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!
Buildings from Upper Canada Village:
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:
3) Another great article on what board-and-batten siding is:
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.