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How to put up cladding

Difficulty rating: Medium

These tasks may be tricky so will suit you if you're experienced in DIY, or simply love a challenge.

Before you get started on any of our 'how to' guides, please take a moment to read through our DIY safety tips.

Tools for the job

1. Dealing with electrical fittings

  • If you're fixing cladding over an electric fixture or fitting, you can't simply clad over the top. First, by law every connection must be available for inspection and testing maintenance. And second, there's a risk of arching, overheating or electrocution if you cover the area or try to isolate the connection yourself without following the right procedure.
  • Always use a qualified electrician if you're in any doubt.
  • If you need to move the existing electrical fixture or fitting forward in line with the cladding, get a qualified electrician to help put in new flush or surface-mounted fittings.

2. Choosing your cladding

  • Cladding comes in various lengths and thicknesses but all use the method of tongue-and-groove joints.
  • You'll find a variety of well-known cladding systems to choose from.
  • Some are made of real wood, some are very good imitations. Some need fixing with pins, others just need adhesive.
  • Ask one of our experts in store if you need help deciding.

3. Before you begin

  • Unwrap your timber and cladding and lie it flat on its side. Store the timber in the room being clad two weeks before installing it. This helps the wood acclimatise and shrink before being fixed.
  • Carefully remove skirting board, dado rails and picture rails, and coving from the wall if necessary.
  • If your plaster is crumbly, falling off, or sounds hollow when tapped, remove it completely with a chisel and club hammer. Then wire brush the wall.
  • If you need to reroute any plumbing, do it before fixing the cladding. You might have to adjust supply pipes to radiators by bringing them forward by the thickness of the battens and cladding. Talk to a qualified plumber before rerouting plumbing.
Be aware...

Always follow the manufacturer's instructions when fitting new electrical equipment. If you're not sure, get a qualified electrician to help.

4. Attaching battens

  • A timber batten is a piece of treated, sawn timber used to support the cladding. You'll need to nail timber battens to the wall or ceiling before you attach your cladding. But if the area is good and flat, simply using strong adhesive may be enough.
  • Decide where to position heavy items such as radiators or hand basins. Attach wider battens to the wall and hang the item from these.
  • If you're cladding over plaster the battens will need to measure 22mm high x 50mm wide. For cladding over brick or blockwork battens should be 38mm high x 50mm wide.
  • Attach battens to the wall or ceiling at 90 degrees to the cladding planks, usually at 400mm intervals (fig. 1).
  • If the battens run horizontally, position the lowest just above the level of the skirting.
  • When fitting battens to a ceiling, make sure they're securely attached to the joists. Marking the position of each joist across the ceiling will make your job easier.
How to put up cladding - Figure 1
Figure 1

5. Preparing the cladding

Sanding and applying finish to the cladding

  • Before you attach the cladding to the battens, make sure the surface of the cladding is smooth and ready for you to apply your chosen finish.
  • Sand the outward face of the cladding and vacuum off dust. Then wipe the surface clean with a lint-free cloth dampened with white spirit.
  • If you're planning a water-based finish (matt finish paint, for example) dampen the cloth with water before wiping the surface clean.
  • Apply two coats of your finish to the front and back of the boards to help prevent the timber distorting.
  • Don't coat the inside of the groove or back of the tongue.
  • Apply the final coats only when you've cut and fixed the boards.
Helpful hint...

To stop the tongue splitting, pre-drill the panel pin holes with a 1mm drill.

Marking and cutting

  • Mark the boards at your chosen height with a knife or pencil.
  • Mark angles of 45 degrees (or other angles) with an adjustable combination square. It's important to get the angles right so the cladding clicks into place properly.
  • Saw off the end - this section is waste. Use the same technique to mark and cut the boards to length. Remove any splinters with sandpaper.
  • Apply two coats of your finish to the front and back of the boards to help prevent the timber distorting.
  • Don't coat the inside of the groove or back of the tongue.
  • If boards have to be joined end on, position the joint over a batten and stagger the joints across the rows.
Helpful hint...

Use exterior-grade paint or varnish if you're cladding a kitchen or bathroom.

6. Fixing cladding

  • Choose your starting point. Working from left to right, place the first board against the wall. Use a spirit level to check the board is level.
  • Drive pins, just clear of the groove, through the board into the batten. Then drive pins through the tongue - one per batten (fig. 2).
  • Place the next board in position. Use an off-cut of board 50mm wide - cut off the groove side to protect the tongue of the new board while you ease it into place with gentle hammer taps (fig. 3). Fix with pins through the tongue.
How to put up cladding - Figure 2
Figure 2
How to put up cladding - Figure 3
Figure 3

7. Tackling corners

External corners (fig 4.) & Internal corners (fig 5.)

Pin a right-angle moulding to external corners to hide the join.
Figure 4
Pin a right-angle moulding or quadrant to internal corners to hide the join.
Figure 5

8. Finishing

  • Fit skirtings and any other mouldings. These should be prefinished in the same way as the cladding (fig. 6).
  • Fix in place with panel adhesive.
  • Carefully fill any pin holes with a wood filler that matches the colour of the wood (fig. 6).
  • Don't spread the filler around too much. When the filler is dry, lightly rub it down.
  • Finally, apply one or two more coats of finish.
How to put up cladding - Figure 6
Figure 6

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