The impact of house cladding should not be underestimated. When cladding a house you need to consider a number of factors, including materials, cost and style. Along with this, you should think about how much maintenance your chosen product will require, as well as whether it will suit the style of your home and tie in with the surrounding architecture.
What is House Cladding?
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External house cladding has various functions. The main role of house cladding is to protect the structural walls beneath it from the external elements (moisture, temperature changes and so on). Some types of house cladding also incorporate insulation.
Practical considerations aside, the driving force behind many peoples' choice of house cladding is the influence it will have on the final appearance of their house.
The term house cladding is basically used to describe any facing material that is fixed to the exterior of a house. It can be attached directly to the wall (as is the case with brick slips and stone cladding, for example) or nailed on to timber battens (as with timber cladding).
Why Do Houses Have Cladding?
There was a time when houses in the UK used to be built with solid walls, using materials that were available nearby, such as stone or brick. This changed during the 20th century when 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 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.
Do I Need Planning Permission For House Cladding?
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.
Types of House Cladding
When cladding a house, the main concern for many homeowners tends to be the effect the cladding will have 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.
It is also wise to think about 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:
- vertical tiling
- porcelain tile
- fibre cement
- modern synthetic materials
PVCu House Cladding
When it comes to the cost of house cladding, PVCu can be one of the cheapest 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)
Wooden 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 wooden 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.
Charred Timber Cladding
The trend for using charred timber cladding – also known as Shou Sugi Ban cladding – continues although 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. It is known as Shou Sugi Ban. The resulting look is a very attractive, black finish with lots of visual interest.
Vertical Hanging Tiles as Cladding
If you are hoping for a more traditional finish, consider vertical hanging tiles — 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.
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.
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.
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 Cladding: An Alternative 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.
House Cladding Costs
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. PVCu 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.
- 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
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 House Makeovers
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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