When it comes to external wall cladding, there’s much more to it than just how it looks. When it comes to cladding, curb appeal should definitely be considered. However, there are plenty of other considerations that should be taken into account to ensure you get the maximum benefits from your external cladding.
Know your Cladding
Before we get to the various benefits of external wall cladding products, it’s worth having a think about the various cladding materials available. Each material has its pros and cons and should be properly researched before making a decision.
There are good reasons for brick being one of the oldest cladding materials still regularly being used today. Brick looks striking and suits contemporary and retro home styles. But there’s more to it than good looks. Bricks are fire and pest resistant, weatherproof and low maintenance. Additionally, bricks can be recycled, making them a fairly sustainable choice. It’s worth bearing in mind, however, that brick is not the best insulator.
Timber is another popular cladding material. While timber cladding can be extremely stylish, its properties often depend on the type and quality of timber used.
For instance, if not treated or reconstituted, timber cladding can be vulnerable to termites and other wood pests. And it goes without saying that timber cladding is not an ideal choice for fire prone areas.
Timber tends to require regular maintenance like repainting and sealing, and mould growth can be a problem in humid areas. In terms of sustainability, timber can be an eco-friendly option. Timber is recyclable and renewable and it stores carbon. It also has a much lower embodied energy than other building materials like steel or concrete. However, the chemicals used to treat timber cladding and the chemicals required for maintenance aren’t great for the environment.
Fibre cement is another durable cladding product that rivals brick in terms of benefits. It’s a high-performance, low-maintenance cladding option. Cement has good fire and pest resistance, is extremely durable and comes in a range of colours and styles.
However, it is a poor insulator and does require a finish to stay waterproof. Additionally, unlike brick, it cannot be recycled usually because of the finishes applied. Cement has a very high embodied energy, meaning it requires large amounts of energy during the manufacturing process.
For a light-weight alternative to brick or fibre cement, aluminium is an excellent choice. It too is highly durable, requires little maintenance and is waterproof with good fire resistance. Aluminium is incredibly lightweight, flexible, versatile and easier to work with than many other cladding materials. Aluminium cladding usually comes as either solid aluminium panels or aluminium composite panels (ACP). ACPs feature a polymer core sandwiched between two aluminium sheets.
Older style ACP products can be flammable due to the polyethylene core. However, all modern ACPs must have a core with no more than 30% polymer, to reduce the fire risk.
In terms of sustainability, aluminium is a common resource, but a non-renewable one. While it can be recycled, it also has a high embodied energy.
Vinyl is an extremely popular cladding choice due to its range of styles and colours. It can even be made to mimic other cladding finishes, like timber.
Vinyl cladding requires little maintenance, depending on the finish. However, there are growing concerns about vinyl and fire resistance. Additives can be used to increase its fire resistance, but this does not stop it releasing toxins (including hydrogen chloride gas) when burnt.
Further, toxins are released when vinyl is being manufactured and a large amount of energy is used to create it. Therefore, if you want a green cladding, it may not be the best choice.
Which cladding is right for me?
When it comes to picking cladding for your home, you need to consider a range of factors to come up with a set of criteria. From there you can find the cladding that most closely suits your criteria.
Consider the below list when coming up with your criteria:
- Protection from elements: Think about regular local weather conditions, as well as extreme weather events in your area. Will the cladding withstand these conditions?
- Insulation properties: Cladding that has good insulating properties can mean savings when it comes to keeping your home at a comfortable temperature. You may not need to use air conditioners or heaters as often, for instance.
- Fire rating: Many parts of Australia are regular bushfire areas. Protect your home by choosing a cladding that is highly fire resistant.
- Noise insulation: Enjoy your home in peace with a cladding that helps block noise from entering your home. However, if you live somewhere isolated, this may not be a requirement.
- Pest control: Termites, mice and other pests can do incredible damage to your home. If they are prevalent in your area, your cladding needs to be your home’s first line of defence.
- Sustainability: It’s important we all make greener choices. Paying a little more for a sustainable cladding option is one such choice.
Do your research and consider your needs when choosing your home’s external cladding to ensure you get your money’s worth.