Our most ambitious, but most rewarding DIY project to date, we’re so excited to finally share all of the nitty gritty details behind our DIY board and batten siding on our backyard home office! We actually tackled this project during the very beginning of the pandemic back in May 2020, when my parents were stuck out here in Arizona and we were all in a little quarantine pod together, dreaming up crazy outdoor projects that would simultaneously occupy our time and help us get some fresh air. So basically, we squeezed a ton of manual labor out of my poor parents… in the 100 degree May heat… and will henceforth be repaying them by way of any and all manual labor at their house until the end of time. So there’s that. Thanks, Mom & Dad Miller! But not only are we sharing all of the DIY details behind this project, we’re also noting all of the (many) lessons learned along the way so you can (relatively) easily and (relatively) affordably install your own beautiful DIY board and batten siding on your own projects, if the mood strikes. I think this project would be so perfect and easy to execute for a smaller structure like a shed, playhouse, chicken coop, etc. So charming!
OUR OFFICE EXTERIOR BEFORE
The most important concept that you should take on board (pun absolutely intended) before you start this project is that installing the board and batten siding on your home is a game of layers. Plan & attack the layers of this project/your siding carefully and appropriately, and it’ll feel relatively straight forward and manageable both mentally and physically during the process. Don’t plan and attack your layers in the right order and it’s sure to be a wild ride full of frustration.
OUR OFFICE EXTERIOR AFTER
The other important note that I think is helpful to ponder before you dive into a DIY board and batten siding project if you so choose is the “look” you want to achieve with your board and batten, which is entirely a matter of personal preference and a delightfully intentional design choice that can really enhance the overall cohesion and style of your home’s exterior. And when I say “look” I mean the width of your battens (the skinny strips of wood that go over your wider boards) paired with the amount of space you put between those battens. We wanted to match the rest of the board and batten siding that’s found in various locations around the exterior of our home, so we chose to do skinnier, 1.5” battens and space them about 11” apart all the way around, which airs on the closer side of spacing. I think using slightly skinnier battens and spacing them closer together gives your siding a really charming, slightly cottage feel, which I love. That said, you can also do wider battens (I’ve seen 4” battens and they look wonderful) that are spaced farther apart (16” would be a great option here) for a more contemporary/transitional look and feel to your siding. It’s just one of those seemingly irrelevant design decisions that I think if approached intentionally, can really enhance the look and feel of the exterior of your home!
Now let’s get down to the deets of this DIY board and batten siding project! Not only did we want this project to be easy to execute for our four person strong ragtag crew, but we didn’t want it to break the bank, either. Now of course, material costs have gone up since we tackled this project, and even though this was a little bit of an investment because we had to purchase all of the materials to cover the whole exterior of the office, we saved where we could. For example, we decided to use the more economical pine plywood sheets for our “boards” which obviously aren’t true “boards” at all, but we created the look of boards simply by adding the battens. Cool, right?! And by using big pine plywood sheets instead of true boards, we not only saved money, but made less work for ourselves. Win win! If budget weren’t a factor in your project, it would be really fun to use slightly more pricey materials like Hardie Trim board products for your boards and battens (we only used their product for the skirt on this project), which have a beautifully clean look and would look just about perfect for a long, long time. Again, for a small structure like this, we didn’t feel like we needed that, but if you were doing the entire exterior of your home, this could be a great material choice, if budget allows!
Supplies: DIY Board & Batten Siding
14″x8″x1/2″ ACX Pine Plywood (our “boards – we used 18 of these)
1″x2″x8″ #2 SP S1S2E (our battens – we used 48 of these)
1″x3″x8″ #2 SP S1S2E (our trim – we used 25 of these)
5.50”x12”x3/4” 4/4 Smooth Nt3 HardieTrim (our skirt – we used 6 of these)
Nails – 2 different sizes. Shorter ones for wood, longer ones for HardieBoard
Moisture Barrier of choice
HardieBlade (to cut HardieBoard skirt)
Rafter Square (for most of your measurements and straight edges)
How To: DIY Board & Batten Siding
Step 1: Demo
Tools We Used: Crowbars, Hammers, Gloves & a Magnet
There’s no way around demo for this project if you’re replacing any kind of old siding like we did, but with a little patience and some good old fashioned elbow grease, it’s absolutely, 100% workable even if you don’t have a team of muscle behind you. The first thing we had to do for our DIY board and batten siding project was remove all of the old, damaged and rotted board and batten from the entire exterior of the structure to get us down to a clean slate. To do that we used crow bars to pry the boards & battens away from the structure, hammers to help pop the nails out, then finished the job by using our (gloved) hands to pull any remaining boards and battens free from the structure completely. Once we had all of the siding off of the structure, we used a magnet to pick up all of the old rusty nails that fell to the ground so that they wouldn’t become hazardous to either us or our pup. Old rusty nails on the ground are no good.
