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Is Tongue and Groove Cladding for Sheds Any Good?

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When you are considering building a shed or buying one, one of your main considerations will be the kind of siding you should choose. There are plenty of options for your choice. Metal siding, wood siding, vinyl siding, and others. If you want a wood product, you’ll find that there are choices besides just board siding.

Whether or not you’ve heard of tongue and groove cladding, it’s a good choice to consider. We’ll help you investigate this option.

What Is Tongue and Groove Cladding?

Tongue and groove cladding consists of wood panels designed with a tongue or a narrow part that sticks out, on one side. On the other side is a groove constructed for a tongue from another panel to fit into. They basically fit together without using nails or glue.

This makes them relatively easy to use and somewhat easier for the builder. With smaller buildings such as sheds, the panels are used so that they fit together vertically. That is, the tongues and grooves are situated on the tops and bottoms of the panels.

Tongue and groove cladding is typically made from softer woods that are resistant to several problems. It is resistant to things such as fungi, termites, moisture and bacteria. Some of the woods often used include redwood, cedar, yellow pine, spruce and larch, although you can find some made from oak.

What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Cladding?

Advantages – The cladding makes for a smooth finish. Because the panels fit together, it’s pretty impossible to break it apart once the building is constructed. This makes it very secure. In fact, it’s often used in flooring. The connections between the boards are strong enough to withstand food traffic.

Construction is fairly simple, as the panels slide together without any special tools or expertise needed. Since there is practically no space between the boards, there is no place for drafts or moisture to get into your shed.

This makes the siding good insulation. The fitting construction makes a strong structure. It also is usually constructed so that rainwater runs right off. It does come in pressure-treated forms for more weather resistance.

Disadvantages – The main disadvantage is the cost. The panels are specially constructed, as you may expect, and so cost more than just plain boards. You do need to consider the different thicknesses of the cladding you choose. Thinner cladding will save you money but will provide less durability. If your looking for a less expensive option check out my article What is The Cheapest Siding For a Shed?

How Thick Should Shed Cladding Be?

Generally, tongue and groove cladding for a shed is usually around 12mm thick, or a bit less than half an inch. In contrast, siding made from individual boards that overlap and have to be nailed together is usually 7-8mm thick, or just under 3/8 inch.

Some pre-built shed models feature cladding just 7-8mm thick. This lowers the price of the shed, but that thinner cladding is really not suitable for an outdoor building. Remember that the tongues and grooves are formed by removing some wood on the edges, either on both sides to create the tongue or a groove down the middle to form a slot.

The thinner the panels are the thinner the tongues and grooves. You want your shed to be sturdy and last for a long time without your having to worry about it. If you’re shopping for a pre-built shed, keep this in mind, and ask about the thickness of the cladding for sheds that are at the cheaper end of the price range.

How Much Does Tongue and Groove Cladding Cost?

Tongue and groove exterior siding costs range from $3 to $12 per square foot. Much depends on the type of wood used for the cladding, and prices vary with the prevailing market rates in any particular region. There are also pre-finished options for cladding for sheds available that will cost more.

To give you a general idea of the costs, one source lists 1 x 6-inch Eastern white pine at $1.25 per linear foot. 1 x 8-inch boards are $1.32 per linear foot.

Spruce is listed at $1.79 per linear foot for 1 x 6-inch boards. Ponderosa pine, which is a little more decorative and rustic-looking than white pine, goes for $1.59 per linear foot for 1 x 6-inch boards and $1.99 for 1 x 8-inch boards.

More expensive choices include Eastern red cedar listed at $2.19 per linear foot for 1 x 6s. Western red cedar is priced at $2.59 per linear foot for 1 x 6s and $3.48 for 1 x 8s. Cypress is listed at $2.25 per linear foot for 1 x 6s and $2.59 for the 1 x 8s.

Do You Stain Tongue and Groove Before or After Installation?

It’s best to do apply any kind of finish to tongue and groove boards before installation. This includes stains. If you are using a water-based stain, you can apply it to just the exterior side of the boards. If you are using an oil-based stain, it should go on both sides.

Be sure that your boards are free of dust or dirt and allow the stain to dry thoroughly before installing them. You can use either a brush, roller or sponges. Be sure to buy a stain that is made for the type of wood your boards are made from. Some woods, such as pine, may be a little hard to stain because of the tendency of some woods to retain a bit of sap. Some people prefer to stain after installation.

Can You Paint Cladding for Sheds?

You can paint the cladding. You may need a primer made for the type of wood used in the cladding, as some types contain substances such as tannins which may bleed through the paint. You may need a stain-blocking primer first.

You can paint either before installation or after. Painting both sides of exterior siding just adds a little more protection against moisture. Make sure the paint doesn’t get into the joint parts of the tongue and groove.

