External Wall Cladding - What You Need to Know
Are you looking to spruce up your home and give it a “makeover”? Maybe you’ve thought of a fresh coat of paint or perhaps you want to just improve the overall look and revitalise your building.
Whether you are looking to improve your existing home or even a self build property, cladding exterior walls is the perfect solution for modernising or “cleaning” up your outer walls through a great choice of material options.
Cladding for exterior walls isn’t only for aesthetics and for improving the look of the outside of your property, it can also help protect your home from wear and tear over the years and the elements. Rain, wind and sunlight can all degrade the look of brick, as well as many other building materials and that’s why so many customers look to revive the outside of their property by using external cladding. Some cladding options also help with thermal insulation as well as exterior protection.
What are the different types of cladding for walls?
Wall cladding exterior panels used to be exclusively made from timber, however, as plastic production has evolved and the technology has advanced in that production, another material has overtaken timber in popularity; PVC.
Timber is not very durable which essentially means that it isn’t a long term solution for cladding exterior walls and it requires frequent re-painting or maintenance.
PVC offers many benefits but the key element which makes it perfect for external wall cladding is its durability. Exterior walls are often the largest surface areas of a home and should you wish to clad most of it, PVC offers versatility in the sheer choice of colours available, as well as the fact that production of PVC cladding for walls enables customers to choose from a wide range of finishes. This means you can install cladding panels which meet your design requirements. For example, you may want something to promote the look of wood grain but without using traditional timber cladding. PVC allows this option and many more, including wood effects and stone effects.
Fibre Cement Cladding
Fibre cement cladding is a Manmade solution and alternative to timber cladding, offering a cheaper and lower maintenance option to timber. It’s actually used now as an alternative to slate in some projects. It was designed as roofing material to replace timber cladding due to that material’s shortfalls in durability and maintenance but fibre cement is rarely used in comparison to the more popular PVC alternative.
Brick Slip Cladding
Brick slip cladding is a neat alternative to actual brick, particularly if you don’t want to lose that “brick” look. They are thin pieces or an actual section of brick but they are much lighter and they fit onto all substrates via adhesive or fixings. This will maintain the design and look of brick. Think of them as masks which fit onto existing surfaces to give the appearance of brick.
The great thing about brick cladding systems generally is that they can be cut and designed into various sizes or shapes to allow more flexible use. They are easy to install and act as great insulators.
External Foam Cladding
External foam cladding offers durability and resistance against impact, as well as versatility on different buildings or applications. It is made from a type of foam like expanded polystyrene which offers a coating which helps toughen the panels against the elements, making it ideal for external projects. The process can be quite quick due to its easy installation and there are no toxic substances involved with foam cladding either, making it user friendly should you wish to install yourself.
The key benefits though include the insulation it provides and the proven cost benefits against heating bills for many users. Cool in the Summer and warm in the Winter, foam cladding is one of the more popular exterior cladding systems because of the advantages to heating the home.
Weatherboard cladding is made from timber or hardwood and used as an easy solution for protection for your exterior walls against the elements. They can be painted or textured to meet specifications but they are an easy option particularly for commercial buildings. However they can peel and deteriorate over time and require maintenance.
Removing Old Cladding Exterior Panels
With any project where you are reinvigorating something, you will often need to remove old materials or dispose of previous fittings. With new cladding you will need to remove old cladding or perform (or arrange a cleaning operation) to remove asbestos or toxic materials which remain. Proper disposal of older materials or harmful substances is important and must be done correctly before fitting new cladding, not only to ensure proper installation but also to remove risk of any exposure to toxic substances.
Safety should be the primary concern when removing old fittings and you’ll need to make sure you are adhering to safety precautions if you are performing the installation yourself.
Cleaning Your Cladding
It’s likely that exterior cladding panels at some point will need cleaning. Despite the fact that these panels can be durable and effective against the weather, over time they will still need care and maintenance. However, it is not advisable to use chemicals or bleach products to clean any type of finished panels and instead, hot soapy water will usually suffice, particularly as PVC panels are easy to wipe clean.
Fire safety Considerations
When installing any cladding yourself, it’s important to adhere to the fire safety regulations pertinent to your environment. There are various rules to follow and how the cladding material needs to meet those required standards for fire safety. With internal cladding as well as exterior wall cladding you must take into consideration any other elements in the wall construction that may cause issues depending on the substrate used. We recommend following regulatory guidelines relating to fire safety when using external cladding systems. All of your cladding sheets should be fire resistant but we advise to always check for certification. Substrate can be the main problem when it comes to invalidating a cladding system’s legality so always do your research.
Explaining Render systems
Rendering is when a coating is applied to exterior walls, including external cladding. Rendering material is generally created with 3 category types including mineral, acrylic and silicone. These can be given various textures and styles depending on the chosen design but also require various thicknesses of render depending on the substrate material used underneath.
Modern renders are popular now due to the design aspects and the flexibility of the process. Lightweight and fairly easy to install, they can be installed with external wall insulation too for the perfect combination. Rendering can be used to “cover” external brick to offer a more versatile aesthetic.
- Acrylic rendering can be pre-coloured and offers durable and waterproof advantages.
- Silicone rendering provides a range of colours and added waterproofing, as well as being a lot easier to install. It’s also more expensive but the benefits of the waterproofing nature of silicone means it is most effective at preventing algae build-up. Life expectancy is fantastic with a predicted 30 years or more and the self cleaning nature of silicone means it really is the prime choice, despite the increased cost over alternatives.
- Mineral tends to be the cheapest option overall but this comes at a cost; durability and maintenance. It would require painting to protect against the weather. It is cement-based and so it’s the cheaper option but we still recommend silicone as the obvious choice, as the extra cost far outweighs the disadvantages of other types.
- Lime can also be used as a render material, however, it’s difficulty in handling and application make it a limited option for most people, unless they are experienced in using Lime.
External cladding ideas
There are a wide range of ideas to implement when using exterior cladding for walls and some projects use inventive designs and layouts to improve the aesthetics of the property, as well as the weather protection and thermal insulation of buildings. There’s no reason though why these installations can’t add a new fresh look to your property. Cladding exterior walls offer exactly that; a fresh new outer look to your building without redesigning or rebuilding.
Cladding ideas are limitless due to the application of different designs, colours, materials and of course the property it’s being installed onto. Whether it’s a metal finish, a wood panel finish, woodgrain, flat and smooth, stone finishing and weathered effect exterior cladding, there are so many options to choose from to freshen up your building exterior, for commercial or domestic.
Many projects have been designed with reserved colours; others have gone for more retro designs or even natural material looks with different textures and finishes to make properties appear more european or sustainable.