While historically long cladding and decking boards have always been favoured, this has always been driven using softwoods and how the mills in Sweden, Finland, and Siberia process this material. Bearing in mind that 80% of all our softwood is imported into the UK and in fact, the UK is the second-largest importer of wood after China.
However, hardwoods have never been processed in the same way by mills in the tropical and non-tropical regions around the world. For example, we cannot place orders on these mills at source, requesting packs all at 3.6m or 4.8m. We must take a spread of lengths from 1.2m up to 3.6m or 4.8m depending on the timber species. This is partly driven by cost because yields must be maximised for slower-growing hardwoods and any knots and blemishes are removed compared to softwoods which will always contain knots unless a more expensive select grade like Radiata Pine grown in New Zealand and Chile is requested.
Customers are now recognising the benefits of using a range of board lengths on a project and its popularity is increasing. By using mixed-length cladding and decking boards, you can create an appealing finish full of character, bringing life to the outside of your house as each board exhibits different grain textures and colour tones, showing the richness of each board, enabling you to break up long and flat façades.
No longer should we be content with bland facades. Many composite boards are manufactured in one or two lengths, so joins are inevitable. Bamboo products are produced in lengths of 1.8m and are increasing in popularity.
Also, think about your hardwood solid or engineered flooring that many people have in their houses. These are sold in packs of mixed short lengths and the joins are randomly spaced, think how attractive that looks, and it is also subject to heavy traffic use. So why not mimic that on the outside of your property.
One of our customers chose to use mixed lengths on their cladding and decking boards and the progress pictures show just why people are opting for mixed lengths! The rich colour palette of our ThermoWood Hardwood Iroko with a smooth profile delivers a clean and screwless finish.
The final cherry on top… shorter lead times!! The timber industry is facing one of the hardest times it has ever faced and with lead times for certain materials increasing, by choosing to go for mixed lengths you can be reassured that the waiting time for your material will be dramatically shortened.
The advantages of mixed lengths will be reduced wastage and therefore cost as the offcut from one board will start the next run and so on. Always randomise the joins to not create a brickwork style pattern that your eye will pick up. The focus needs to be on the overall aesthetic and not on the joins. For vertical cladding board end joins, try and avoid a square cut and instead angle the cut so the top board overlaps the one below. This allows water to run out instead of sitting on the join.
Also, cladding and decking board ends always land on a cladding batten or decking joist. Rather than cut off what could be up to 350mm of expensive product, add in an offcut of cladding batten or decking joist so that you maintain the random nature. Do not lose sight of the fact that these projects are viewed and used by the customer and not the installer.