What is Wood Cladding?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Wood cladding is an exterior finish for a structure which is made from wood. There are a number of different types of wood cladding available, from engineered wood panels to traditional clapboard siding. Many home supply stores stock wood cladding products and can order specialty products by request, and it is also possible to order materials directly from a manufacturer, or to salvage materials from building sites and structures being torn down.

Man with a drill
Man with a drill

Cladding is also sometimes referred to as the skin or envelope of the building. It's a layer of material which wraps the outside of the building to provide some basic protection from the elements, preventing water intrusion into the structure and adding to the layers of insulation used to keep internal temperatures stable. Cladding also serves an aesthetic function, as it is generally attractive and interesting to look at. Materials used for cladding are usually installed over a membrane such as house wrap or tar paper.

Wood has been used as a cladding material for a very long time. Many cultures have a history of using shingles for siding, and clapboards have also been used as a form of cladding in many regions of the world. In fact, some wood alternatives such as vinyl come in clapboard style designs to reference historic structures. The use of wood has decreased in part because wood costs are rising, and also because many people are concerned about deforestation and overuse of wood products, so would like to use more environmentally friendly choices. Traditional wood cladding also needs regular maintenance and may not last as long as others materials.

Engineered wood products can also be used to make cladding. These products can be made into clapboards or shingles, or used in the form of panels which attach to the structure. These products are sometimes more durable and environmentally friendly. In all cases, the cladding can be finished with paint, stain, and so forth, or left unfinished and allowed to naturally weather.

Another option for wood cladding include cladding products made from recycled wood. Several companies salvage wood from structures being torn down and process it so that it can be used for cladding and other applications. Companies also work with materials like old wine barrels and other wood products which are being discarded, turning the discarded wood into something useful. For people looking for environmentally friendly building options who still want to work with wood, recycled wood cladding is a great option.

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


@jmc88 - Fortunately, I think I can answer most of your questions.

First, clapboard is the typical wood cladding you see on the side of most houses. It's probably no different than what you are calling shingles. A lot of people call them shingles, even though I think shingles are technically on the roof of the house.

As for woods, everything you mentioned is a viable option. You may also be able to find beech in some areas. Redwood and cedar are also beautiful options if they suit the style of your house. Best of all, redwood is rot resistant, which is why it is often used as shingles.

To choose the best option, I would just say to go with what matches the look and feel of your home. Most woods can be stained to give you the exact look you need. Another option is to look at metal cladding, which is often cheaper, but can be manufactured to resemble wood. Good luck in your search.


@Emilski - A tree house sounds like a great way to use old wood. I believe our wood was oak as well.

If you're looking to protect it, you have several options. If you want to keep the original color like we did, I would recommend a simple polyurethane clear coat. Of course, you can always paint the wood with an exterior grade paint.

If the wood is on the inside of the treehouse, it might be a fun idea for everyone in the family to get a section of the wall where they can put whatever colors or designs they want.

It sounds like a great project, let me know how it turns out!


Can someone explain clapboard to me? I've heard the term, but have never really know what it was. Is it any different than shingles?

My other question: what are the best types of wood to use if you are planning to buy wood clad windows? I am familiar with oak, maple, and pine. What are some of the other options, and is there anything in particular I should look for when choosing them?


@kentuckycat - Awesome story. Out of curiosity, do you know what kind of wood the barn was made of? My neighbor has a similar barn that he has been thinking about tearing down. I think his is mostly oak, but I'm not sure.

With your idea in mind, I'm sure he wouldn't mind if I took some of the old wood off of his hands and used it myself as wall cladding in our childrens' tree house. I think it would look great.

Does anyone have any suggestions for how to protect the wood from the weather?


I love that the article mentions being able to recycle wood for use as wood siding or some other covering.

When we moved into our house almost 15 years ago, we had a large barn on the property. A few years later, it started to fall into disrepair, and we decided it would be best to just tear it down. Since most of the exterior wood was still in good shape, we decided to keep it around and use it on a shed we were planning to build in the same area.

Because the barn was very old, the wood had a beautiful aged look, but was still free from rot and any other defects. We cut the pieces down, and used them on the new shed. Once the project was finished, we had a brand new shed that had a great rustic feel, plus we felt good knowing that we were able to save a few trees in the process.

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