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Exterior Finishes: Your Log Home’s First Impression

Board & Batten Siding

Board & Batten Siding on a Timber Frame Home

One of the attributes that defines a mountain style home is the variety of exterior finishes that are used, and combined, for that high-country look.  The visual interest created by a mix of natural materials – and sometimes a little steel or copper, for a shiny “pop” – gives these homes character, and is often what first calls our attention to the mountain style.  But achieving that look for your own log or timber home can be a little daunting if you’re not familiar with the available options, or when you know what you like but not what it’s called.  An architect experienced in mountain style and the harmonious mixing of these exterior finishes will put you ahead of the game, and knowledge of the basics will help the two of you collaborate as you make your dream log or timber home a reality.

Two exterior treatments that are often used to great effect on mountain style homes, from Appalachian rustic to eco-contemporary, are board and batten – also called board and batt – and skirl.  Board and batt siding uses wider planks – the boards – applied to the wall vertically, with narrower pieces – the battens – applied over the gaps where the boards meet.  The crisp lines of board and batt give it a clean look that also harkens back to 19th-Century buildings.

Skirl Siding

Skirl Siding on a Mountain Accent Home

Skirl is a type of lap siding, the exposed edge of which is “wavy,” giving it a hand-cut look.  Skirl is applied horizontally, with the boards’ undulating edges offering textural interest as well as a rustic motif.  Board and batt and skirl are sometimes used together, their vertical and horizontal lines leading the eye to the next interesting texture or definitive detail.  Often left natural, both of these treatments are also attractive when stained.

Shake Siding

Post & Beam Home with Shake Siding

Another wood product that gives character to both walls and roofs is shaker shingles or “shake.”  Because they’ve been used since colonial times, shake are often associated with the eastern North America, and are a good choice if you aspire to an Adirondack lodge look.  Applied in rows with each one overlapping the last, shake create a subtle checker-board effect and are a nice contrast to the long lines of board and batt or lapped siding.

Stone evokes the ruggedness and permanence associated with a mountain style home, but these days whole, natural stones are often passed over in favor of stone veneer, which offers the same look without adding weight to the building or dollars to the bottom line.  Some veneers are made of natural stone, while others are made of concrete that’s been cast in detailed rubber molds made from actual stone.  These man-made stone products are often indistinguishable from natural stone thanks to the intricacy of the molds and the iron oxides used to color the concrete.  Because they’re far lighter than whole stones, simulated stone veneers can be applied directly to the wall rather than built on a foundation.  Faux stone can also be used for walkways and patios.

Metal roofing offers another dimension to mountain homes.  Using copper on entry gables or corrugated steel on porch overhangs, for example, creates a nice contrast to the high texture of wood and stone.

Exterior finishes will be the first thing that people approaching your home see, and can mean the difference between its being a ho-hum drive-by or the house travelers stop to “Oooo” an “Ahh” over.  Consider your home’s exterior early, and chose an architect who can help you make the outside as compelling as the inside.