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Horizontal Siding Guide

A survey of basic millwork patterns and their installation.
By the OHJ Technical Staff

    Bungalow with horizontal siding

    Drop siding that could finish a wall without sheathing was ideal for temperate climates, making it a favorite for the ubiquitous bungalows of the 20th century. (Photo: Gordon Bock)

    Wood, at one time or another, has been used to make every part of old houses, from foundations and structural framing to roofing and wall cladding. The first settlers that landed in North America brought with them the methods for covering roofs and walls with wood shingles split from short lengths of logs, however, it was the rich supply of tall, straight trees they found here that gave rise to a new and different kind of wood building material: horizontal siding.

    The clapboard and its variants are the original horizontal siding, dating back to the earliest, hand-rived types from the 17th century, but they are only the progenitors of a family of materials that took off with the Industrial Revolution. With the widespread use of steam-powered millwork machinery in the 1850s, horizontal siding proliferated into patterns of striking creativity, to satisfy the Victorian taste for texture, or simply efficiency—such as ersatz versions of log façades or even the venerable clapboard. By the 1930s, standard millwork references listed no less than 28 different types of commonly available horizontal siding. Since many are no longer familiar today and are difficult to purchase (especially at one-size-fits-all home centers), we have put together this glossary of the basic types and how they are installed, for use by anyone who has to repair or alter a horizontally sided old house built in the last 150 years.

    Clapboard & beveled siding illustration

    Clapboard & Beveled Siding

    Clapboard is plain, beveled siding, a near-isosceles triangle when viewed on-end. Traditional New England clapboard is cut radially from the log (producing true vertical grain) and up to 6” wide. Bevel siding and bungalow siding are 20th-century versions that are generally resawn from boards (producing random grain) to obtain widths of 8” and more. Manufacturers recommend nailing modern resawn bevel siding through a single board to allow for wood movement (at left). Traditional clapboard with true vertical grain is typically nailed through both boards to sheathing (at right).

    Novelty siding illustration

    Novelty Siding

    A term that is also applied to all patterns of drop siding—milled siding that lies flat on the wall surface—novelty is frequently associated with the ubiquitous cove pattern also called German siding in some areas. Popular by the 1880s, and possibly in use as early as 1860, it is typically edge-matched in a shiplap joint, but was also produced in tongue-and-groove. Novelty siding that swaps a bevel for the cove is often called channel rustic. Tongue-and-groove novelty types may be blind-nailed at the tongue (at left). Cove-style novelty siding is typically face-nailed, sometimes directly to studs in light-weather areas or buildings (at right).

    Rustic siding illustration

    Rustic Siding

    Rustic siding is a broad term often applied to several types of siding milled to present an appearance much more like timber than their actual thickness. The classic example is log cabin siding—a peeled log simulation with shiplapped joints. Log cabin siding was common by the 1930s, in 6,” 8,” and 10” widths. Log cabin siding is typically facenailed above the rabbet edge with a single nail, though wide patterns may require nails on both edges.

    Double OG siding illustration

    Double O.G. Siding

    Representative of an extensive subset of drop siding types, double O.G. is a single siding board milled to present the shadow lines of two boards. The concept was applied to many other patterns (the double coves of novelty siding, double bevels, etc.) and, in some areas was even extended to triple O. G. siding. These products were usually shiplapped, but also appeared in tongue-and-groove versions. Double O. G. was common by 1910. Double O.G. is typically face-nailed above the rabbet edge with a single nail, though wide patterns may require nails on both edges.

    Dolly Varden siding illustration

    Dolly Varden Siding

    Sometimes considered rustic siding, especially when milled with an unplanned face, Dolly Varden is a bevel siding simulation made with a rabbeted bottom edge, so that the siding installs flat on the wall with a tight joint. It dates to at least the 1930s. Dolly Varden is typically face-nailed above the rabbet edge with a single nail, though wide patterns may require nails on both edges.

    Published in: Old-House Journal September/October 2004

    { 6 comments… read them below or add one }

    minnie skovbo May 11, 2011 at 10:43 pm

    I need help finding double o g side boards for my 1930 home can u please help me I live in Texas. Thank You Sincerely

    Cheryl Ramette August 7, 2011 at 5:17 pm

    We have some double bevel siding that we removed from the garage when we tore it down. We are not building another garage and would like to sell the siding, but can’t seem to find any information on it’s value. Do you have suggestions?

    Thank you.

    Elva Stith September 15, 2011 at 2:48 pm

    I am also looking for double OG side boards for my home. I also want to know if there are any instructions on how the carpenters made these clapboards and where can I find them. I also want to know what tools were used to make these boards. Thank you, Elva

    robert nee June 10, 2014 at 8:18 am

    looking for double og pine siding in ma or me area

    sharon oliver July 27, 2014 at 5:46 pm

    looking for some pieces of Dolly Varden siding in California to repair a wall

    Michael G August 16, 2014 at 8:37 pm

    Dolly Varden siding “dates to at least the 1930s”. I have it or something very close, and my house was built in 1922.

    I too am looking for Dolly Varden siding in CA.

    Leave a Comment



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