What is Clapboard Siding?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Clapboard siding is a type of siding made from wedge-shaped boards which are designed to overlap with each other. The individual boards used in the siding are known as clapboards; and the siding itself may also be referred to as bevel, lap, or weatherboard siding in various regions of the world. Many people find this type of siding aesthetically pleasing, and it is associated especially with frame homes built in the American region of New England.

Clapboard siding is made from wedge-shaped boards designed to overlap with each other.
Clapboard siding is made from wedge-shaped boards designed to overlap with each other.

Historically, clapboard siding was made by splitting wooden boards into thin strips which could be nailed onto the side of a home to protect it from the weather. The overlapping design allowed the wood to expand and contract with changing weather, and it encouraged rain and snow to run off the side of the structure, rather than penetrating it and causing damage. The word “clapboard” comes from the Dutch klappen, which means “to split.”

When the siding is applied, it is layered like shingles, with the thin side of each clapboard lying under the thick edge of the clapboard on top. Clapboards may be left unfinished, or they may be painted, depending on personal taste, and a wide variety of woods have been used to make clapboard siding historically. Red cedar has been a popular choice for centuries, because it is naturally weather and pest resistant, but other soft and hard woods can be used as well.

Due to the growing scarcity of wood and concerns about the ethics of using wood in construction, clapboards today may be made from metal, various plastics, and fiber cement, rather than wood. In fact, in some areas, the use of wood for clapboard siding is banned. Many of these materials are actually more durable than wood, making them a better choice for weather protection, and once they are painted, it is hard to distinguish them from traditional wooden clapboard siding.

Repairing clapboard siding can be time consuming, because of the way it is initially applied. For this reason, people tend to stay on top of their clapboard maintenance, painting their clapboards regularly and promptly removing boards which show signs of rot and damage. Removing and replacing clapboards requires a skilled hand, as the goal is to remove the damaged clapboard without breaking or damaging the surrounding clapboards.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


Klappen means clapping. Not splitting. Splitting in Dutch is splijten. And it is definitely not banned. Our house is made of clapboard siding from hardy plank. And still till today we are building houses with the same siding


i think i saw that show. the handmade cedar siding Bab is talking about is cedar shake siding. the small shingle looking pieces. that's why it was done by hand. the article above discusses clapboard siding, which is the long, approx. 12' boards.


This article says that "In fact, in some areas, the use of wood for clapboard siding is banned". What areas? Banned by whom?


@ GiraffeEars- THe show said the reason that a machine couldn't do the job is because of the amount of money the clapboard siding sells for, and the imperfections in the wood.

The clapboards are cut from wood that is not suitable for lumber. Bundles of siding are also cheap lumber products with little profit margin. The shingles have to be hand inspected and cuts have to be made while taking knots, rot, and bark into consideration. Laser cutting would be too slow a process for cutting shingles.


@ Babalaas- Why can't a machine do the job of cutting cedar clapboard siding? You would think that a machine would perform such a risky and dangerous job.


I watched a show on how cedar siding is made. It has to be one of the most dangerous jobs in a sawmill. The person running the saw cuts pieces of wood about an inch thick off a wood block. The pieces are then trimmed, and cut at a bias. The boards are sliced by hand across a band saw. The cutter ends up running his fingers within a half inch of the band saw blade, over and over again. One wrong move and the cutter will end up with a few fewer fingers. Cutting shingles is one job that I would not do.

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