Exterior cladding: a buyer’s guide
From slate tiles to zinc panels, which is the best option for your home?
Cladding forms the protective external layer of a property, and the choice of material will dictate the finished look. There’s an array of different exterior cladding types and materials to choose from, including timber shingles, metal sheeting, stone tiles and composite boards.
Teaming contrasting types such as timber with render or zinc is a great way to highlight architectural details or define a standout extension.
When teamed with insulation, cladding helps to improve the thermal performance of a building. Prices vary between materials, and installation will add to the final cost. Although some options can be fitted by a competent DIY-er, most will require installation by a professional.
Will you need planning permission?
There are instances when work on the outside of your home comes under permitted development rights (PDR), such as if you are replacing worn-out cladding like for like. The exception is if you live in a conservation area, a national park, or an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), when you’ll need to apply for planning permission.
Those building a new home must include details of the cladding when making a planning application. In some cases, the type of material that can be used will be dictated by the planners to suit the area or neighbouring properties. Check with your local authority before starting any work. For more information, visit the Planning Portal.
Cladding and fire safety
The fire performance of any cladding system must be compliant with Building Regulations. It’s important to investigate a product’s fire rating, seek information from the manufacturer and ask about warranties. It must also be installed correctly.
The Euroclass system for fire classification is being adopted over the older British Standards. It ranges from A1, which means non-combustible and makes no contribution to fire, down to F, which means combustible and easily flammable. Click here for more detailed fire safety advice from Gary Peacey, director at EWI Consultants.
Timber cladding is either softwood, hardwood or modified wood. It’s available as shingles, which look more like timber tiles, or planks in varying sizes that can be fixed horizontally or vertically. Wood that is naturally knot-free (clear grade) brings a clean, contemporary look, while knottier varieties have a more rustic appeal.
Durable softwood species such as western red cedar, European larch and Douglas fir resist moisture and decay. When left untreated they will weather to a silvery grey, or they can be given a surface treatment, which needs to be repeated periodically, to preserve their original colour.
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.
Hardwoods such as oak and sweet chestnut are even more durable than softwoods. The boards are generally air- or kiln-dried to a moisture content between 15% and 25% for structural stability, and come with a rustic waney edge where the bark is retained or more clean-lined machine-cut finishes.
Modified woods such as Abodo, Accoya, Kebony and ThermoWood are softwoods that have been thermally or chemically altered to enhance their stability and durability. They’re virtually maintenance free, with a lifespan of 50-60 years, and are widely used as exterior cladding.
Shou sugi ban timber is charred to waterproof and preserve the wood, making it resistant to fire, rot, insects and the effects of sunlight. There are several shades available, ranging from pale grey/ brown to black. It’s expensive but it requires no maintenance.
Costs for timber cladding vary. Expect to pay from around £40 per sqm for softwoods, £90 per sqm for hardwoods, and £80 per sqm for modified timber, while shou sugi ban costs around £100 per sqm.
Look for a product that’s sustainably sourced, such as those with FSC certification, has the CladMark quality assurance guarantee from the Timber Decking and Cladding Association CladMark, and a guarantee of at least 25 years.