, colors and profiles on offer.
It’s easy to enhance the look of your cladding boards by applying paint or other protective coatings, and the range of looks you can achieve is virtually endless, with options for vertical or horizontal boards, tiled finishes, or install them in any pattern you can think of.
Another advantage is that timber cladding is flexible in its usage, making it equally suitable for both private homes and commercial buildings.
Timber cladding is readily available and affordable
Compared to other options, timber cladding is often cheaper to buy and easier to get hold of, which is a big part of its popularity. With simple fixing methods, it is also easy to install. This makes timber a suitable option also for self-builders.
Choosing a wood type for your cladding
Birch Le house by Hygge Supply with Kodiak by Thermory thermo-spruce cladding
There are many different species to choose between for your cladding, each with its own features to suit your individual needs and preferences. These species offer different options when it comes to color, hardness, strength and resilience.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the main options:
Ash is a light-colored, versatile hardwood that offers exceptional durability and rot resistance, impressive sustainability credentials and attractive grain that will visually enhance any surface.
Thermally modified ash has a beautiful, deep color, making it a great alternative to tropical hardwood.
There are a number of pine species available for your cladding projects, including Scots pine with its distinctive knots and the relatively knot-free radiata pine. Compared to other similar softwoods, pine offers some of the best rot resistance and durability and as a fast-growing wood, there is usually plenty of supply at affordable prices.
Spruce is ideal as a softwood option that offers strong rot resistance and longevity while also boasting a golden-brown tone and a rustic knotted look. Thermory’s Nordic spruce comes with the Nordic Swan Ecolabel, which certifies that it is chemical-free, durable and sourced from responsibly managed forests.
There are several types of cedar available. This attractive softwood features a relatively straight grain and is ideal for outdoor use as it is resistant to rot and moisture.
A popular species across Europe due to its toughness and visual appeal, oak is often used to make furniture. Because it is resistant to moisture, it is also good in outdoor environments, making it a handy option for timber cladding.
Mahogany is a classy wood that is relatively hard with a deep reddish-brown color and a straight grain. It is less popular these days as it is not as sustainable as some other options, but it is ideal for creating an impressive, stately look for your timber cladding.
Birch is a hardwood that is commonly found in northern Europe. As a fast-growing tree with a hardy timber that resists the elements well, it’s a great choice for outdoor timber cladding boards. Birch also has a unique pale appearance, although the different varieties offer some color variation, with white, yellow and reddish tints to choose between.
Should you opt for thermally modified wood cladding for your project?
Thermal modification is a chemical-free process that enhances the appearance and durability of the timber board and makes it more resistant to rot and insect attack by treating it with heat and steam.
For instance, Thermory’s thermally modified ash offers comparable durability to tropical hardwoods like teak that are often chosen for this feature, but with better dimensional stability due to a reduction in water absorption, a lighter weight, more uniform color and, because many tropical woods are harvested at the expense of endangered rainforest habitats, a production process that is significantly more sustainable.
It’s also worth noting that using thermowood for cladding negates many of the drawbacks often associated with timber cladding, such as being prone to rotting or twisting caused by moisture damage and being vulnerable to infestation from parasites such as mold or bacteria, meaning it doesn’t have to be replaced or maintained anywhere near as often.
In addition, because no chemicals are used in the thermal modification process the timber doesn’t need to be disposed of as hazardous waste when it does eventually come to the end of its lifecycle – instead, the natural material can be repurposed, recycled or composted to give it a new lease of life.
Aging and maintenance of exterior timber cladding boards
As a natural material, timber ages gradually over time whether it has been thermally modified or not. This means that it requires regular maintenance to retain its optimum performance for as long as possible.
Like all timber, the colour of thermowood will change over time, fading to an attractive gray. This process is caused by exposure to rain, wind, and UV light from the sun, the colour of timber cladding may fade unevenly depending on where it is placed.
Residential development in Norway by AART Architects clad with unoiled Benchmark by Thermory thermo-pine.
Some see it as part of the beauty of natural material, however, if preferred, this process can be slowed down by regular treatments such as painting or oiling the surface of the timber– and while standard timber products must be treated in this way every few years, thermal modification makes this interval significantly longer.
If you’re planning a cladding project in the near future, material selection is a really important aspect of finding the right solution, and as you can see there are many factors to consider. By presenting the key benefits of using thermally modified wood for this purpose and comparing the features of different types of timber, we hope this article has helped you in this process.