The Block NZ 2012 winner Ben Crawford and his girlfriend Kylie are building their dream home. Share their proud moments and pitfalls here every week.

Choosing the cladding for our house has been a lot like picking my first suit. The photos I'd seen over the years of Hollywood's leading men in their suave attire had provided plenty of reference material. And it seemed like a straightforward recipe - black suit, white shirt and matching black tie, belt and shoes. Easy. Yet when it came time to replicate this simple yet stylish look, it was a lot harder than expected.

Similarly, deciding the exterior finish for our home has been more involved than we anticipated. Functionally, it needs to be completely watertight. Aesthetically, it's all about "the look", that street-side statement which sets the tone for your home and says something about you as the homeowner. It's an important decision.

Kylie and I have always liked the idea of using cedar. We love the aesthetic created by its raw timber tones and unpainted finish, plus we wanted our house to complement its bush surroundings, so cedar was the natural choice.

The possibility of mixing horizontal boards with vertical ones was also appealing as it would allow us to create additional texture and points of interest without introducing additional materials.

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Great. Decision made, we thought. If only it was that easy. The more we investigated, the more options there appeared to be. And as we are sticklers for detail, we had to explore every one of them to satisfy our curiosity and ensure our dream home would be as perfect as we could make it.

There were three aspects to our cedar cladding that we wanted to nail - the colour, the width and the style.


Detail of centre groove board. Photo / Ben Crawford

We browsed magazines and websites for hours, but there's only so much armchair research you can do before you need to see the real thing. So we did what any respectable couple does and turned into peeping toms.

We spent weeks exploring suburbs, critiquing any timber-clad home we could find. We eventually narrowed down our preference to aspects from houses in Takapuna, Westmere and Matarangi. Now we needed to source this combo for ourselves.

In between, I had contacted an architecture firm that had moved in beside our Christchurch office. I asked the guys if they had worked with cedar and they pointed me in the direction of specialist timber merchants, Rosenfeld Kidson.

Kylie and I checked out their dedicated cedar website cedarscreen.co.nz and within five seconds we had found what we were looking for.

We requested a sample pack from the site and it arrived a few days later, full of different cladding profiles and oil colours. We also found the contact details for director Mark Liggins, whom I arranged to meet at the Mt Wellington, Auckland, showroom to finalise our selection.


Some different cedar cladding profiles we considered. Ultimately choosing the groove board in the middle - shown with joinery colour. Photo / Ben Crawford

Like going to buy my first suit, we arrived at Rosenfeld Kidson thinking it would be a breeze to match the aspects of the homes we liked to a product, but it proved difficult translating what we had seen in-situ, given the huge variety of options available. However Liggins was incredibly patient as we went through every possible permutation.

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We wanted a sleek and flush finish instead of traditional weatherboards. We ultimately chose a horizontal shiplap profile. To fully achieve our modern design we wanted narrow boards, but Liggins recommended a wider, centre groove board. With a square channel running down the middle, it looks like two narrow pieces of timber when fixed to the house, still achieving our preferred look and saving us money in product and installation costs. A win-win. Then to complete the look, and what was our easiest decision, we chose a vertical grain because of its perfect finish.

My final question for Liggins related to maintenance because we were keen to keep the house from silvering over time. He explained that our cedar would arrive on-site with one coat of oil already applied and we would need to apply a second coat within 90 days. Ongoing preservation involved just a simple wash down with water annually and a fresh coat of oil every fifth year. A fairly reasonable maintenance regime, I thought, one I'd happily complete to keep our home in top condition.

Bingo! We'd finally found our dream exterior. Now it was time to turn our attention indoors.

• Find out more about Ben and Kylie's dream home at ourdreamhome.co.nz

For more information on the Kiwibank First Home Buyer's Guide visit: kiwibank.co.nz and search for "first home".