Shannon offers his wrap-up of exterior solutions to give your home that final layer of protection and polish…

Cladding is the outer layer of your home’s exterior designed to protect you and the building from the weather. It’s a vital element to get right not only to protect your home, but also to make your castle a real eye-catcher – cladding is one of the biggest and most visually dramatic design features of a home. It goes without saying that the cladding choice you make will directly affect the cost and value of your build, so listen up!

Cladding can help with thermal and sound insulation as well as increasing levels of fire protection and reducing maintenance. These factors all need to come into consideration when choosing what to ‘wrap’ your home in. You also need to think about the sustainability of the materials and the costs involved, whether monetary or environmental.

You should approach the exterior of your home as you do the interior – with the aim of balancing everything from texture to colour and tone. Think also about the orientation of your home and its surrounding environment, whether it’s located in the city, beach or bush, and choose a material appropriate to the setting for the best cladding solution.

Changing or adding to the existing cladding of your home is a big job. It’s definitely worth giving a few builders a call for professional advice. Architects and designers can also play a pivotal role in material specification as they’ll know the constraints of the materials and requirements the environment places on your home. There is a mountain of material out there, so choose something that falls within the constraints of the local building codes. If you’re in a cooler climate, thermal insulation is a must, and dark colours will do well to retain heat from the sun. On the flipside, pale-toned cladding can help keep a home cooler in the summer months. Fire codes will play a huge role in what you can and can’t use, so if you’re in an area prone to bushfires, check the requirements (Bushfire Attack Levels) of the materials needed.

How you go about it all should be left to the professionals. Whether the existing cladding or facade comes off and you start from your current framing, or you simply ‘veneer’ your home in a new material, this decision should be left to a qualified builder or architect. Plenty
of homes are riddled with asbestos, there may be problems with load-bearing elements of your current cladding and there’s always the odd surprise once you begin ripping a home apart. If you are adding to your home, consider how your new choices sit with your existing palette and balance your materials like you would any other scheme.

All cladding options have their strengths and weaknesses. Here are a few to consider:

#1 TIMBER WEATHERBOARDS (vertical or horizontal)

Timber has a great aesthetic and not only does it let your home breathe, it can also be waterproof (vertical boards tend to be more prone to water leaks than the horizontally laid ones), it’s readily available and can be sustainable. It will however require plenty of maintenance and tends to weather easily. Certain timbers can be an issue in bushfire-affected regions,
so know your wood.

#2 Timber sheeting (plywood etc.)

Plywood sheeting can be very waterproof (look for marine-grade ply) but tends to promote condensation. Dependent on the grade and finish, it can be very durable and, like timber boards, is readily available and can be sustainable. Again, certain timbers have a poor fire rating and the insulation properties aren’t that great.

#3 STEEL

Steel can be very low maintenance and extremely durable, highly waterproof and great in fire-affected zones. It is a non-renewable material but can be recycled, and you’ll need to add insulation.

#4 ALUMINIUM AND ZINC

Like steel, aluminium and zinc cladding can be extremely durable and require very little maintenance. They tend to be great in corrosive environments (think salty coastal air) and can be virtually waterproof. They do however promote condensation and are not the best insulators.

#5 FIBRE CEMENT

These sheets or weatherboards are durable and don’t require much in the way of upkeep. They resist damage from flood and fire, can seal out the heavy rains and have a low risk of condensation. Cement sheets usually require painting or sealing and usually offer little insulation. Cement is a non-renewable resource and generally can’t be recycled.

#6 BRICK AND MASONRY

The classic hardy brick wall is highly durable and requires next to no maintenance (though a rendered wall will keep you busy for years), and with cavities, brick is great at letting a building breathe. Though it doesn’t have the best waterproof capabilities, brickwork is great in fire-prone areas. Brick and masonry work can be recycled, but comes from limited (though well-stocked) resources.

#7 COMPOSITE MATERIALS

 This refers to cladding products (such as fibre cement or timber sheet) that are bonded to a foam-backed composite material. These cement and timber alternatives are usually highly waterproof and fire resistant, and some are great acoustic insulators. In general, these options last as long as the bonded exterior material does, but the use of foam in the glue in the binders means these materials are not so environmentally friendly.

#8 STONE CLADDING

Offering high fire resistance and minimal condensation issues, this manufactured durable option offers a more affordable alternative to traditional stone.

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