Interesting Wood Choices for Custom Siding

Woodworkers discuss tropical woods and decay-resistant softwood choices for architectural siding applications. June 29, 2008

Does anyone have any good suggestions for new construction siding alternates to Ipe? Im already considering West cedar/redwood. How about other tropical hardwoods/Spanish cedar?

Im looking to find something with nice visual appeal in a modernist style but easier to deal with than Ipe. Install labor cost seems an issue with Ipe. Abrasive to cutting tools and fastening difficulties seem to be the stated problems. It seems the results in very lengthy applications are prone to mess-ups. Is this reasonable?

Forum Responses
(Architectural Woodworking Forum)
From contributor P:
Ipe would be kind of heavy and nailing it would be a chore. Most of the tropical woods will have the same sort of trouble with the exception of the mahoganies and stuff sold as mahogany, like Spanish cedar.

From contributor C:
How were you planning on using Ipe as siding? I'm guessing you were not going to mill it into clapboard, since you are looking for a more modern style. And as Contributor P suggested, installation would be less than enjoyable. I can't imagine a siding gun being able to shoot through it, pre-drilling is almost mandatory.

Take a look at cypress, particularly reclaimed/old growth. I processed about 75k BDFT for two separate houses that used it for both 4" square edge tongue and groove siding (vertical run) and interior paneling, as well as 6" v-groove for the ceilings. The reclaimed stuff is about two times heavier than new growth, and has a really interesting variety of color. It does gray/silver out untreated, but is extremely water/weather resistant. This project used a 50/50 mix of flat and quarter sawn, with pieces up to 24' and some 18" for fascias.

From contributor A:

I've never heard anyone using Ipe for siding. Do you Texans refer to decking as siding?

From the original questioner:
No we dont refer to decking as siding. The applications Ive seen in the past were tongue and groove. I want to do a similar thing but trying to avoid the above complaints about working with it. Maybe I can get the visual appeal with another suitable wood. Would you consider ipe a very dimensionally stable wood?

From contributor M:
Spanish cedar, Cumaru/Braz teak, or mahogany (not African) have seen a really cool install with Ipe on standoffs in front of a corrugated steel siding just eased edge decking with 3/4 space between boards so you could see the steel behind. Carbide saw blades and self drilling screws like Headcote make Ipe or kumara much easier.

From Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor:
It is usually not a good idea to use tongue and groove for exterior siding as there is not enough room for expansion when wet and contraction when dry. As a result, there will be buckling and gapping. I have been involved in several law suits about this, so be warned, unless you want to pay my exorbitant fee (which I would enjoy for sure) as an expert witness.