With a bit of thoughtful design, this simple style of siding can create elegant exteriors.
There was a time when I despised board-and-batten siding. I suspect that’s because growing up in the suburbs of Long Island, it was among several types of vertical siding I saw applied to raised ranches in an apparent attempt to draw attention away from their awkward horizontal proportions. It worked–sometimes. But it took me a long time to stop blaming the siding for the sins of the style.
I’m seeing a lot more board-and-batten these days, but this time around, I’m loving it. Not only have I come to appreciate its honest, rural roots, but I’m seeing a new generation of builders and architects applying this form of siding to homes of all kinds of styles in ways that work.
If you need a visual, board-and-batten siding consists of wide boards spaced slightly apart, with the spaces covered by thinner strips of wood (the battens). A variant, reverse board-and-batten, places the thin strips behind the wider boards. Either way, the pattern created by the alternating boards adds a distinctive vertical element to the architecture.
Because the battens are intended to be nailed to the studs, the spacing of a home’s framing can influence the board-and-batten pattern. Architect Matthew Swett, whose project is among those featured here, points out that this can trip up the aesthetics. Spacing battens 16 in. apart (the customary distance between studs) looks a bit wide to him. He believes that battens look better placed about 12 in. apart, but that method requires blocking or other, less optimal workarounds.
Commonly associated with rural farm buildings, board-and-batten is a natural for farmhouses and backyard sheds (we’ve even seen it used recently on this charming doghouse). But maybe that’s also why it’s such a perfect foil for more contemporary designs. Judging from what we see here at Fine Homebuilding, the simple siding is finding new favor among plenty of builders and architects as a thoroughly modern material.
What’s interesting is that it’s a revival of sorts. Utility sheds aside, board-and-batten on houses had a heyday back in the 19th century, before the Civil War. At the time, enthusiasts such as architect Andrew Jackson Downing championed the vertical battens as an expression of the framing beneath it. Board-and-batten was a popular choice for Carpenter-Gothic homes, and you could argue that it enjoyed new celebrity in the “Stick” style of late Victorian times. Inside the house, we can see the pattern mimicked in the vertical flat-panel wainscot that’s typical of Craftsman homes–another style enjoying renewed popularity today.
Some more great examples of board-and-batten done well