Beech Lumber for Siding

Exterior siding exposure may not be the best use of Beech wood. June 4, 2012

I plan to saw up some beech trees and use the boards to side a pole building. Is beech recommended for this job? Do the boards need to dry long before use?

Forum Responses
(Sawing and Drying Forum)
From Professor Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor:
I have never cut beech so I don't know about that type of tree. But normally siding can be put up right after it is cut. Since it is going to be outside, the MC will follow the environment. In my area, which is the very wet PNW, air dried wood swells in applications such as doors, while interior trim normally shrinks. Nature of the beast.

From contributor R:
The beech here in West Virginia warps and gets hard as a rock and shrinks a lot when it is dried out. Also rots easy. So I'd nail it up right off the mill.

From Professor Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor:
When nailing or screwing it, you do need to allow for shrinkage. This means that two screws 5" apart on a 6" wide piece would actually have to move as the wood shrinks. They would either pull out or crack the wood. So, it is best if you install the wood in an air dried condition, unless you use something like shiplap or board and batten, both of which can tolerate shrinkage. Always keep the screws or nails closer rather than farther apart.

Although the wood in exterior exposure may average 12% MC, when it rains, the wood can go up to 20% MC or higher and when it is dry and sunny, down to 6% MC or so. You must allow for this moisture change and the resulting shrinkage and swelling.

From contributor K:
Besides planning for the movement, you might plan on treating it to keep insects out. It doesn't have any resistance to insects or decay.

From the original questioner:
Thanks for the info. If it weren't for the fact that we girdled a bunch of beech in a timber stand improvement project, I'd probably be better off choosing another species!

From contributor T:
I have never seen beech used as siding. I do know that it makes lovely trim and flooring. You might consider saving some of the better quality boards for this if you have a use for it, or can sell for this use. The heartwood comes up a nice honey color when urethaned. The sapwood is light in color. My son trimmed his house with it, and used it for flooring.

From Professor Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor:
Why not consider sawing the beech and then selling it or trading it for a better species? It does have good value as lumber.