How to Install Board and Batten Siding

By Amanda Lutz Updated May 13, 2024

For homeowners who love home renovation projects, installing board and batten siding is a simple way to improve curb appeal, increase resale value, and protect your home’s exterior for years. If your home’s current siding is developing cracks or wearing through, consider refreshing it with these beautiful, richly colored panels.

In this guide, we’ll review the benefits of board and batten siding, the tools you’ll need for installation, and step-by-step instructions to complete the project.


What Is Board and Batten Siding?

Board and batten siding is composed of thin vertical strips of wood molding, or battens, positioned over the seams of panel boards. This design is common in farmhouses, coastal cottages, and craftsman-style homes and is preferred for its straight lines, dramatic texture, and cohesiveness with virtually any home style.

Board and batten-style siding was first used in northern Europe as a strong and durable barrier against cold weather and strong winds. During the 1800s, the style became increasingly popular in the United States, where it found a place in rustic farmhouses and coastal homes.

Here are some benefits of board and batten siding:


Board and Batten Siding Materials

Manufacturers use a wide range of materials to construct board and batten siding. Four of the most popular material options are fiber cement, metal, vinyl, and wood. Compare the advantages and disadvantages of each material below before making your selection.

Fiber Cement

Fiber cement siding is an incredibly strong and stiff material made of Portland cement, cellulose fibers, and a few chemical binding agents. The end product is water-resistant and can withstand high winds and extreme temperatures. Fiber cement is also fireproof and resistant to common pests, such as ants, beetles, and birds.

However, fiber cement board and batten siding have some drawbacks. It’s heavy and requires a more complex installation than other siding materials. It’s also more expensive than vinyl board and batten siding.

Metal

Sheet metal board and batten siding are versatile, easy to install, and can last decades. Because it’s made from coated or painted metal, it requires very little maintenance throughout the years and is resistant to fire, pests, and moisture. Metal siding can also be painted or powder-coated to comply with homeowners association (HOA) regulations and fit your unique style.

However, metal siding is less common than the other materials, so finding an installer who specializes in it can be hard. Metal siding boards also can’t be repainted, so you can’t change your mind about the color once you make your initial selection.

Vinyl

Vinyl is one of the most popular siding materials available. It’s extremely cost-effective and is resistant to rot, insect damage, and the elements. It comes in many colors, and its lightweight design makes it simple to install.

However, board and batten vinyl siding may not be the right choice for people who live in areas that experience heavy rain, hail, and strong winds. These elements can make the material crack over time. Additionally, vinyl siding is smooth and can’t be printed or pressed with the textural elements of wood grain, unlike fiber cement.

Wood

Wood is the original material used for board and batten siding. With proper maintenance, natural wood siding can last up to 25 years and can be repainted or stained in any color.

However, wood siding can warp, attract wood-eating insects, and start to rot if the protective finish chips away, requiring a lot of maintenance and attention. We recommend installing wood siding only if you have the budget or time to take care of it.


Safety Precautions When Installing Board and Batten Siding

Homeowners with intermediate or advanced levels of do-it-yourself (DIY) experience can install their own siding, and performing this project on your own can help you save hundreds of dollars on labor and material costs. However, there are some potential dangers when installing your own siding.

Take these safety precautions before starting your project:

If you feel unsafe or uncomfortable before or during installation, we recommend hiring a siding contractor to complete the job.


Tools for Board and Batten Siding Installation

Gather the necessary tools and materials before you begin your siding installation project. Here are some materials you’ll need during installation:


How to Install Board and Batten Siding

Installing board and batten siding is a multiday DIY project. Set aside plenty of time for selecting the materials, waiting for their arrival, and the installation process itself. Follow these installation tips and steps to complete the process.

Step 1: Plan Out Your Siding Installation Project

Before you get started, order your siding material. Carefully review your budget and the advantages and drawbacks of each siding option. If you’re unsure which siding material to choose, we recommend steel siding since this type of board and batten is easy to install and can be done quickly by a general contractor.

Once you choose a siding material, measure the surface area of your home’s exterior and order the materials based on your square foot requirements. We recommend ordering approximately 10% of the extra material for mistakes and cut lengths.

