Understanding timber weatherboards

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Timber weatherboards have been used to clad New Zealand homes for generations. They are a proven weathertight cladding that can offer peace of mind in the wake of our country’s leaky building problems.

The most prevalent timber weatherboard in use today is a finger-jointed, treated and primed product manufactured from radiata pine.

Builders using a good quality product and following basic handling, installation and finishing procedures should ensure a quality job.

To get the best from the product it is important to read the care and instruction detail for the material. All good quality manufacturers place this on each board, and often on packaging as well.

Most building products have a best use protocol from suppliers that assists in product performance. Unfortunately, with the pressure to “get the job done” on many building sites throughout New Zealand often some of the little things get left out. These can make a big difference at the end of the job, especially aesthetically.  Timber weatherboards are no different. 

Few high value products purchased for construction projects are bought on a whim. Some basic homework should be done. Claddings, regardless of substrate, (timber, ply, brick, block, PVC, or cement board) are a critical part of the building envelope. All claddings, irrespective of their make-up, have pros and cons.

I am not going to get into the detail here but it is naive to think one single product is perfect. The fact is, none are.

Timber is a natural product. It is hygroscopic and, in its raw form, will absorb moisture from air. Paint systems help moderate the amount of water absorbed, with the quality, type and quantity of the paint systems applied to timber weatherboards go a long way in determining the quality of the finish.

And remember, not all timber weatherboards are created equal. Manufacturers often offer a “good, better, best” range of alternatives for any given situation and price point.

Timber weatherboards range from a generic standard board right through to factory final colour-applied proprietary systems. Typically, the higher the price the better the quality of the timber that forms the substrate, and the better the durability of the coating system. Be wary of cheaper alternatives. 

For best results, builders should work with their merchant to understand which product will be the most appropriate for the job. In some cases, the hard work may have already been done by the architect, who will specify the product best suited to the build. If not, do some homework. Ask your local merchant rep for advice. If they can’t answer, well, delve deeper.

Good manufacturers should be able to meet builders on site to discuss product variations and explain product performance differences and price points. As a minimum, make a quick phone call to a manufacturer. All reputable manufacturers will have an 0800 number that can be called for free.

One of the key options that should be considered during the purchasing process is that of proprietary weatherboard systems. These systems are a huge advance on traditional generic boards and, typically, have a full component suite (precut scribers, window trims, and facings).

The best systems have complete architectural details, installation guides, specified flashings and nailing plans. They have a higher level of finish, and are often at least as cost effective installed on the wall as the traditional method of buying generic product and adding labour on site.

Some manufacturers, such as Jenkin with the A-lign range, take things even further by offering differing fixing systems and factory-applied top coats to the owner’s colour choice.

Factory-applied top coats cover all external faces of the weatherboard, eliminating any possible visible lap line. Application in a controlled environment maximises quality control, and site work is kept to a minimum with fewer weather-related delays or chances of human error when top coating.

Factory-applied coatings often come with additional product and paint system warranties that can be passed on to the home owner for additional peace of mind.

Radiata pine weatherboards are a very user-friendly and versatile natural cladding product for residential and light commercial buildings.

A small amount of homework pre-purchase, combined with some basic care during construction and finishing, will see a top quality job that builders and home owners alike will be proud of.

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