What is weatherboard

The term ‘weatherboard’ refers to overlapping horizontal boards that cover a surface – generally the exterior of a house. Though they are traditionally made of timber, nowadays weatherboard can also be made from several other materials. The types of weatherboards now include aluminium, fibre-cement, metal, acrylic, and vinyl (also known as vinyl cladding).

Though in many locations around the world, weatherboard also goes by other names, including clapboard, bevel siding, and lap siding, in Australia and New Zealand it has always been known as weatherboard.

Weatherboard house design

Introduced into Australia in the 1850s, weatherboard homes became popular because they are lightweight, weatherproof, easy to install, affordable, and work as a natural insulator. They were used for a broad range of houses including worker’s cottages, Federation-style houses, and Queenslanders. Later, weatherboard was often used in Californian bungalows in Australia. The material grew in popularity and contributed to a distinctly Australian style. 

The weatherboard cottage was first found in Australia’s then-working-class inner cities: in suburbs like Balmain and Pyrmont in Sydney; Victorian suburbs like Fitzroy and Albert Park; and Brisbane’s West End and Nundah. 

Meanwhile, Weatherboard Federation-style houses were introduced a little later, during the late 19th and early 20th centuries (which coincided with the Edwardian period). Built for wealthier homeowners than those who lived in the weatherboard cottages of the inner cities, they could be found further out in the suburbs and featured decorative timberwork around the verandah, terracotta-tiled embellishment, and a gabled and hipped roof line.

The iconic ‘Queenslander’ houses were also often made with weatherboard as well as tin. Designed with the subtropical climate in mind, timber weatherboards and their excellent insulation properties kept houses cool in Queensland summers.

Later, in the 1920s and 1930s, Californian bungalows became popular in Australia. Once again, many of these were weatherboard houses, which always had front porches, verandah pylons, and simple layouts. By the 1950s the weather board home had largely gone out of style.

Modern weatherboard houses in Australia

In recent years, weatherboard homes have made something of a comeback in Australia. This is in part due to a sense of nostalgia for the weather board home. These days, there are two types of weatherboards houses on the contemporary market, those built with reconstituted hardwood and those with vinyl weatherboard.

Interestingly, the cost of a weatherboard house compares favourably with the cost of the more widespread brick houses. A contemporary 3-bedroom weatherboard house on a level block, made using budget materials costs around $1,300 per square metre. This is less than the cost of full brick houses of the same size. These days the colour of weatherboard homes vary greatly –  from white and grey to blue and black, to grey and white, and more.

The pros and cons of a weather board home

There are several other positives apart from initial cost. As mentioned, weatherboard houses provide excellent insulation. This is because they have air trapped in between the boards, which regulates temperature. 

On top of their low build costs, weatherboard houses make for a faster construction job and require less qualified professional builders. For the same reason, repairs are simple and can be done by DIYers. Finally, they are tolerant to earth movements and weatherboard houses (particularly old ones) can be moved by road. 

However, there are drawbacks. Weatherboard houses are prone to termites and wood rot and, in general require much more maintenance, painting, etc. than brick houses. All of this detracts somewhat from the attractions of their low build costs.

House plans - a selection of beautiful weatherboard houses

the overflow

1. The Overflow

Located in the Macedon Ranges of Central Victoria, this country house was built with the owners’ grandparents (who loved the poetry of Banjo Patterson) in mind. It owes its name to one of the poet’s best-known works. Importantly, however, it retains the recognisable weatherboard style but updates the materials used from timber to cement sheeting, and in so doing, increases its bush fire rating.

merewether beach house

2. Merewether beach house

Apart from its striking weatherboard panelling, this recently built beach house in Newcastle also has interesting features like an unexpected, pitched roof to go along with its white façade and spectacular interior.

southern highlands cottage

3. Southern Highlands Cottage

Built in 1910, this weatherboard cottage in the NSW Southern Highlands has white French doors to go with its beautiful garden and white picket fence. As the before and after shots show, the renovations were a great success.

geelong weatherboard bungalow

4. Geelong weatherboard bungalow

This newly renovated three-bedroom, two-bathroom Californian bungalow shows the way to breathe life into an old home. It was originally built way back in the 1930s and cost just $150k for the renovations.

mildura weatherboard house

5. Mildura Weatherboard House

This is another classic 1930’s home, this time located in the Victorian town of Mildura. The new owners, who have four children, decided to keep the large from windows, which were part of the original building. 

weatherboard and brick house

6. Weatherboard And Brick House

Located in Sydney, this old weatherboard house had an addition in the form of a separate sleeping quarters added to it. These new bedrooms are connected to the original building by the house’s verandah. Unlike the old weatherboard house, the new section is made of brick, though it was designed so as to net detract from the original appeal of the existing house.