What are the benefits of cladding? A guide to the UK’s most underrated building material

So you want to make a statement on the outside of your home but you’re not sure how to achieve it? We recommend cladding. It can be a cost-effective way of improving the look and thermal efficiency of your home.

What is cladding?

So you want to make a statement on the outside of your home but you’re not sure how to achieve it? We recommend cladding. It can be a cost-effective way of improving the look and thermal efficiency of your home.

There are many different types of cladding, including patterns and materials which can be used to create a look that’s unique to you. Here are our top tips and things to avoid if you’re looking to use this underrated material on your project.

What are the benefits of cladding?

Cladding is the most flexible way of changing a building’s appearance- which can really increase the value of your home. As well as improving the aesthetics by completely transforming how a building looks, there are also functional benefits. It can protect the rest of the building from the elements while strengthening the structure. It’s low maintenance but makes your home far more durable.

If done correctly, it can be extremely beneficial to the environment. There are so many sustainable options available for cladding materials, and good cladding can mean lower energy bills as it adds insulation. If you live in a busy area, it can also really help to mitigate noise.

Is cladding right for a residential building?

You might think that cladding is purely for high-rise or commercial buildings, but this isn’t the case. Cladding, when done right, can increase the value of your home as well as improve the look.

Cladding can also protect your home from the elements – and choosing the right style can impact the maintenance your home will require over the years.

Where should I begin if I want to use cladding on my project?

Firstly, we recommend working out what’s most important to you. For example, if sustainability is the biggest priority, pick locally sourced hard-wearing cladding. You’ll also have to consider budget, as this can vary hugely depending on the variety of cladding you use.

We always advise clients to think of the finish at the beginning. Finding a finish that ties in perfectly with the existing facade is usually difficult. Usually, we tell people to embrace contrast and use a new material, and we love to explore the details and junctions which allow the new to sit next to the old effortlessly.

Nothing compares with seeing the cladding for yourself. We often visit local sawmills which allow us to see samples of timber that have been weathered. The beauty of timber being a natural material is that it changes throughout the years, but it is important to be aware of this from the beginning.

By having that final colour in mind, you can decide whether to apply a coating to the surface of the timber cladding, to either speed up the weathering process or help to preserve the colour.

What type of cladding is best for your build?

When it comes to finishes of cladding, your choices are endless. Zinc and Accoya Cladding are incredibly environmentally friendly and are also weatherproof – so the colours don’t change over time.

Traditional cladding options

There are so many options. We used to use Siberian Larch on lots of projects, but as a result of Brexit and a desire to be as sustainable as possible at every stage of the building process, we increasingly use thermally treated pine and Scottish Larch.

We recently had a client who lived in a conservation area, so we had the chance to work with limewash render – and the result was beautiful.

Copper cladding can look exotic but it’s incredibly expensive and there are more cost-effective options that look just as good, if not better.

Brick cladding

More traditional cladding methods like brick and render have had a revival in recent years, with more new technologies and finishes offered than ever before. These finishes can look fantastic against existing buildings and can either blend in or contrast with the existing building.

Brick and render can start to weep after a few months. This is a common process as minerals are washed out of the material and can be washed off. You may need to go through a few cycles of cleaning before the weeping stops.

Cement Cladding

Fibre cement cladding has the advantage that it is indestructible and doesn’t require any maintenance. It comes in various colours and can be supplied either as a smooth surface or textured to mimic timber. It has a long lifespan and looks great in many contexts. A downside of this sort of cladding is that it is made from cement which has a high carbon footprint due to the high firing temperatures required to make cement.

With it being person-made, there is a lot more consistency in the material and therefore easier to install than timber cladding – there shouldn’t be any warped, twisted or bent panels like there could be with timber. Fibre cement cladding usually works out a little more expensive than timber.

What are the issues to avoid when using cladding?

While cladding can be cost-effective and aesthetically pleasing, it can also blow your budget and ruin how a house looks.

For example, composite plastic cladding wears terribly. In just a few years it gets mouldy. For an external finish, you need to know it will age well.

Keep it dry and think of your climate

Timber’s worst enemy is moisture, so the best thing for it is good ventilation. A rainscreen is when there is a gap between each board so that the whole façade is well ventilated, this keeps the timber dry and gives it a long lifespan. The breather membrane behind the rainscreen is there to make your building watertight, so this needs to be carefully applied and sealed correctly by a competent contractor.

Tongue and groove and lapped cladding can retain some moisture in the joints between boards which isn’t as good for the longevity of the timber. Cladding should also be raised off the ground to ensure that it doesn’t touch the ground and avoid rain splashing up on the timber, this keeps it clean and as dry as possible. Weathered timber generally doesn’t require any maintenance.

Think about the finish over time

Most timbers will lose their colour over time, for example, larch turns from an orange to a silvery grey over the space of 1 – 2 years. There are some coatings that can be applied to the surface of the timber that gives the appearance of weathering so that the day the timber is installed it looks like it has been there for years.

It also helps to give consistency to the weathering. Often, you see untreated timber that weathers quicker on south and west-facing elevations (it is the driving rain that causes weathering) and under soffits, window reveals and less exposed elevations the colour remains. On the flip side, there are also some coatings that help to preserve the colour in the timber, you can discuss the various finishes with a good sawmill or timber merchant.

Want to chat cladding? Why not visit our website today? And for more tips, advice and even more HOKO content, our Instagram is the place to be. You can also see more examples of our digital work on our YouTube channel.

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