Embarking on cladding a house? Make sure you know your options along with the pros and cons of each.
What is House Cladding?
Cladding a house is done for several reasons. First and foremost house cladding protects the structural walls beneath it from the external elements (moisture, temperature changes and the like). It can also incorporate insulation and, just as crucially, is one of the main influences on the look of a house.
The term house cladding basically encompasses any facing material that is fixed to the exterior of a house. It can be fixed directly to the wall (as with brick slips or stone cladding, for example) or nailed on to timber battens (as in the case of timber cladding).
Why is Cladding a House Necessary?
Houses in the UK used to be built with solid walls, using local materials, such as stone or brick. However, during the 20th century, standard wall-building practice changed to incorporate cavities between the inner and outer walls, often referred to as leaves or skins.
This meant that the the load-bearing duties could now be carried out by the inner leaf, the weatherproofing is taken care of by the outer leaf and the heat retention is achieved by adding insulation between the two leaves.
The outer wall no longer has to sit on the ground and could instead be hung off the inner skin meaning it can be made of much thinner sections because it doesn’t have to be self-supporting. All it has to do is to keep the weather out — this is what cladding a house does.
Do I Need Planning Permission When Cladding a House?
The majority of people cladding a house find that the job falls under Permitted Development.
However, this won’t apply to listed buildings or on any house on specially protected types of land, within a National Park or AONB.
If you live in a terraced or semi-detached house, whilst planning permission might not be a concern, you will need to think about how the new cladding will affect your neighbours.
Which House Cladding Should I Choose?
When cladding a house, the main concern for many people is how the cladding will look and whether it will suit their house design. That said, your choice may be dictated by local planners, particularly if you are taking on a self build project. Often you might be expected to choose a material that fits in with your surroundings.
Other factors to consider are the level of maintenance that will be required when it comes to the upkeep of the cladding, the cost of the materials and how they will be fixed, as well who will install your house cladding (some timber cladding can be fitted on a DIY basis, for example.)
Your options include:
- vertical tiling
- porcelain tile
- fibre cement
- modern synthetic materials
PVCu House Cladding
PVCu can be one of the cheapest house cladding options — although it should be noted that some of the top-quality versions may cost no less than timber.
It comes in white, coloured and timber effect versions and is made from cellular PVC using a process that creates two layers. The outer skin contains UV-resistant titanium-dioxide — meaning that good quality PVC is long lasting and requires minimal maintenance.
It is easy to fit on a DIY-basis, thanks to its lightweight properties and being sold as interlocking boards.
The detailing is not always as delicate as that of timber and although lower maintenance than timber equivalents, PVCu can, over time, discolour — unless you are willing to pay more for those higher quality versions. These often come with up to 20-year discolouration guarantees.
(MORE: Exterior Makeover Design Guide)
Timber House Cladding
There are many types of timber cladding, from softwood, to those that are chemically or heat treated.
Softwood timber cladding is good option for those on a budget. Low cost timbers include spruce and pine, with the very lowest prices starting between £5-8/m² for boards in their raw state, unfitted.
These will need priming and painting and regular maintenance in the form of preservative treatments and re-painting. Due to their maintenance requirements they can, over time, actually work out to be more expensive than some hardwoods — although if you plan to move on quickly, this may not be your concern.
For those with a slightly bigger budget to spend on cladding a house, there are several types of timber house cladding that fit the bill — needing no initial or even subsequent staining in order to maintain their looks.
Lately, the use of unstained timbers has increased. These include cedar, larch and spruce, as well as oak and chestnut. These timbers can last for many decades without any surface coating and are designed to weather attractively over time.
Boards are supplied in a number of ways, but timber cladding is a job that is possible to carry out on a DIY basis should you wish to save money. If you were to call in the professionals, you could expect to pay around £42/m² for the boards and fitting.
Heat-treated timbers, such as Thermowood, Kebony and Accoya, are also a good choice. The heat treatment reduces their moisture content and makes them more stable than untreated timber.
What is Shou Sugi Ban Cladding?
There is a current trend for using charred timber cladding, a practice that has been around for hundreds of years in Japan.
It involves running a blowtorch across the surface of the timber boarding to blacken it, but not to burn it. It is know as Shou Sugi Ban. The resulting look is a very attractive, black finish with lots of visual interest.
Should I Use Tile Hung Cladding?
If you are hoping for a more traditional finish, consider tile hanging — a prominent feature of many houses in the South-East of England.
Tile hanging doesn’t come in cheap, at around £46/m², depending on the tiles (handmade clay will be considerably more expensive than concrete) but adds a great deal of character to a building.
For those after something a little more contemporary, large format porcelain tile cladding is also now available. Take a look at the range from Porcelanosa.
Cladding a House with Render
There are many render options when it comes to house cladding. As well as the standard cement-based renders there has been fresh interest in lime and clay plasters, as well as the latest ‘monochouche’ (French for ‘single layer’ or ‘bed’) renders.
Monocouche renders use white cement and are pre-coloured, so that what you are applying is as much a decorative finish as a weatherproofing layer. They can be applied in one coat (typically around 15mm thick) and so, even though more costly initially, are less labour intensive than traditional renders.
A monocouche render is supplied in bag form ready for mixing with water; it is then either applied by hand trowel or sprayed on.
At around £48/m² (installed), render works for both contemporary and traditional designs, covering any unsightly brickwork
If you are willing spend a little more, through-coloured renders are a convenient, non-paint option.
How Much Does Cladding a House Cost?
Prices for house cladding really do vary and will depend on the material you have chosen, as well as the design of your house, how much cladding you need and who will be installing it.
It is important to bear in mind, that cheapest is not always best — this is the material that will define the appearance of your home and protect it from the elements. It needs to be high quality in order to do this whilst weathering well.
The prices below do not include fixings or labour.
- PVCu: From £31/m²
- Softwood Cladding: From £5/m²
- Hardwood and treated timbers: From £40-£45/m²
- Render: Rendering using a sand and cement ‘scratch coat’ and a finer render topcoat, followed by two coats of external masonry paint: From £40/², incl. labour.
- Fibre Cement Cladding: From 31/m²
- Hung clay tiles: From £45/m²
- Stone cladding: From £60/m²
Fibre Cement House Cladding
Pre-finished fibre cement boards are are a long-lasting and low maintenance option. They are also available in a wide variety of colours and finishes.
For some, their uniform, ‘perfect’ appearance appeals, whilst others prefer the more natural, rustic appeal of timber.
Glass reinforced concrete cladding panels are another option.
Brick Slips House Cladding
Brick is often laid as a self-supporting, ground-bearing skin. However, there is an increasing use of brick skins or slips, hung off a metal base that is fixed to an inner wall.
Although they are quick to lay, brick slips are an expensive house cladding option.
What is a Rainscreen?
A rain screen is a term that applies to an integrated system, complete with a concealed steel framework on which the external cladding material is fixed. They are also known as curtain walling and can be made from metal, glass or a modern take on traditional materials, such as tiles.
Ask the manufacturer about warranties for the cladding, and check that the material is acceptable to your structural insurance provider, to ensure that you’re covered.
Cladding a House for an Exterior Makeover
If you are looking to make a quick profit from your home or just want to update the look of your house on a budget, consider simply improving on what you already have. There are several ways to improve the appearance of a house without fully cladding it.
Painting any ugly brickwork or dirty grey pebble-dash a fresh new shade may well suffice.
Bear in mind, too, that it may not be necessary to clad the entire house — often focusing on just the upper storey or including a feature panel will smarten up an exterior.
Check out these amazing external makeovers for some inspiration.
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