Cladding Advice

The term cladding has several different meanings, depending on the industry in which the term is used. The general definition is the fastening or bonding to two dissimilar materials to perform a specific function. In metallurgy, this can mean bonding two different metals by pressure. In construction, however, cladding refers to the fastening of a material to the exterior of a building to (1) divert water and (2) provide energy saving insulation. Cladding may also refer to the visible, non-structural surfacing of the wall materials.

Cladding for insulation and water diversion on a house or other building may be applied during construction after the structure is framed and the exterior wall rough boarding is applied. In an existing structure, cladding may be installed after the removal of old siding, before the new siding is applied. Cladding may also be applied on the roof rough boarding before shingles are applied. Decorative cladding may be used in lieu of other exterior finishing materials.

A variety of materials are used in cladding.

• Precast stone or masonry panels may be used for decorative as well as protective purposes. These may be of natural or cultured stone and aggregates, or they may be formed from thin veneers of natural stone bonded to an aluminum reinforced honeycomb.

• Closed cell foam building wrap is often used under siding or shingles. This type of cladding is purely for insulation and energy conservation.

• Recycled paper, wood and even bamboo fibers are bound together with a resin into durable, decorative cladding that comes in a variety of finishes.

• Ceramic Tile panels may be used as a protective, decorative, long-lasting wall cladding.

• Panels of wood, plastic and other materials.

• Cement-like compounds that can appear like wood and other natural materials.

• Composite panels of metal, wood, stone, brick, sandwiched together into durable, decorative, water resistant building exteriors.

• Cement coatings applied to closed cell foam panels.

• Western Red Cedar has been the most popular natural wood cladding for several hundred years. It is naturally resistant to insects and other pests, is easily maintained and durable. It is soft so it shouldn’t be used in high-impact areas and the high tannin content will corrode iron, so stainless, galvanized or composite fasteners should be used to avoid stains.

When amortized over the life of the material, cladding can be a very cost effect means of saving energy, preventing water infiltration and having a decorative, maintenance-free building exterior. The variety of materials and the design flexibility allow architects and designers to create nearly any exterior elevation.

Though it is easy to install, cladding a building isn’t for amateurs, but should be left to the professionals who will properly prepare and hang the material in a manner that precludes any leaking, cracking or other hazards of a poor installation.

Depending upon the type of material selected for the cladding, the resulting building exterior will be nearly maintenance-free. The is no painting, sealing, staining, re-pointing or other periodic tasks, only an occasional power-washing to removed airborne dirt and dust.

Matthew Kerridge is a retired Home Improvement expert. For more information about cladding please visit

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