Solving the Mysteries of Eichler Siding

Jeff and Annette Nichols. Photo by David Toerge.

Siding can be a perpetual headache for Eichler owners intent on keeping their home's original look. As Eichler Siding's Jeff Nichols has explained previously, the siding used on original Eichlers employed a unique groove pattern no longer available from standard retail lumberyards. Nichols does a brisk business selling custom siding to match that pattern. But where it came from, and how to replicate its uniquely smooth finish, have both been tough problems. Now, Nichols believes he has solved both.

"It's still a case of getting it custom manufactured, Nichols told me recently. "There is no retail lumberyard you can pull into and say, 'hey I need Eichler siding.' " And until recently there was no way to get a smooth finish that matched that of original Eichler siding, either.

"The original Eichler siding was what's commonly called a sanded face, as opposed to rough-sawn. Almost without exception all plywood siding made nowadays is a rough-sawn. So for the majority of my manufacturing career, which has been 25 years, I could only provide a rough face," Nichols said.

Courtesy of Jeff Nichols.

But he's now persuaded one of his suppliers to provide sanded-face plywood because he orders so much of it. "I finally talked the mills into making me a sanded face, which I knew they could do; I don't know why they were reluctant. So now I can offer the unique groove pattern and the right texture. As far as I know, I do think I'm the only one offering the sanded face," Nichols said.

Even though Nichols has solved the problem of replicating the original Eichler look, some mystery has remained about where Joe Eichler himself obtained his unique siding. That is, it remained until just a few weeks ago, when a contractor working on an Eichler discovered a stamp from a mill called Peninsula Plywood.

Siding Stamp
A stamp on some original Eichler siding. Courtesy of Jeff Nichols.

Naturally, Nichols thought that referred to the Peninsula in the Bay Area, but a bit of research revealed it was more likely a mill by the same name on the Olympic Peninsula, in Washington State, which closed in 2011.

"Also, on the stamp, you can see the words 'custom siding,' " Nichols said. "There is our clue that this was not off-the-shelf stuff but that Joe Eichler must have contracted with them to have it milled to his custom specs.  Which is why this is not an off-the-shelf item today."