After your siding arrives, allow it to acclimate to your climate by storing it in your garage or shed. This is especially important for wood siding, as it can expand or contract based on the elements.

Step 2: Remove the Old Siding

When the weather is clear, remove the current siding around your home. Start from the top panels to the bottom and then the corner strip. This is the reverse order of how most siding is installed, so it’s the easiest way to remove the panels with minimal damage.

Once you’ve removed the old material, check the wall cavities and exterior insulation for signs of rot, pest infestations, or other damage. If you notice any of these issues, hire a contractor to address them before beginning installation.

Step 3: Prepare the Exterior Surface

Install a moisture barrier between the insulation and studs and the new siding. This plastic sheeting prevents moisture from reaching the insulation and structural components of the exterior walls. Pull the sheeting taut against the walls to install it, and fasten it with a staple gun or adhesive. Make sure the seams overlap, and seal the seams with caulk.

Once the moisture barrier is in place, use that surface to mark where the boards should go. Using your level, measuring tape, and a marker or pencil, mark the lines where each new board of siding will be installed. This creates a clear pattern that simplifies placing and installing the boards.

Step 4: Install the Siding Boards

This step will vary slightly depending on your siding board material. For example, wooden boards can be nailed into place. If you have separate wide and narrow boards, install the wide boards first with a slight gap, then nail the thin siding boards in place to cover the gap. On the other hand, fiber cement and vinyl boards are made into a single piece and have a narrow board that acts as a connected attachment.

To install the siding boards, start at a corner of an exterior wall. Position the first board in place, ensuring it’s upright and straight. Nail it at the top and bottom, and check to ensure the board is level before moving on to the next board.

As you install the boards, ensure there’s an appropriate amount of overlap to prevent gaps. Zip the vinyl siding edges together using a specialty vinyl siding board tool. Once the boards along the body of the wall are in place, install the corner pieces and window trim. Generally, these pieces will sit slightly on top of the main panels rather than be flush with them.

Step 5: Finish and Seal the Boards

Some siding materials, such as vinyl, don’t require sealing. With the materials that do, apply a thin bead of caulk along the exposed edges of the siding boards and seal the edges around windows, doors, and vents. If you’re using wooden siding, paint or stain the boards to seal the nails and any raw edges to mitigate pest infestations or potential rot.


When to Call a Professional to Install Board & Batten Siding

While handling your own siding project is possible, it’s not always ideal. If you don’t feel comfortable handling the project alone, or if you don’t have several days to set aside for the work, then you can call in a professional to install the siding for you.

You can also hire a professional for a portion of the home improvement work. For example, you can remove the current siding yourself, save on the demo and cleanup costs, and hire a contractor to complete the installation. Additionally, a contractor can help install siding in hard-to-reach areas, such as along tall walls or under a gable roof.


Our Recommendation

Board and batten siding is a beautiful, timeless choice for new siding, especially if you love a modern farmhouse aesthetic. You can install board and batten siding yourself or hire a siding contractor to complete the project. We recommend assessing your comfort level as a DIYer before getting started.


Board and Batten Siding Installation FAQ

What is the best way to install board and batten siding?

The best way to install board and batten siding is by ensuring the underlying frames, insulation, and moisture barrier are in good shape. Then, prep the area by measuring and marking the pattern for your boards.

What goes under board and batten siding?

Insulation and a moisture barrier go under board and batten siding. You can also install blocking on the house frame to give you a surface for nailing the boards in place.

Do you nail or screw board and batten siding?

You can nail or screw board and batten siding in place based on the manufacturer’s instructions. Nails are a common choice for wood siding, while screws are the more popular choice for vinyl, metal, and fiber cement, as these materials require predrilled holes in the siding.

Does board and batten need to hit studs?

Board and batten needs to hit studs as a general best practice. However, many installers add blocking wood or plywood behind the siding as an alternative surface for nailing boards into place.

Can plywood be used for board and batten siding?

Plywood can be used for installing board and batten siding. Install the plywood against the exterior frame and use it as sheathing to nail the siding in place. However, plywood should generally not be used as the siding material itself.