Board and Batten!?! What is this Jargon?!?

This month’s jargon term is, “board and batten” or “board-and-batten,” depending on whether you’re using the term as an adjective or noun; for the record, hyphenate when using the term as an adjective. Every now and then, this type of exterior siding many be called, “barn siding,” because many barns across North America are constructed with this.

The actual definition of “board and batten” from my handy-dandy Guide to Vermont Architecture is this, “Exterior siding of flush wide, vertical planks with narrow wooden strips (battens) covering the joints.”

Historically, board and batten would refer to siding built of wood but given today’s building material options, this siding can be made of plastic, metal, or even fiberglass. Board-and-batten siding can be seen on informal styled architecture, think country homes, churches, and/or barns. During the Victorian era it would have been seen as an architectural feature on Carpenter Gothic homes.

So, board-and-batten siding has an interesting back story. Basically, people built in this style because of a lack of materials plus it helps create a stronger and more energy efficient wall. You’re probably wondering what the hell I’m talking about…

Imagine yourself, a recent arrival to the New World. There’s extensive, old growth forests that you’re not familiar with; England really doesn’t have forests like this anymore. You are also in desperate need of a shelter for yourself and family. Cutting down trees and building a log house would be the easiest and quick; you only have axes and saws and there are no saw mills yet built. The log house is easy to build, for the most part, the issue is that the felled tress do no exactly fit together, so there are gaps that you and your family fill in with moss, leaves, sticks, and mud. It mostly does the job…but there’s still a cold draft during the winter. By the way, you’re not the only family that needs to build a quick home plus there’s also an extreme logging occurring in the New World with lumber being shipped back to Europe. The forests are slowly depleted but houses still need to be built because of the increasing numbers of colonists. Eventually a town is built up around where you and your family settled and a saw mill in constructed. Because of the lack of trees and a new sawmill, newer settlers are building there houses out of planks and strips of wood. Out of one felled log, a lot of planks can be planed, meaning it is most cost effective. The seams between vertical standing planks can easily be covered with narrow wood strips (batten), keeping the cold out during the winter.

For an actual visual of a log home located in Northern New York, check out this link: http://www.watertowndailytimes.com/article/20110108/DCO01/301089932. The article is about an actual log cabin that was reconstructed to represent the home of the first settler in Parishville, Luke Brown and his family. In the photos accompanying the article, you can see the space in between the stacked logs.

Check out the following images to see buildings constructed with board-and-batten siding. There are no spaces in between planks!

Centennial
This patriotic home is one of the many summer cottages located in Thousand Island Park on Wellesley Island in the 1000 Islands Region. The battens are painted red while the boards are white. The home was constructed in 1876. The cottage is an example of Eastlake wood detailing, stick style elements, and I would call it Carpenter Gothic.
The Ol' Station
This is a convenient store located in Blue Mountain Lake in the Adirondacks. This photo was taken way back in 2015 on the way home from a Dave Matthews concert in Saratoga Springs. As of this post, the store might be permanently closed…but hopefully the building is still there and maybe a new tenant is in the building.

Buildings from Upper Canada Village:

Blacksmith and Wheelwright
This is a building seen at Upper Canada Village. The living history museum consists of a number of buildings that have been moved from around Canada to form this village showing what life would have been like in the 1800’s. This building combines board and batten on the upper story with squared log siding on the first floor. There are a number of buildings with this combination of siding at Upper Canada Village.
Union Cheese Shop
This is another building at Upper Canada Village. The cheese shop shows 19th century techniques and uses period equipment to produce cheese that can be purchased at the Village’s store.
Masonic Lodge
This is the Masonic Lodge at Upper Canada Village. It is a 1863 building that was moved to the Village in 2008 from the Village of Kars in south-west Ottawa. The building is constructed on board and batten.

Hallstatt, Austria:

A Building in Hallstatt
This is a building located in Hallstatt, Austria. Hallstatt is located in Upper Austria and is on the western shore of Hallstatter See (lake). The village and surrounding area is a World Heritage Site because of it’s wonderful history and culture. I’m not very sure about the history of the building or it’s current use. I assume it might be an inn along with being someone’s permanent residence.
Another Hallstatt Building
This building is also located in Hallstatt, Austria. It looks like it could be a barn but I have a feeling it might be another house. Hallstatt is part of Salzkammergut, in the eastern Alps. The village has a very rich history spanning all the way back to the Iron Age because of the salt mines. The town suffered from massive fire in 1750 that destroyed most of the wooden buildings. The center of the town is all in Baroque style, while buildings away from the center like this and the other building are wooden with board-and-batten siding.
Batten Door
This is a door I saw while walking around Hallstatt. It is considered a batten door, most likely on the other side of the door are some kind of planks holding the battens in place to be a door.

Let me know in the comments if you have any questions or have any board-and-batten sided buildings in your neighborhood!

Thanks for reading!

Further Reading and Resources:

1) An article about Board and Batten- a brief history, how it is currently used in architecture, etc. :   http://circaoldhouses.com/circa-school-board-batten/

2) A nice little history lesson on the siding: 

http://www.all-about-siding.com/board-and-batten-history.html

3) Another great article on what board-and-batten siding is:

https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-board-and-batten-177663

4) Like always, my handy dandy resource for architectural jargon is: 

“The Historical Architecture of Vermont: Guide to Vermont Architecture,” Curtis B. Johnson, editor and Elsa Gilbertson, Principal Author, published by: the Vermont Division for Historic Preservation, 1996.

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