Cladding is the external layer (the skin of the house) that, as well as enhancing its looks, can also help to insulate and protect it from the elements.
You choice of cladding material is just as important as the overall layout, design and construction method, ultimately dictating the the finished look of your house.
Black-stained cladding can add a contemporary touch to the overall design of a house. Photograph: Simon Maxwell
Material choices include:
- vertical tiling
- modern synthetic materials
The amount you spend on your new exterior cladding should reflect the ceiling price of houses in your area, as well as the maintenance costs that will be involved in caring for the new material.
Consider the Smart Renovating Concept
Smart Renovating is based on the idea that renovation is not a one-size-fits-all subject — when choosing new materials and making alterations to your home, it can be useful to think about which category you fit into.
Moving On: You plan to live in the house for less than two years, with the aim of making a profit as opposed to a home for life.
Fixer-Uppers: You intend on staying in the house for four to five years and see it more as a stepping stone to a bigger, better home as opposed to a ‘Forever Home’.
Forever Home: You would like this to be your home for the foreseeable future and are willing to invest time and money in order to transform it into your dream home.
Do I Need Planning Permission?
Cladding changes may fall under Permitted Development.
However, this does not apply on listed buildings and on any house on specially protected types of land, within a National Park or AONB.
Which Exterior Cladding is Best for Me?
Adding timber cladding to an extension can be a nice way to add contrast to a period property. In this extension, larch cladding has been used. Photograph: Simon Maxwell
Choosing a new exterior cladding material for your home should not only depend on the finished look you are aiming for but also needs to take into account what kind of budget you have for the project.
For Those Moving On:
Painting Existing 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.
Natural stone, such as this black Spanish slate, adds a striking contemporary feel, particularly when combined with crisp white render. Photograph: Simon Maxwell
PVCu can be one of the cheapest 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.
Mixing different types of cladding creates architectural interest and breaks up the facade of a house. Here, white render, stained Douglas fir and rustic oak options combine perfectly. Photograph: Nigel Rigden
Softwood timber cladding is another 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, and over time can actually work out to be more expensive than some hardwoods — although if you plan to move on quickly, this may not be your concern.
The old 1970s house that stood on this coastal site has been updated with new Kebony timber cladding. This heat-treated Scots pine product weathers to a silver/grey over time. Image: Ian Pierce and James Smith
Below is a rough guide to the starting from prices for exterior cladding. Note that as with so many building products, 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
Hardwood and Heat-Treated Timber
For those with a slightly bigger budget and who want to enjoy living in their home for a good few years, there are several types of timber 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 that are designed to weather attractively over time.
Leaving timber cladding in its natural state means it will weather beautifully over time. Here, cedar cladding, laid both horizontally and vertically, has been combined with local pennant stone. Photograph: Simon Maxwell
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.
An old 1970s bungalow on this site in South West London has been transformed into a contemporary home with the addition of Western Red Cedar and render
For Forever Homes:
If you are hoping for a more traditional finish, consider tile hanging. This 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.
Shop cladding options for your project
If existing brickwork is not up to scratch, render can be the ideal cladding option. On this period property, a lime render has been used to ensure the new first floor extension blends in with the rest of the elevation. Photography: Simon Maxwell
Another option is render. At around £48/m² (installed), it 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.
Pre-painted fibre cement boards are are long-lasting and are available in a wide variety of colours and finishes.
They are a low-maintenance option with good longevity and this is reflected in the price.
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 and Stone Slips
This striking contemporary home has been clad in blue long-format brick and combined with sapele mahogany cladding
Although brick and stone are often laid as a self-supporting, ground-bearing skin, they can also be used in the form of brick or stone skins or slips, hung off a metal base that is fixed to an inner wall. They are commonly now supplied as panels.
Although quick to lay, these are an expensive option when compared to conventional brickwork. For this reason, they are usually specified where wall thickness or load is an issue.
Aluminium, zinc, stainless steel, Corten (pre-weathered steel) and copper are all available as rainscreens and offer a contemporary approach to cladding.
This is an area where it pays to seek out an architect who has used them extensively to help with the design issues posed by using a metal rainscreen finish.
Common Cladding Formats
3 Shiplap, tongue-and-groove
4 PVCu cladding
Designed by PAD Studio, this single storey contemporary house is clad in sweet chestnut. Photograph: Nigel Rigden
The Expert’s View
“If the budget is tight, do less — but what you do do, make sure you do it well, with good-quality products and materials,” says George Hesse from Back to Front Exterior Design.
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.