One of the simplest ways to protect and insulate your home is with external wall cladding. However, there are a number of different types of wall cladding, each with its own properties and benefits. Whether you are building or renovating a home, choosing the right cladding will affect the look and feel of the building.
To help you make the most informed decision, we’re going to run through some of the different types of external wall cladding options.
Why you need Cladding
While not all claddings are created equal, there are some benefits you can expect from most available cladding options. For instance, cladding acts as a physical barrier between the external elements and your home. That means it protects the more delicate internal structures and materials of your home from potentially damaging elements like wind, rain and UV damage. That said, different claddings may be more or less suited to the conditions in your local environment.
In the same vein, all claddings offer a level of insulation from both heat and sound. But a certain cladding material may be more suitable for your situation.
So what options are commonly available?
If you want a rustic look, timber cladding is a great choice. It’s also good for warmer climates as it lets your home breathe while remaining waterproof. This is why you see timber cladding so commonly used in more humid regions like Queensland.
However, since it’s made from wood, timber cladding can be a fire risk and so may not be suitable in high bushfire risk areas.
If you do decide to go with timber, ensure you go with a cladding option that uses sustainably sourced materials. Otherwise, you can contribute to deforestation and the extinction of animals that rely on these trees.
An alternative to timber, plywood can also be a way to create a rustic look. Because of the cross-grains, plywood is often stronger than timber while being lighter. However, like timber, it can be a significant fire risk.
Additionally, only certain grades of plywood are waterproof. If you need signifnact water resistance, you’ll need to secure marine grade plywood.
Plywood isn’t a particularly good insulator and is prone to condensation. As a result, it’s not recommended for areas with varying average temperatures and high humidity.
Vinyl is a popular choice because it’s relatively cheap and looks great. It rarely needs maintenance and can handle most weather conditions. Vinyl is also a great insulator.
Depending on the type of vinyl it may or may not be eco-friendly. It can be easy to make and recycle, but not all options are as green as others.
If you’re looking for a good insulating and soundproofing choice, composite cladding rates highly. Typically, this is a cladding that has been bonded to a foam-backed composite material. For instance, plywood or timber are commonly used.
Composite cladding is typically waterproof and fire resistant, which makes it a good all-rounder. However, the process of gluing the materials together, as well as the foam, means that composite cladding products aren’t very eco-friendly.
If you want a modern look with minimal maintenance, steel may be the answer. It’s a highly durable material that is waterproof and can withstand high temperatures. It’s also completely fireproof, so it’s great for high-rise buildings or properties in high-risk bushfire areas.
Steel cladding is not great when it comes to insulation, so you will need to factor this into your choice. It is also not a renewable resource, although it can be recycled.
An alternative to steel is aluminium. Like steel, it’s highly durable and doesn’t need much in the way of maintenance. If you live in a coastal area with a high salt content in the air, aluminium cladding is a great choice as it won’t corrode like some other metal materials. It’s also incredibly waterproof.
Aluminium can also be fire-resistant, but check the specific cladding you choose. Some cheaper aluminium composite products have a flammable core, which has been known to result in serious fires.
Aluminium will gather condensation and it’s not the best when it comes to insulating. As a fairly light, thin metal, aluminium isn’t the best at insulating against noise.
Traditional or manufactured stone is good for areas with a high fire danger. It also is unlikely to suffer from condensation.
Stone, though, will need to be sealed for optimum use. If installed incorrectly, moisture can also end up trapped behind the stone, eventually damaging it and the home.
Also known as monolithic cladding, plaster cladding is a more traditional option. The effectiveness of your plaster cladding often depends on the manufacturer and the builder laying it. If not correctly joined, water can easily get through.
Additionally, it will usually need a waterproof coating and regular maintenance. However, it can be a way to get a seamless appearance to your home.
Bricks have long been a favourite cladding because of their high durability and low maintenance. Additionally, they can let a building breathe and are good for areas with regular bushfires.
However, if you live somewhere that is frequently damp, bricks may not be the best choice as they aren’t the most waterproof of materials.
There are a range of options when it comes to cement and concrete cladding. Typically, they’re incredibly durable and can stand up against floods and fires. When it rains, there’s also unlikely to be much condensation. Generally, concrete or cement cladding will need to be painted and sealed for best results.
This type of cladding usually isn’t a particularly good insulator, although this can vary depending on the composition. Some have been designed to be better insulators.
Cement and concrete are usually not renewable resources, can’t be recycled and require a lot of energy to manufacture. However, their long expected lifespan can help to offset their energy requirements. But if you’re intending to create an eco-friendly home, you might want to try another kind of cladding.
There’s no all-round winner when it comes to cladding. Different cladding will be suited to different climates and homes. Think about your home and what cladding most closely matches your needs.