Cladding for Buildings – Everything You Need to Know

Written by LetsBuild

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Applying a material over another, essentially providing a skin, on the exterior of a home is called cladding.  This provides not only extra insulation to buildings, but additional weather resistance and an improved appearance.  You can use any number of materials for cladding, but the more popular ones include wood, metal, vinyl, and a large range of composite materials.

Best Cladding Materials

Composite Panels
Composite panels are best used for commercial buildings, but that doesn’t mean that you cannot use them on residential buildings as well.  These panels can be installed quickly, which helps keep costs down.  This is one of the better materials for acoustics and it offers excellent air and water tightness.  You will also love the fire resistance of this material.
Rain Screen Panels
This is one of the more unique cladding materials and it is normally attached to a support structure which is then secured to the building.  Rain screen panels are weather resistant, create ventilation, and reduces condensation within the cavity.  There is also less risk of cold bridging when this material is used.
Built-Up Systems
Built-up systems are made from pre-finished steel or aluminum and are available in many different colors.  The acoustic and thermal performance can be adjusted to meet your needs.  There are even numerous firewall options available with this material.
Cement is highly resistant to damage and weathering, plus it does not get affected by atmospheric pollutants.  Mold and fungi cannot grow on the concrete like it can on other materials and it is frost proof and low maintenance.  The concrete is available in a variety of colors, is lightweight, easy to cut, and can be color matched to meet your needs.

When the Cladding Can Be Installed

Many people know what type of cladding they want to use on the exterior of their buildings before they have even finished the design process of the building itself.  However, it is necessary to have all the rest of the building constructed before the cladding can be put in place.
Therefore, the exterior walls will need to be framed using wood or steel studs.  The walls would then be covered with plywood or another type of board to help the frame sustain strong winds.  The boards will not be required on buildings that are constructed from concrete or masonry though, as those structures are much sturdier and can already sustain strong winds.
After all that is finished, the cladding can easily be put in place on the exterior of the building.  While there are many different materials that can be used for cladding, they are all installed using similar techniques.

How to Install Cladding

Planks or Shingles
Planks or shingles made from vinyl, wood, aluminum, or fiber cement are always nailed to the exterior of a building.  The rows are overlapped, and it is necessary to start at the bottom of the structure and continue until the top is reached.  A blind nailing technique is used for this cladding, which means that the nails are all covered by the material of the row above it.  The cladding is done this way so that the nails are not exposed to the elements, which extends their life since they have a lesser chance of rusting or getting corroded.
Masonry and Concrete
Buildings made from masonry and concrete use a curtain wall system for cladding.  The curtain wall supports itself and does not touch the exterior of the building.  That space in between allows air to circulate between the cladding and the building.  The air prevents moisture from building up, as the moisture will go to the bottom of the structure and will exit through channels that you put in place.  The materials that are used most often for masonry cladding are brick or natural stone.  The natural stone used the most is slate; however, sandstone and marble are also excellent choices.
Metal cladding is fireproof, which is why more people are choosing to use it for their cladding.  This material is easy to install.  When you go to install it, or have it installed, you will need to start at the bottom and work your way to the top.  Thankfully, this material is very low maintenance, so you will never need to do much with it after it has been placed on your building.  There is a downside with metal and that is that it can be dented easily if something hits it.

Fire Resistance

The type of material that you use for your cladding will determine whether or not it is fire resistant.  The worst cladding, when it comes to fires, is timber weatherboards and plywood sheets.  Aluminum and reconstituted timber products have slightly better resistance, but not as much as planks or weatherboard that has been made from fiber cement or steel.  The best cladding, when it comes to fire resistance, is brick, because it can withstand the heat and will not catch on fire.

Benefits of Cladding

While cladding will make your buildings look amazing, there are many other benefits to having this installed.  A few of the benefits that you will love the most include:

  • Increased life expectancy of the building
  • Increased value of the building
  • Eliminates internal issues
  • Protects from water
  • Improves air tightness
  • Improved exterior appearance
  • Lower maintenance costs
  • Lower energy costs

You may not have given cladding another thought in the past, especially if you had never heard of it before or didn’t know how many benefits came with having it installed.  However, now that you are well-versed in this topic, you may want to consider it for any of your future buildings.
If you are in the construction field, you should start using cladding on the buildings that you construct, and if you are an owner, you should talk with your contractor about it when you have your next building built.  The difference that it makes for every building will be worth the extra expense, especially if it means that you do not need to replace the building or make repairs on it anytime soon.