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Cladding: New Façades for Ugly Homes

Above: This tired, uninspiring 1960s house has been given a clean, fresh look, obtained using timber sash windows, a reworked extended area to the front façade and a render finish to cover the dated brickwork.

It may seem odd, but more and more people are now actually going out and looking for ugly houses to buy. It appears that the days of house hunters fighting tooth and nail for pretty Victorian homes and quaint cottages are numbered, as buyers wake up to the fact that you pay a premium for ‘period’ and yet don’t necessarily get more space, a bigger garden or the room for growth that you get with many seemingly ‘boring’ inter- and post-war houses.

Often houses built during the 1950s, ’60s and even into the ’70s were built using cheap bricks or featured panels of concrete tile hanging or pebbledash — none of which do much in terms of aesthetics for the façade of a house. One of the very best ways to improve the appearance of this type of house is to change the cladding. But which type should you choose?

For those Moving On, depending on the appearance of the house in the first place, the wisest option may in fact be to go with what is already there, as there are several ways to improve the appearance of a house without fully cladding it. Consider whether simply painting any ugly brickwork or dirty grey pebbledash a fresh white would be sufficient for your purposes. Bear in mind, too, that it may not be necessary to clad the entire house — often cladding just the upper storey or including a feature panel of cladding will smarten up an exterior.

In terms of materials, one of the cheapest forms of cladding is PVCu, although some of the top-quality versions will cost no less than timber. Coloured PVCu is available, but white will generally be the cheapest option. The detailing is not always up to that of timber and although lower maintenance than its timber equivalents, PVCu will, over time, discolour — unless you are willing to pay more for higher quality versions that often come with up to 20-year discolouration guarantees, in which case you might as well just opt for timber anyway.

The other option is to go for softwood cladding. Amongst the lower cost timbers are spruce and pine, with the very lowest prices starting between £5-8/m2 for boards in their raw state, unfitted. The downside is that these will need regular maintenance in the form of preservative treatments and painting, and over time will actually work out to be more expensive than some hardwoods — although if you plan to move on quickly, this may not be a concern.

Above: With concrete tiles to the front exterior, this house has been transformed by painting the tiles and replacing old PVCu doors and windows with beautiful timber versions.

For those with a slightly bigger budget (Fixer-Uppers) and who want to enjoy living in their home for several years, there are several types of timber cladding that fit the bill — needing no initial or even subsequent staining in order to maintain their looks. These timbers include cedar – the best-known being Western redcedar (although interestingly it’s not technically a ‘cedar’) – and larch, which is one of the cheapest of these types of timbers. Boards are supplied in a number of different ways, but timber cladding is a job that is possible to carry out on a DIY basis should you wish to save money — although whether or not you could do as good a job as the professionals will have to be a decision made by you. A fully fitted cost for timber boarding is around £42/m².

Render is another choice, costing slightly more than timber cladding. At around £48/m², it works for both contemporary and traditional designs, covering any unsightly brickwork.

Those with a larger budget hoping to create a Forever Home have several options. As far as timber cladding is concerned, oak and chestnut both weather to an attractive silver colour over time and endure the elements well. Heat-treated timbers, such as Thermowood, are also a good choice. The treatment reduces their moisture content and makes them more stable than untreated timber. There are also a couple of companies now making pre-painted fibre-cement boards, which are long-lasting and low-maintenance — plus they allow you to choose from a wide variety of colours if the natural look is not for you. If you are looking for a rendered finish and are willing spend more to save yourself from having to worry about painting your render, there are coloured renders available.

Finally, if you are hoping for a traditional finish, consider tile hanging. This doesn’t come in cheap, at around £46/m², depending on the tiles, but adds a great deal of character to a building.

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Weatherboarding

It is imperative to ensure water cannot penetrate this form of cladding. To prevent this, water must be allowed to evaporate or run out at the base. This means that weatherboarding must be fixed to battens rather than directly to the wall. It is also best to have a liberal roof overhang to protect the top edges of the weatherboarding from the elements.

Boards are usually mounted horizontally, although there are a variety of fixing styles (SEE BELOW). When fixing you should start from the bottom, leaving a gap of 150mm between the bottom edge of the weatherboard and the ground. Ensure that each board is fixed to at least three battens. Corners can be mitred or given a corner trim.

Different types of weatherboarding

1 Feather-edged
2 Shiplap
3 Shiplap, tongue-and-groove

4 PVCu cladding
5 Square-edged
6 Tongue-and-groove

Invest in Design, and Do Less if Budget is Critical

“If the budget is tight, do less — but what you do do, make sure you do it well, with good-quality products and materials,” says George Hesse from Back to Front Exterior Design (backtofrontexteriordesign.com 01252 820984). “Buyers can spot the hand of a ‘developer’ tarting a house up and putting in cheap materials. Employ a good designer to advise you, too — in my opinion it is worth investing in this rather than spending a lot on materials and labour and ending up with a low-quality result.”

What is Smart Renovating?

The concept of Smart Renovating is based on the idea that renovation is not a one-size-fits-all subject. Different renovation solutions and design ideas make sense for different people depending on their situation. We’ve outlined the three basic situations to enable you to better use this series of articles:

Moving On; You plan to live in the house for less than two years, with the aim of making a profit as opposed to a home for life.

Fixer-Uppers: You intend on staying in the house for four to five years and see it more as a stepping stone to a bigger, better home as opposed to a ‘Forever Home’.

Forever Home: You would like this to be your home for the foreseeable future and are willing to invest time and money in order to transform it into your dream home.