Cladding can be used to blend in with the surrounding buildings or to create an eye-catching design feature. All cladding will protect a property from the elements, whilst some cladding materials can also help to improve thermal insulation. Most notable cladding materials used for self-build properties include; wood, brick and render. Increasingly, there has been a shift towards sustainability in construction, along with a return to natural alternatives to brick or cement.
Hardwood and softwood
Timber has become a key player within the industry both as an aesthetically attractive building material, but also due to the element of sustainability it can add to a development if sourced responsibly. Timber cladding is fast becoming the most prominent material for self-build projects, offering properties a natural and fashionable look.
Another common reason for selecting timber is the durability of the material. Hardwoods are more durable than softwoods and show superior qualities for construction. Nevertheless, hardwood is typically more expensive and market supply for sustainably managed, slow-growing species can be very volatile. Softwood can be grown quickly in a sustainably managed forest, so is likely to be more eco-friendly than hardwoods. However, they tend to absorb water and deteriorate over time, which often means they are less durable and therefore unsuitable for external cladding since they require regular maintenance and will need replacing in relatively short time frames.
A third of the world’s rainforests have disappeared in the last 50 years, in part due to a high demand for tropical hardwood for use in construction. Sustainability will soon become increasingly important as builders, developers and architects are under mounting pressure from legislation, consumers, demand on resources and the need to meet the demand for new housing. Modified softwood offers a solution to this issue, creating a sustainable option for high quality timber in construction without the associated environmental damage of hardwood deforestation.
A comparative study by environmental consulting firm, Bergfald & Co, showed Kebony one option in the modified softwood market to have a carbon footprint of less than 6%.
Products, such as Kebony, have been used in a range of projects, paving the way for a future in which wood is an integral and sustainable part of the construction industry.
Maintenance and stability
The stability of timber, and maintenance requirements, should also be high on the agenda when selecting cladding materials. Dimensional changes due to moisture being gained or lost, can lead to wood splitting, warping or a loss of structural strength. Modified timber has the ability to bypass the need for maintenance, painting or varnishing, meaning that it is hassle-free and contains no harmful toxins or chemicals.
Whilst environmentally-friendly construction technology has advanced rapidly over recent years, the cost of using such technologies in building can sometimes mean that sustainability features are lower on the overall design agenda. Adding cladding facets to your home can already be a stressful, expensive and complex process before sustainability is taken into consideration. However, with a good selection of materials and the right know-how, it is possible to install environmentally-friendly, attractive and affordable cladding for a self-build project.
Beyond structural concerns, aesthetic appearance is of great importance. Hardwoods, such as mahogany, have a darker colouration, while softwoods, such as pine or fir, are far lighter in colour. Modified timbers have a great variety in their colour, with some types of modification, such as acetylation, not altering the initial colour of the parent wood, thus allowing for a more durable wood with a light colour. Others materials, such as Kebony or thermally modified wood, have a deep brown colour, mimicking the appearance of hardwoods.
Cladding can play an important role in construction, providing an attractive, durable, exterior finish which is in keeping with both contemporary and more traditional designs. Timber is reusable, biodegradable and is one of the least carbon producing construction materials – depending on the type of wood used. The versatility of this timber cladding has reaffirmed timber’s place as a vital, sustainable material in construction.