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House Cladding: How to Choose the Right Material For Your Home

the house cladding on this extension to a barn conversion is timber and zinc
(Image credit: Matthew Smith)

Your choice of house cladding is crucial to your home's design. It will not only define the overall appearance of the property, but it will also determine how much maintenance will be required to keep your home looking its best. 

There is a wealth of options to choose from. Your selection will depend on what materials are typically used in the local area, your home's construction as well as your budget.

Our house cladding guide will explain everything you need to know in order to select the best products and fixing methods for your individual requirements.  

oak frame house with timber house cladding

This oak framed house, by Border Oak (opens in new tab), has a combination of house cladding types, including timber weathboarding which will continue to weather over the years.  (Image credit: Jeremy Phillips)

What is House Cladding?

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House cladding can be used to describe any facing material – be it stone, timber cladding, brick or render, for instance – that is fixed to the exterior of a house. Its main purpose is to protect the underlying structural walls from the elements. 

Although cladding has an important practical role, for many homeowners, it is the effect it will have on the final appearance of their house that is the main concern. Material, profiles, colours and even fixing methods will all play a part here.   

Depending on the material, there are different ways to fix house cladding. Sometimes it is attached directly to the wall (as is the case with brick slips, render and stone cladding, for example) or nailed on to timber battens (as with timber cladding). 

What's more, some types of house cladding are also designed to incorporate insulation or can be used with external wall insulation when retrofitting an existing home.

cedar house cladding

The narrow horizontal western red cedar cladding used on this house serves to highlight its contemporary design.  (Image credit: Simon Maxwell)

Exterior House Cladding Uses

All houses used to be built with solid walls, using materials that were available nearby, such as stone or brick. However, in the 20th century things began to change and standard wall-building practice began to use cavities between the inner and outer walls, often referred to as 'leaves' or 'skins'.

This meant that the load-bearing duties were now carried out by the inner leaf, while the weatherproofing was the responsibility of the outer leaf, with heat retention achieved by adding insulation between the two leaves.

As the outer wall no longer had to rest on the ground, instead being hung off the inner skin, it could now be made of much thinner sections. 

All of this means that the only requirement of the outer wall is to keep the weather out — and this is the purpose of house cladding. 

slate house cladding on a modern home

Slate has been used to clad this striking contemporary self build — it creates a bold contrast with the crisp white render.  (Image credit: Simon Maxwell)

Do You Need Planning Permission For Cladding?

Do you need planning permission for external house cladding? Not always. If you are replacing like for like on an existing home, most people re-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.

vertical timber cladding

The simple vertical timber cladding used here help to blend the structure in with its surroundings.  (Image credit: Julian Abrams)

Types of House Cladding

oak frame with timber cladding

This beautiful new oak frame home, by Oakwrights, features a combination of cladding materials, including cream-coloured render, brick and larch cladding. (Image credit: Oakwrights © Mark Watts)

When cladding a house, the main concern for many homeowners tends to be how it will impact on the appearance of their house and whether it will suit its overall style. That said, your choice may actually 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 or neighbouring properties.

cladding a house

The contemporary form of this self-build was enhanced by the use of unusual blue brick cladding and plenty of frameless glazing. (Image credit: Simon Maxwell)

It is also wise to consider how much maintenance will be required in the upkeep of the type of house cladding you choose, 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.)

When it comes to house cladding materials, your options include:

What Are The Benefits of uPVC House Cladding?

uPVC house cladding is often one of the cheapest options when compared to other materials, although it should be noted that some of the top-quality versions may cost no less than timber.

PVCu cladding from Freefoam Building Products

PVCu cladding comes in many different colours and finishes. Here, Freefoam Building Products’ (opens in new tab) woodgrain effect PVCu cladding sits well next to modern grey windows (Image credit: Freefoam Building Products)

uPVC cladding 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 uPVC 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, uPVC 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.

(MOREExterior Makeover Design Guide)

Wooden House Cladding: The Advantages and Disadvantages

house cladding

The owners of this home, a remodelled bungalow, originally considered cement fibre cladding but were worried the finished look would be too 'perfect' so opted for European redwood cladding instead.  (Image credit: Simon Burt)

There are many different types of timber house cladding, ranging from softwood, to chemically or heat treated timbers.

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.

It is important to note that softwoods such as 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.

timber cladding treated with wood protection

It is important to treat softwood cladding in order for it to withstand the elements. The timber cladding used on this new house has been treated using SiOO:X (opens in new tab) wood protection meaning it will weather evenly over time (Image credit: SiOO:X)

For those with a little more to spend on their house cladding, there are several other options — and these types of wooden house cladding need no initial or even subsequent staining in order to maintain their looks.