Step 2: Insulation & Underlayment
What We Ordered: R-30 Unfaced Fiberglass Insulation Roll & Moisture Barrier
Tools We Used: Heavy Duty Gloves, Staple Gun
Luckily (and kind of surprisingly) the insulation and moisture barrier/waterproof wrap beneath our old board and batten was all in relatively good shape, so all we needed to do was patch the areas that needed new insulation and moisture barrier. Which was pretty easy peasy and self explanatory. Now if this were the exterior of your home/main living space, maybe you’d spend the time and money replacing the moisture barrier completely. But for this particular project/space, we didn’t think it was necessary.
Step 3: Plywood
What We Ordered: 18 pieces of 4x8x1/2” ACX Pine Plywood
Tools We Used: Nail Gun, Nails
We used large ACX Plywood sheets instead of what was previously applied to the exterior of the structure, which was traditional 1×10 wood boards, which is of course where the name “board and batten” comes from. Here’s why we used ACX Plywood instead of traditional board: this type of plywood is made of high-grade ‘A-type’ plywood on one side and a lower-grade ‘C-type’ on the other, and the two sides are attached by using a weather-resistant glue. ACX plywood is extremely strong and weather-resistant. The ‘X’ in ‘ACX’ refers to that waterproof glue that makes this type of wood less prone to damage from adverse weather conditions like rain. Other advantages of this type of plywood include its lightweight nature, the fact that it comes in large sizes, and its aesthetically pleasing look that makes it virtually indistinguishable from real solid wood, especially when you add battens on top. So basically, it’s perfect for exterior projects like this because it’s lightweight and easier to handle in a DIY application for a ragtag crew like ours and it requires less work overall because you’re attaching less boards to your structure than if you were using traditional 1×10 wood boards. All good things!
After demo, attaching your plywood sheets is the first task you’ll tackle and a relatively straightforward task at that. You’ll need to attach your plywood sheets to your structure using your nail gun wherever you have studs. Now if you’re seeing that you need a little extra width from your plywood sheets in order to reach your studs, you can always scooch a plywood sheet to the very edge of the stud (just leave enough room for the nail to get purchase) because you’ll be covering that seam with your battens eventually, so it doesn’t matter if there’s a little gap between plywood sheets that shows a little bit of the stud underneath. Basically, the edges of your plywood sheets don’t need to touch if you need that extra width because you won’t see that seam once the battens are on. Just make sure you’re attaching each edge of your plywood sheet to a stud using several nails up and down the edge of your plywood so it’s completely secure. Though this is a relatively easy step, it will probably require two people because the plywood sheets are big and tough to move around and hold/nail in place with just one person.
Step 4: Skirt
What We Ordered: 6 pieces of 5.50”x12”x3/4” 4/4 Smooth Nt3 HardieTrim
Tools We Used: Nail Gun, Nails, Mitre Saw, HardieBlade
Man oh man do I love the product we used for the skirt/trim on the bottom of the office. It’s awesome! This concrete board doesn’t rot and is tough enough to withstand pretty much any element, which is why it’s such a genius product to use as a skirt/base trim on a project like this. This protects the bottom of your structure from the elements (i.e. moisture) and keeps pests from settling in underneath your structure. And yes, we found several rodent carcasses under the office during the demo phase of this project because there wasn’t any kind of skirt/trim on the bottom of the structure previously, and it was pretty nasty. The concrete board is also slightly flexible so it’s easy to manipulate when you’re installing it and attaching it to your structure. Just be sure not to bend it too much or it will eventually break and crumble if you push it too far.
Once you’ve finished attaching all of your plywood sheets, you’re going to attach your concrete board skirt all the way around the bottom of your structure . Since the material is some seriously heavy duty stuff, you’ll also want to attach these to the studs by using a longer nail and a nail gun with enough pressure to accommodate. You’ll need more power to get through this concrete board and get maximum purchase into the stud with your nail. To trim our concrete boards to size to fit our structure, we used our mitre saw with a HardieBlade to get a clean cut. You can also apparently use a regular old diamond blade, but supposedly it sends even more dust into the air when cutting. But in general, wear a respirator mask when cutting this concrete board because it still sends quite a bit of particulate into the air. Once you’ve cut your boards to size to fit around the bottom of your structure, simply begin attaching using your nail gun, making sure that you’re measuring properly along the way, especially when you overlap the boards while attaching them to each other at the corners. Easy as that!
Step 5: Trim
What We Ordered: 25 pieces of 1x3x8 #2 SP S1S2E
Tools We Used: Nail Gun, Nails, Mitre Saw, Tape Measure, Triangle, Pencil
To be clear, when I’m talking about trim, I’m talking about the following.
- Trim all around the top of the structure. Much like the skirt, we trimmed out the top of the structure, which also served the dual purpose of covering up some old, unsightly gaps up at the top of our structure.