You should probably apply a sealant as well. This will add protection from moisture. You can apply sealant with a roller or sprayer. Some people prefer to pour the sealant into a long trough and soak the boards in it for a few seconds. This will ensure that no surface is skipped. As with paint or stain, be sure to choose a sealant that is compatible with the type of wood used in your cladding.

Some choose to apply the sealant after installation before painting, but for best wood protection, the sealant should be applied before installation. Paint or stain goes on after the sealant. You’ll probably need two coats of paint, especially if you don’t use a primer. Paint will require reapplying every few years, as it will dull or chip as time goes on. If your undecided and not sure about paint or stain, read my article Is it Better to Paint or Stain a Shed? for more information.

What Fasteners Do You Use for Tongue and Groove Cladding?

Most sources recommend 16 or 18-gauge finishing nails or brad nails for cladding for sheds. These will hold the siding to your shed studs securely without leaving large holes on the outside of the boards. 1-1/2 to 2-inch lengths should be sufficient. You’ll need to hammer nails in by hand. Many nail guns will provide too much pressure.

Nails should be hammered in gently at a 45� angle downward into the ridge above the tongue. Make sure you don’t dent the siding while nailing. A nail setter or punch can be used to countersink the nails without denting the siding. Some people prefer to use staples, but this may not be possible with the thickness of exterior siding. It’s more practical for installing interior cladding such as ceilings.

Glues are sometimes used on tongue and groove cladding installed as interior wall siding or as ceiling or flooring. However, for exterior use where the cladding will be exposed to weather, nails are best, especially since exterior cladding is usually thicker than that used for interior walls or ceilings.

How Do You Clad a Shed with Tongue and Groove Cladding?

First of all, you should consider whether or not you need a vapor barrier underneath your cladding. Depending on your climate, it may or may not be needed. If you have a shed that isn’t insulated and isn’t heated or cooled, you probably won’t need one.

If you live in a cold climate and plan to heat your shed, you should probably install a vapor barrier on the inside of the framing. In a humid climate with a shed planned to be air-conditioned, the vapor barrier goes on the outside of the framing. The reason for the barrier is that if your shed is climate controlled, any moisture in the air will naturally form where the temperature between the inside and outside of your shed changes. Check out my article Do I Need a House Wrap for a Shed?

Of course, you need to figure out how much cladding to order. Don’t try to cut corners here. It’s much better to have a little extra just in case you accidentally cut something wrong. Once your cladding is delivered, you’ll need to acclimate the boards to minimize the chances of shrinking or expanding after they are installed.

Store it off the ground outside and use spacers between the boards for air circulation. Keep it covered for protection on top but leave the ends and sides open. You may need to leave them like this for up to two weeks, depending on weather conditions and the type of wood. Ask your supplier how long your particular order should acclimate. Staining or sealing can come after acclimation. You can paint it before or after installation.

You’ll need to install metal or self-stick flashings around any doors or windows. Use chalk lines to indicate the centers of the studs. Mark where each course will be laid. The good thing about tongue and groove cladding is that you can raise or lower the bottom piece as much as a couple of inches to get everything to work out correctly. Building paper installed underneath the cladding can add weather resistance.

Cut any boards that need cutting before you start nailing. Plan to cut shorter pieces as the first and last pieces of alternate rows to stagger the butt ends. You’ll also need to figure out your cuts to go around window and door frames.

Start with your bottom boards with the tongue facing upward and the groove on the bottom. A level chalk line will help make sure the bottom course is level. Fit the remaining courses into each other and nail. Boards six inches wide need one row of nails, while wider boards will need two, one each top and bottom. Nails should go 1-1/4 inches into your studs.

The outer corners can be fitted with trim strips that the cladding boards will butt up against, or you can miter the outer corner edges to fit them together with the ends of the boards on the next wall. Corner joints are usually caulked to seal them.

Usually, the second row is started with a shorter piece to stagger the edges. Hammer the board groove onto the tongue of the first one firmly, then nail in place. Alternate long first pieces with shorter ones on the rest of the rows.

Use strips of the self-stick flashing or waterproof shingle underlayment underneath each butt joint to prevent moisture from seeping in. Caulking is not necessary and may actually damage some cladding.

At the top, you may find that you can’t use full-width boards. They are easily cut lengthwise to fit. Cut the top edges to fit against the top of the wall, as they won’t have to fit into the next piece. Trim boards can then be installed around window and door frames and your corners if necessary. You can also use one at the top of the walls.

Once you are done, you can stain or paint over the sealant if it was applied before installation. If not, you’ll need to apply sealant first, then the paint or stain. Make sure you get the sealant into all the cracks if you’re applying it after installation.


Tongue and groove boards are getting popular for interior wall cladding and ceilings. Even many types of flooring such as laminate use tongue and groove construction. It’s less seen used in exterior applications such as cladding for sheds. This means that your tongue and groove cladding will stand out as a sturdy, smooth siding with no overlapping boards. It ought to make your neighbors sit up and take notice.

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