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Cladding is used to protect a building's structure from the elements. It does not provide much strength, unlike say brick or stone which provide structure and external finish. Modern building methods often use cladding on lightweight structures, to provide novel finishes, or sometimes to renovate a depleted or damaged exterior surface.
When doing an eco build, we use wood cladding on a timber frame structure. A good choice is Finnforest Thermowood, shown left. This is heat treated under pressure and does not have any chemical additives for preservation and fire proofing. It outperforms untreated timber in every respect: strength, stability, longevity and resistance to moisture and fungal attack. Thermowood is a natural cladding that is heat treated and very good for insulation and all-round protection.
Finnforest convert top-quality renewable softwood into long-lasting Thermowood purely by heat treatment. It provides good noise and insulation properties, coupled with low maintenance, natural warmth.
Wooden shingles are, like tiles, made from wood and are lapped onto a building preventing rain water from attacking the wall underneath. These can be made from many types of wood with cedar being popular.
However in order to make sure that the wood is environmentally friendly make sure it comes from a sustainable source and ideally would have a FSC approval stamp on it. Plywood can be skinned with a thin layer of cedar allowing the material to be easier worked into place and often these systems can be "click to fit" slotting into place and reducing the labour required.
Wood carries the disadvantage of rotting if left untreated and also can be attacked by wildlife (i.e. termites).
Shiplap is a popular type of cladding. It is made of a cheap wood such as pine or cedar. The profile of each wooden board partially overlaps that of the board next to it thus creating a channel that gives shadow line effects.
It provides excellent weather protection and strength and allows for dimensional movement. It is used for outdoor locations where durability and little maintenance are required.
The wooden channels at the edges of the boards are known as rabbets (not rabbits!).
Cladding - other finishes
Fibre-Cement composite shingles
These are immune to rot and termites. They consist of cement, silica sand and wood fibres from either small fast growing sustainable trees or from recycled wood products.
These are then steam cured under pressure to give the composite its structural strength. This creates a material that is very durable and non-combustible, which is useful when replacing rendering on older buildings that may contain asbestos.
Plastic based products
Occasionally used as siding. Recycled plastic from drinks bottles etc. can be used dramatically offsetting the carbon usage compared to if all new materials are used. Plastic siding can be made to resemble many forms including wood and stone and has the benefit of being completely rot proof.
Metal can be used to produce siding materials with aluminium and steel being the most popular choice. Aluminium is ideal in coastal areas as it will not rust compared to steel which will be attacked by the salt in the air.
Metal has the advantage of being highly durable and flame resistant. The main problem with metals is they do not provide any insulation and are a good conductor of heat. This means they will take energy from a warm wall and transmit it to the cold outside air. Where metals are used appropriate insulation should be used.
Exterior Insulation Finishing System (EIFS)
Another method of wall insulation and finishing. In this integrated system a layer of foam plastic insulation is attached to the outer wall, onto this a reinforcing layer of fibreglass is placed. Over this a final topcoat is added which can finished.
This layer could be finished in whichever way best suits the look of a building, including stone chip, coloured or even brickwork style.
There is a new Kingspan cladding and wall structure system that incorporates solar thermal heating. They also have new 2009 systems with attractive finishes such as brick and wood.