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Cladding a House: Your Complete Guide

cladding a house
(Image credit: Richard Downer Photography/Van Ellen Sheryn Architects)

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).

cladding a house

On this house, a timber frame home by Oakwrights, horizontal timber cladding has been combined with render.  (Image credit: Oakwrights/Mark Welsh)

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?

cladding a house

The wooded setting of this Border Oak house meant that it was important for the new design to nestle well into its surroundings. Timber cladding was chosen for its ability to weather and soften over time. (Image credit: Border Oak)

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.

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)

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:

  • 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

cladding a house

The horizontal timber cladding on this contemporary home suits its long, low form.  (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 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?

cladding a house

This extended cottage is clad with textured render and slate tiles hung vertically — the two different cladding types provide a nice distinction between old and new.  (Image credit: Charlie O’Beirne)

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.

cladding a house

Crisp white render is the perfect partner for expanses of glass and offsets dark grey aluminium window frames brilliantly.  (Image credit: Jeremy Phillips)

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

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 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.

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.

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.

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)