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Cladding a House: Everything You Should Know

Contemporary new home clad in untreated cedar
(Image credit: Simon Maxwell)

Wondering which house cladding to choose? Taking into account not only the considerable impact your choice of house cladding will have on the appearance of your home, but also its effect on its performance and the amount of maintenance it will require, it makes sense to know all your options.

What is House Cladding?

House cladding performs several different functions. First and foremost it 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 stone cladding, for example) or nailed on to timber battens (as in the case of timber cladding).

Eco home with Siberian larch cladding

This eco home was carried out on a budget and has been clad in vertically fixed Siberian larch cladding (Image credit: Jeremy Phillips)

What Does House Cladding Do?

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 house cladding does.

Is Planning Permission Needed for House Cladding?

Most 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?

Contemporary home featuring a range of house cladding

This stunning contemporary home, designed by Stan Bolt, features a combination of house cladding materials, including stone, render and vertical timber, all working together to define the various elements of the building (Image credit: Nigel Rigden)

For most people cladding a house, the main concern is how their chosen material will affect the appearance of the house. 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.

single storey extension to renovated farmhouse

The single-storey extension to this renovated farmhouse has been clad in Western Red Cedar, with a zinc roof — a nice contrast to the traditional materials on the original house (Image credit: Stuart Cox)

Other factors you should take into consideration are how much maintenance you are willing to commit to, your budget and who will be installing your house cladding (some timber cladding can be fitted on a DIY basis, for example.)

Your options include:

  • timber
  • brick
  • stone
  • render
  • vertical tiling
  • flint
  • metal
  • porcelain tile
  • fibre cement
  • PVCu
  • modern synthetic materials

(MOREAlternative Cladding Options for Your Home)

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.

PVCu cladding from Freefoam Building Products

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

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.

(MOREExterior Makeover Design Guide)

Timber House Cladding

Self build with mix of render, brick and timber cladding on its exterior

This Essex self build combines render, brick and timber cladding to blend in with the surrounding architecture and break up the building as a whole (Image credit: Simon Maxwell)

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.

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 wood protection meaning it will weather evenly over time (Image credit: SiOO:X)

For those with a slightly bigger budget 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.

Shou Sugi Ban Cladding Explained

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.

What is Tile Hung Cladding?

Siberian larch and slate tile cladding on renovated bungalow

This stylish bungalow renovation features a combination of vertical Siberian Larch and slate tile cladding (Image credit: Simon Maxwell)

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.

Render is a Form of House Cladding

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.

Bungalow remodelled and extended with crisp rendered facade

Your choice of house cladding has a strong influence on its final look — on this bungalow remodel and extension, crisp white render and slate cladding combine to give a striking contemporary finish (Image credit: Alistair Nicholls)

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.

What Does House Cladding Cost?

Remember, cheapest is not always best. These prices 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.

Using Brick Slips as House Cladding

This striking contemporary home has been clad in blue long-format brick and combined with sapele mahogany cladding

This striking contemporary home has been clad in blue long-format brick and combined with sapele mahogany cladding (Image credit: Snook Architects)

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.

Traditional oak frame self build by Border Oak

This new oak-framed self-build by Border Oak features a horizontal timber cladding along with coloured render to break up the facade (Image credit: Jeremy Phillips)

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.

Exterior Makeovers Using House 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.

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.