Here, Millboard takes a look at the 10 top considerations for homeowners and self-builders when contemplating cladding.
How the cladding will look is first and foremost in most people’s minds.
Obviously, you want it to enhance your home. If it is a detached property, well apart from any neighbours, you have a freer hand in picking the material you think will give the most pleasing appearance. If other houses are in close proximity, though, you need to think about how your cladding will fit in. A poor choice could diminish not only your own home’s value but also your neighbours’. Generally, while you might crave an avant-garde look, this could backfire if and when you come to sell, so if in doubt, err on the conservative side.
Consider too if you want to clad entire walls, or just sections. You could recreate an Edwardian look by hanging tiles on your top floor only.
02. Legal restrictions
In some circumstances, your options may be restricted by the law.
Although planning permission is not normally necessary, a house may be listed, in a conservation area or subject to specific covenants, all of which could make cladding a no-no. Check before you even start planning: you don’t want to spend a lot of money cladding your home, only to have to spend it again on removing it!
03. The shape of your home
Not all houses have flat walls! If yours has curves, it can take real expertise to fit cladding, and some materials are more amenable than others. Individual stones or tiles are small enough to fit to curves relatively easily. Horizontal timbers are pretty much out of the question, but vertical timbers are often possible, particularly with some wood-look alternatives, such as Millboard cladding.
04. Consistency of appearance
Your house may look beautiful once it’s newly clad, but how will it look in five, 10 or 20 years’ time? Some materials, like stone, will barely change over long periods, but others will be affected by the weather. The fading you get with some types of timber cladding can be exploited as the ultimate weathered look and is often very attractive, but there is a risk that the fading will not be even and that stains arise from metal fixings leaching or in areas that are excessively impacted by rain.
Closely linked to how your cladding will look in years to come is its intrinsic durability. Stone, brick and tile cladding should long outlast you, but timber and PVC options may need replacing at some point. Of course, how long any cladding lasts is often influenced by the next consideration: maintenance.
Different cladding materials demand different maintenance regimes. Stone, brick and tile will need next to none. Timber may need regular treatment or painting, but the need for either can be reduced by using timber that has been treated prior to installation. Most often, this is done by slowly kiln-drying it to remove most of the moisture within the timber. By doing so, the risk of the timber splitting or warping is much reduced. Some premium wood-look cladding, such as Millboard, requires very minimal maintenance. With PVC, cleaning is the only maintenance required or possible, but it also means you cannot counter any unsightly discolouration that might appear over time.
It might seem that if you choose a ‘natural’ product, like stone or timber, you are helping the planet out, but it is far from that simple. Getting stone out of the ground is incredibly energy-intensive and leaves scars wherever it is done. Drying timber also takes a lot of energy, quite apart from the detrimental impact on shrinking tropical forests if hardwood cladding is sourced irresponsibly.
PVC and resin-mineral materials are obviously forms of plastic, derived from oil, and can seem, therefore, like bad options. However, the impact over the whole life of the cladding is what matters – from obtaining the materials to transporting, forming and installing them, as well as their maintenance and ultimate disposal – and a man-made option could actually measure up well overall.
08. Ease of installation
Most cladding is installed onto a subframe of wood or metal battens which itself is constructed over a weatherproof lining. Stone or brick are mortared in, while wood and PVC options are screw fitted. Generally, installation is best left to experts unless you are very confident in your DIY construction skills. Cladding is often pre-formed to some extent, such as timber being tongue-and-grooved, to make installation easier and faster, and, therefore, helps keep costs down.
Installation costs have to be added to materials and maintenance costs to arrive at the true overall figure. For all its advantages on several scores, stone or brick cladding is usually by some way the most expensive option to buy and install.
Timber is often a more realistic option and has wide appeal, but costs vary greatly according to the type of timber and what treatment it has had.
Similarly, PVC and other synthetic options vary enormously. Keep in mind that whatever material you consider, options that are cheap to buy and install may be poorer value in the long run if they deteriorate and lose their initial appearance.
10. Weigh everything up
In the end, your choice of cladding material will depend on the combination of the above factors that fit your home and circumstances. Check out all the options open to you, especially the different materials that are out there. Some of the new synthetic ones offer real advantages in durability, without sacrificing aesthetic appeal.
Finally, you may have to compromise somewhere along the line to meet your financial constraints, but beware of cutting costs to get your cladding up as cheaply as you can. As with so much, you get what you pay for, and cladding is an undertaking worth getting right first time.