If you’re tired of brick, stucco, and vinyl siding, a board and batten exterior might be the perfect fix.

By Lauren Phillips
Updated March 14, 2019
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Courtesy of Ashton Woods

If you can’t rattle off a list of exterior siding options for homes from memory, board and batten siding might not mean much to you. You might recognize it as a home exterior option that’s not brick, stucco, or vinyl siding that sometimes catches your eye, but you might not have known the name for it. That’s all right, but it’s time to get familiar with board and batten, because you’re about to see it everywhere.

Board and batten is a siding or paneling style that pairs vertical planks of wood (the boards) with smaller strips of wood (the batten), which cover the joints between each plank to prevent leaking. According to Jay Kallos, senior vice president of architecture at homebuilder Ashton Woods, the style probably originated with barns and other outhouses, where it was a practical, relatively easy exterior cladding solution for structures that didn’t need to be particularly elegant or ready to impress visitors.

Today, with developments in siding materials and an increasing focus on more casual, relaxed lifestyles, “it’s kind of the perfect storm for board and batten,” Kallos says.

For a while, masonry—think stone, brick, and stucco exteriors—were widely used because wood siding can rot, crack, and otherwise require a good bit of maintenance. Vinyl siding was also a popular alternative to board and batten and other wood cladding. But board and batten materials from companies such as James Hardie are made with a composite material that looks and feels like real wood without the risk of rotting, according to Kallos. Composites have allowed horizontal siding—yes, including shiplap—to be used more often, and now vertical siding like board and batten is on its way to having a moment in the spotlight.

“Now we can get board and batten and put it proudly on the facades of some of our houses and create the character, the shadow lines, and the authenticity that comes with the vertical cladding element,” Kallos says.

Courtesy of Ashton Woods

Courtesy of Ashton Woods

The vertical element of board and batten gives homes added texture. It plays with shadow, which allows homes’ appearances to shift with the sun over the course of the day. And it’s comfortable and familiar, with a nostalgic bend—like that of the farmhouse kitchen—that reminds us of less complicated times. With the modern farmhouse and rustic-chic looks still going strong, it’s no surprise that board and batten is being used more and more, though this siding look isn’t limited to farmhouse or rustic homes. In fact, it’s surprisingly versatile.

Kallos has seen board and batten used indoors on ceilings, as wainscoting, and as a wall covering in unfinished basements. Outdoors, if covering a whole house in board and batten siding isn’t an option, it can be added in accents as shutters or as a contrasting element for porches.

“Board and batten typically has that casual vibe, but if you put the shutters and hinges on there, it elevates that,” Kallos says. “It’s still rooted in this casual living, but it’s a little more elevated. I don’t think there are hard and fast rules—shutters, no shutters, trim around the windows. When you layer all those different bits and pieces together in a unique way, you get a different outcome.”

Beyond the additions (or exclusions) of shutters and trim, board and batten can also vary widely in color, which means there are even more opportunities to create a personalized look. White—on brick, lap siding, or another exterior material—is incredibly popular for exteriors right now, and Kallos considers white board and batten siding to be the classic look, but the siding can be any color—gray, red, almost black, whatever.

“The great thing with board and batten is that it doesn’t need to be white,” he says. “And, if it’s white today, next year you can change it, and it’ll change the entire composition of the house.”

Unlike painted brick houses, painting board and batten siding isn’t a one-and-done deal. The paint can be updated, changed, and redone with relative frequency to suit changing trends in exterior paint colors. And, with composite materials, maintenance is easy.

“The beauty of partners of ours like James Hardie making the product that looks like wood without the concern of rotting is that maintaining board and batten siding now is much easier than it has been in the past,” Kallos says. “The paint bonds to it much better than wood. And if you’re in an area where you’re getting mildew or mold, it’s super easy to pressure-wash it. It’s very, very durable.”

Courtesy of Ashton Woods

Courtesy of Ashton Woods

Sold on the board and batten look? Bringing it home might be easier than you think.

Swapping in board and batten shutters is a simple way to do it, but you can also completely swap out your home’s exterior for board and batten siding with a little expert help and some patience. Kallos admits that his specialty is new builds, but he says adding a board and batten exterior can revitalize and bring new life to a house with vinyl or stucco cladding. (Consult with a contractor and the HOA, if you have one, to see if it’s an option for your home.)

Board and batten siding has plenty going for it, but it certainly won’t appeal to everyone. If you love the trend, though, now’s the time to try it—its popularity is probably only going up from here. Act fast, and you can be the first house on the block to rock the look.