- Trim on all four corners of the structure. Though it may look like it from the pictures, we did not use our battens on the corners of the office, we used slightly wider trim that matched the rest of the trim listed here.
- Around the windows.
- Around the doors.
This is another moment where you’re going to want to think about your layers, or the order in which you attach this trim in different locations around your structure. Do what makes the most sense for your particular project. For us, that meant first attaching the trim all around the top of the structure, then the four corners, then the windows and doors. Why? It makes it so much easier to get accurate measurements in every single location you’re attaching the trim. For example, once we attached the trim around the top the office, we could easily measure the distance between our concrete board skirt and our trim around the top to accurately cut each of our corner trim pieces, which may be up to a 1/4 inch difference in length in each spot, so you can’t just measure for one and cut all of your corner trim pieces the same length. Make sense? You’ll see that this same concept applies to your battens as well.
Step 6: Battens
What We Ordered: 48 pieces of 1x2x8 #2 SP S1S2E
Tools We Used: Nail Gun, Nails, Mitre Saw, Tape Measure, Triangle, Pencil
Attaching the battens is the really fun part of a DIY board and batten siding project. The most satisfying part of this job, in my opinion! My mom and I couldn’t wait to get to the bats because once you get in a groove with these bad boys, you really start to see the project take shape. And the lifting/physical aspect of attaching the bats is much less demanding than attaching your plywood sheets or your concrete board skirt, so it’s easier to tackle solo and doubly so as a team.
First, know that you need to measure the space between the trim at the top of your structure and the bottom of your structure in the exact spot you’re attaching each batten, especially with an old structure like this that we know isn’t plum all the way around. The length of each batten may be ever-so-slightly different in each spot, so measure then cut each batten to fit each space.
Then you’ll start your batten installation by attaching a bat over each seam between your plywood sheets. No matter what, a bat has to cover those seams, and that’s mostly going to be where your studs are, so this is the most logical place to start with your bats.
To attach the bat, start by driving one nail into the top and one nail into the bottom. Then take your hands to the center of your bat, straighten it by pulling left or right ever so slightly, check your line with a small level, and drive a nail into the middle of your bat once you have it in place. By securing your bat at the top and bottom first, it allows you to move the bat ever so slightly in the middle to make sure it’s straight/level all the way up and down, and once you drive that center nail, you can drive more nails up and down your bat, adjusting it ever so slightly along the way to make sure it’s straight.
Once you’ve covered the seams between plywood sheets on one wall, you’re go to attach more battens section by section. So start at one end of your wall, measure the center point between two bats (or between one batten and your corner trim) and attach a batten there. Then measure the center point between the section on the left of that bat you just attached and then the section on the right of that bat and attach bats in those two places. Now you’re done with that section!
If you’re working with an old, existing structure that’s not all perfectly plum or has some oddities as far as door placement and the like go, you may find that not all of your bats are exactly the same distance apart. It’s just the nature of it and that’s ok! Remember, unless they’re a weirdo no one will be inspecting your bat spacing with a magnifying glass and a tape measure and judging you for a lack of perfection, so the idea is to just make sure they look as evenly spaced as possible to the naked eye. This is why going section by section and finding your center points within each section is so important – it helps you maintain a really clean look that gives you the same *general* distance between bats all around your structure. For example… in some sections the spacing between bats was somewhere around 10.5 inches and then in other sections the spacing between bats was around 11.5 inches or so. And though on any other project an inch would make a big difference, you’ll find that here is really doesn’t and it’s more about what looks evenly spaced to the naked eye. There may also be some places where you won’t have a perfect solution and you’ll just have to do the best you can with what you’ve got, and use the math of the space to choose the best placement. For example, the front doors to the office aren’t centered on the front of the structure and never were, and because we didn’t move the door opening (we only replaced the old doors) we had to find a way to make the bats on each side of the door opening look like they had similar spacing, even though they really don’t. I think the bats on the left of the door are more widely spaced than the ones on the right side of the door opening. In the end we did the math, weighed a couple of different configurations/spacing options and just went with what looked best.
I’m of the opinion that details matter when you’re attaching the battens. You can see that in some places, like above and below the doors, we were attaching only a tiny, three inch batten to continue the pattern. Small details like that go a long way in making your project look polished!
Step 7: Install Doors
We installed new pre-hung French doors on the front of the office, which we wrote all about in this post here, and we also refinished the side door and re-worked the trim around that old door, which we talked all about in this post here.
Step 8: Caulk
Caulk all of your seams. Yes ALL of your seams. It’s a lot. Think all of the seams around all of the trim, skirt and battens. We happily passed this responsibility over to our painter after debating, at length, whether we had it in us to tackle this part of the project. Conclusion? We did not.
Step 9: Paint
Again, we debated for a long time whether we needed to suck it up and see the project through this part of the project. In the end, the wimps in us won out and we called in our favorite painter to tackle this job. In the end, I’m glad we did because he, as always, did an awesome job on the caulk and paint.