In our previous article, we explored four exterior timber cladding options and their role in enhancing a building’s energy efficiency. We touched on the fact the longevity of timber cladding is dependent on professional finishes and installation. This article continues the theme by exploring the pros and cons of different timber finishes. We’ve also included some exterior cladding inspiration!

What are the Timber Cladding Finishing Options?

Timber cladding needs protection, as it is exposed to the elements. Finishes are used to minimise weathering and increase resilience to fire, rot and insects. In addition, the choice of finish can blend the cladding with other building materials and the property’s surroundings.

Finishing options include:

  • Surface Timber Finishes: Paints & Varnishes
  • Permeable Timber Finishes: Stains, Oils & Clear Applications
  • Charred Timber Finishes: Yakisugi

Let’s look at the pros and cons of each.

Paints & Varnishes

PROS – Low cost & style can be updated with re-applications

CONS – Regular reapplication is required to maintain protection and appearance

Paints and varnishes are the lowest-cost options. They form a protective surface layer over the timber. Many exterior paints and varnishes now contain fungicides to protect the wood from rot, mould, algae, fungal growth and insect attack.

Varnish enhances the natural grain, whilst paint coats the wood in colour; it’s a great way to add a creative twist to a property. Exterior paint can give coherence to building developments, especially if extensions or renovations have to blend with existing buildings.

Surface finishes are only advised for smooth, planed timber cladding. They are prone to cracking, peeling and discolouration over time. Therefore, sanding down and reapplication of the finish are required to maintain appearance and protection. Your chosen product will advise on the frequency of reapplication. On the plus side, this provides an opportunity to change colour and update the look!

Stains, Oils and Clear Applications

PROS – Absorb into the wood offering deeper protection and no unsightly peeling or cracking

CONS – Regular top coat is needed to retain protection

Like varnish, stains and oils showcase the natural grain of the timber profile, yet add protection. If desired, they can alter the tone of the wood. Clear applications offer protection with minimal impact on the visual appearance. They include fungicides and/or flame-retardant protection.

Most stains and oils are permeable, meaning they soak into the wood and therefore don’t peel off. Extra applications are recommended periodically to increase the longevity of the exterior cladding. This is because UV light reduces its effectiveness. The good news is that no sanding is required before the top coat is applied to the surface!

Yukisugi: Controlled Timber Charring

PROS – Natural and permanent timber preservation process with a textured or smooth finish

CONS – As a premium, low-maintenance option, this is more expensive

The controlled charring of timber is a traditional Japanese technique to preserve wood. It is called Yakisugi. The flames alter the cells of the wood and encourage the release of natural resins which increase the resilience to moisture, fire and insects. No chemicals are used in the traditional Yakisugi process.

Different techniques can be used to create a textured, burnt timber finish, to enhance the grain definition or to create lighter or tinted timbers. The change to the timber is permanent and there is no need to repeat the process, so maintenance is minimised. Clear applications can be applied over Yakisugi timber cladding if required.

Which is the Best Timber Cladding Finish?

Deciding on the best finish for your timber cladding will depend on weighing up the desired look, project budget, long-term maintenance costs and how it works alongside other building materials.

What is Shou Sugi Ban® Timber Cladding?

Shou Sugi Ban® is a brand of Yakisugi timber which has been developed by us, Exterior Solutions Ltd. Our team have learnt the traditional technique and then developed it to create a range of timber cladding options to suit all architectural styles.

Shou Sugi Ban® is a market-leading building material, specified by architects and building developers and used in new builds and property renovations.

Download the Shou Sugi Ban® catalogue or contact us on 01494 711800. We are happy to offer advice and provide samples and quotes.

Where can I Get Timber Cladding Design Inspiration?

If you are considering timber cladding for your next build project, great examples to inspire your design can be found here: