Whether you're looking to transform the exterior of your property or are building a new structure from scratch, this is what you need to know about the most common cladding materials. 

 lewes grand designs external cladding corten - home improvements

Image: Corten exterior cladding of riverbank home in Lewes

Cladding forms the protective external layer of a property, and the choice of material will dictate the finished look. Teamed with good-quality insulation, it will improve the thermal performance of a building.

Options include natural and modified timber, stone and metal, as well as composite materials and fibre cement boards, which mimic stone or wood. Teaming contrasting types such as timber with render or zinc is a great way to highlight architectural details or defining a standout extension.

Your budget will influence your choice of materials as prices vary widely and you will need to take installation costs into account.

Soft woods

rural house r2f larch cladding in skye - home improvements - grand designs

Image: The R2F house, designed and built by Rural House on the Isle of Skye, makes a fitting statement on the landscape as it's clad with larch grown in the Scottish Highlands

Timber is versatile, sustainable and an effective insulator, and timber cladding is usually made from larch, cedar, sweet chestnut, Douglas fir or oak. 

Different species vary in the amount of maintenance required. Wood that is naturally knot-free (clear grade) brings a clean, contemporary look while knottier varieties have a more rustic appeal. Look for a product with a guarantee of at least 15 years, endorsed with the Timber Decking and Cladding Association CladMark.

Larch is a commonly used softwood as it contains a natural protective resin, making it resistant to rot and decay. Western red cedar contains natural oils that act as preservatives to give the wood exceptional durability, which, combined with its tendency to lie flat and remain straight in service, makes it particularly well-suited for cladding.

Hard woods and modified timber 

Shou Sugi Ban exterior wood cladding on an extension - grand designs

Image: This extension is wrapped in charred shou sugi ban wood cladding, from £130 per sqm, Kebony. Photo: Adelina Lliev

If you’re planning to invest in a hardwood, FSC-certified dry oak is a good choice. Hardwearing and resistant to impact, boards are generally dried or kiln dried to a moisture content between 15 and 25% to ensure stability.

Charred timber is a current trend. Shou sugi ban is an ancient Japanese technique for preserving wood by charring it. It’s expensive but it requires no maintenance and is UV resistant. Modified timbers such as Accoya, Kebony and ThermoWood are softwoods that have been thermally or chemically altered to boost stability, durability and resistance. They offer a sustainable alternative to hardwoods and are widely used for cladding.


cedral fibre cement board cladding on exterior of home in shiplap style - grand designs

Image: Fibre-cement Lap weatherboard in grey by Cedral is a low-maintenance solution, simple to install and rot resistant. From £35 per sq m

Fibre cement board is a durable, high-end product made from cellulose, fillers, fibres and cement. It comes in an array of shades and formats, including boards, planks, shakes and shingles that mimic the appearance of wood. It offers a lightweight facade that allows specifiers to achieve shorter construction lead times and improved thermal performance for projects. The finished product has long-term colour stability and can be either painted or through coloured, reducing the impact of any scratches or chips.

Stone and brick 

2020 architects basalt stone house - grand designs

Image: Basalt was chosen by 2020 Architects for the walls of this 5-bedroom country house in Northern Ireland

Stone cladding is attractive and longlasting, but it can be heavy to work with and is prone to frost damage. Also, light colours can be stained by water. Expect to pay upwards of £50 per sq m. Brick and stone slips, made from thin slices of the material, give the look and feel of stone/brick and blockwork construction. They are lightweight, prefabricated and fast to install, as they are clipped or hung on to a structural frame. The typical cost is £25- £35 per sq m from suppliers such as Eurobrick. 


lewes east sussex grand designs corten matt chisnall

Image: The second floor and roof of this self-build in Lewes, which featured on Grand Designs in 2018, are clad in Corten steel, which has a rusty red patina and makes the home a modern landmark on the River Ouse. 

Aluminium, zinc, copper or Corten steel cladding has a contemporary look and can be shaped to follow curved exteriors. It comes in large sheets, prefabricated off-site or as shingles, which are smaller and easy to handle. Finishes can be brushed, sandblasted or mirrored, as well as powder coated.

Zinc standing seam systems are characterised by robust folded connections between panels and can be used for both walls and roofs. Corten steel is a maintenance-free weathering steel that develops a rusty orangered patina; however, discoloured rainwater run-off can be a problem. Copper weathers to a green patina and copper alloys have a gold/ bronze finish if treated.


Looking to clad your home in one of these materials? Let us know by tweeting us @granddesigns or posting a comment on our Facebook page



How to upgrade the exterior of your home

7 trending eco-friendly construction materials

What to consider when choosing glazing for your self-build

Kevins Column

Grand Designs Live: Ask an Expert Weekend 22-23 May 2021

Discover free home project advice and product recommendations from the comfort of your own home. Register now to express your interest.
Home Improvements

How much does an air source heat pump cost?

Find out what an air source heat pump is likely to cost to buy and to run
Home Improvements

How to plan your kitchen storage

Follow this guide when planning the storage in your new kitchen to ensure your scheme is well-organised, easy to use and has room for everything...
Home Improvements

A view to thrill – a stunning Surrey home with weathertight sliding doors

Sliding doors and windows can open up a home and deliver security, weather protection and incredible views. We look at a beautiful case study from...
Home Improvements

Grand Designs launches a sustainable sofa collection

Discover what is available in the Grand Designs collection of sustainable and stylish sofas, armchairs and accessories, manufactured by furniture retailer DFS.
Home Improvements

Which is the best front door to buy?

Choose the best front door for your property with this guide to selecting the best design
Home Improvements

Why your home needs custom made timber doors and windows

You can boost your home’s look and security with bespoke timber doors and windows, made exclusively for the UK