timber cladding | wall panels

Timber cladding can be fixed directly to the bare brickwork  of a wall as a substitute for plaster, or it can go on top of existing plaster as a form of decoration. The timber cladding can be matchboarding lengths of shaped natural timber – or in sheets of hardboard or thin plywood with a surface pattern that simulates matchboarding. Matchboarding is often confused with tongued and grooved boards. Tongued and grooved boards have squared sides so that when two boards are joined they fit snugly together. Matchboarding has additional moulding, so that a V-shaped groove is formed where two boards meet. Tongued and grooved boards are, in general, fitted as flooring, matchboarding being unsuitable because of its grooves. Matchboarding, however, is more suitable for timber cladding because the heat of the room will in time make the boards shrink, and cause gaps to appear between them. Such gaps look unsightly in tongued and grooved boards, but because of the V-shape they are not noticeable in matchboarding.

timber claddingThe planks of matchboading are fixed to horizontal battens  screwed to the wall. You need one batten at floor level, another near the ceiling, and a third haIf-way between. If you are fitting the timber to a wall that has a skirting board, use this instead of the bottom batten. The two higher battens should then be of the same thickness as the skirting. A width of 50 mm is suitable. If there is no skirting board, use 50 x 25 mm battens. The battens must be level with each other and with the skirting so that the timber cladding will present a flat surface. Pack out the battens as necessary when you fix them to the wall.  The planks are fixed to the battens by ‘secret nailing’, so that no fixing nails are visible. Pins are driven into the front of the tongue, but emerge on the other side through the main body of the plank to pass into the batten. When the next board is fitted, its groove locates on the tongue, which holds it into place. On the other edge it is fixed by pins driven through its tongue, and so on. Begin by fitting the first plank with its groove towards the end of the wall. Make sure, by using a plumb line or a spirit level, that this first plank is vertical, for its alignment will determine that of the rest. If the surface of the other wall at the corner (the return wall) is badly out of true, tack the first plank slightly away from it, making sure it is vertical.


Place a small block of wood so that it touches the return wall and overlaps the plank. Place a pencil along the block and move both to trace out the profile of the return wall on to the plank.  Trim the plank along the pencil line. To trim to the correct width the plank at the other end of the wall, place it on top of the last whole plank, and lightly tack it in place. Now take a short off cut of plank plus a pencil. Jam the off cut hard against the return wall at the top, and hold the pencil tightly against the off cut. Now move off cut and pencil slowly downwards to the bottom, tracing a line on the plank to be trimmed. Saw or tile the plank to this line and it should be a tight fit in the gap. When you use secret nailing, the planks at each end are not held in place on their outer edges. Usually, this does not matter. Tap the face of the planks lightly to check that they are firmly fixed. If not, drive three pins – one for each batten through their face. These pins will not be hidden, but can be punched home and covered with stopping. The floor, and especially the ceiling, may be out of true, as well as the return walls. Measure the height required for each plank individually. Even so, there will be slight gaps top and bottom. Disguise the bottom one by fitting skirting, which you can buy at wood yards. The skirting is nailed to the bottom of the planks. You can also use skirting turned upside down, at the top, or you might prefer a smaller moulding. If you are timber cladding adjacent walls and the angle where they meet is an internal one, a vertical length of quarter- round or triangular section moulding will neaten the join.