Recently, 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 weather attractively, to a silver, over time.

Boards come supplied in various ways, but installing timber cladding is a job that is possible to carry out on a DIY basis should you wish to save some 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 (opens in new tab) and Accoya (opens in new tab), 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?

The current trend for charred timber cladding – also known as Shou Sugi Ban cladding – might seem like a new idea, but this is in fact 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. The resulting look is a very attractive, black finish with lots of visual interest.

charred timber cladding on extension

This striking extension to a Grade II listed barn conversion has been clad with vertical charred timber cladding.  (Image credit: Jean-Christophe Godet and Soup Architects)

Vertical Hanging Tiles

Anyone aiming for a traditional finish should consider vertical hanging tiles — a prominent feature of many houses in the South-East of England.

However, 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.

There are contemporary tile hanging options too — large format porcelain tile cladding is also now available. Take a look at the range from Porcelanosa (opens in new tab).

tile hung cladding

Handmade clay tiles have been used as a house cladding material for small sections of this house, by Oakwrights (opens in new tab), to add character and interest. (Image credit: Oakwrights © Mark Bolton)

Rendering a House

There are many render options when it comes to external 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.

victorian house extension

Render can look great used in conjunction with a number of other house cladding materials, including brick and timber.   (Image credit: Chris Snook)

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. They'll also mean lower maintenance in the long-run — you won't need to re-paint them five to 10 years.

cladding a house

A combination of cladding types has been used in the design of this highly contemporary home, including timber, glass and render.  (Image credit: Simon Maxwell)

Fibre Cement Cladding: What is it?

Pre-finished fibre cement board cladding is a long-lasting and low maintenance option. It is available in a wide variety of colours and finishes and has many benefits.

For some, the uniform, ‘perfect’ appearance of fibre cement cladding appeals, while others prefer the more natural, rustic appeal of real timber.

Glass reinforced concrete cladding panels are another option.

fibre cement house cladding

Fibre cement cladding from Cedral (opens in new tab) was used to finish off this striking contemporary extension.  (Image credit: Simon Maxwell/Kemma Watts)

Brick Slips Cladding: A Hot Trend

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.

Due to their thin profile, they can be a good option when installing external wall insulation to a home.

Although they are quick to lay, bear in mind that brick slips are an expensive house cladding option.

house cladding contemporary

This contemporary self-build by architect Jake Edgley of Edgley Design (opens in new tab) features black-stained Southern Yellow Pine cladding — it looks great combined with brick and stone.  (Image credit: Simon Maxwell and Richard Chivers)

Different Types of Stone Cladding

Stone house cladding is a popular choice with those after a warm, classic appearance, although, depending on the stone used, it can also create a very contemporary look.

Stone cladding is considerably cheaper than using solid stone for the construction of a house, with some types coming in at around the same price as render.

Stones suitable for cladding include sandstone, slate and even limestone. Often, local planners will dictate they type of stone that can be used depending on what the local stone is in the area you are building. 

stone clad contemporary house

For this contemporary self build a combination of house cladding materials has been used, including zinc and iroko timber. The tumbled Great Tew ironstone cladding adds warmth and character.  (Image credit: Fraser Marr)

How Much Does House Cladding Cost?

House cladding costs vary depending on the materials you choose, as outlined above.

At the lowest end of the scale lie untreated softwoods, such as pine, although you will need to factor in your own finishing and maintenance costs. uPVC cladding is also one of the cheaper house cladding options.

At the top end of the price scale lie stone, hardwoods, handmade hanging tiles and through-coloured renders, all coming in at between £40-£70/m² (installed).

If you want to save money on house cladding, consider going for an option that you can fit on a DIY basis, such as some tongue-and-groove timber types of cladding.

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.

  • uPVC: 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/m², incl. labour.
  • Fibre Cement Cladding: From 31/m²
  • Hung clay tiles: From £45/m²
  • Stone cladding: From £60/m²

What is Rainscreen Cladding?

A rainscreen 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.

rainscreen cladding

This house, in Aberdeenshire, designed by TAP Architects (opens in new tab), has been clad in dark Siberian larch rainscreen cladding.  (Image credit: David Barbour)

Exterior House Makeovers With Cladding

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. For instance, 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.

cladding a house

New cladding can smarten up and even transform a house. Here, new lime render cladding has been used in the renovation of a period cottage.  (Image credit: Simon Maxwell)

Natasha is Homebuilding & Renovating’s Associate Editor and has been a member of the team for over two decades. An experienced journalist and renovation expert, she has written for a number of homes titles. She has renovated a terrace and is at the end of the DIY renovation and extension of her Edwardian cottage. She is now looking for her next project.