10 September 2019
6 min read
Exterior cladding options seem endless – with a number of positives and drawbacks for each. Navigating this complicated maze of pros and cons can prove frustrating and confusing, especially when recladding, budget conscious or risk-averse.
Cladding is truly a smorgasbord of options. From weatherboard cladding, timber weatherboard cladding, schist cladding, and plywood cladding to plaster cladding, fibre cement cladding, aluminium, vinyl, brick cladding or stone cladding.
So which is best? To answer this, consideration needs to be given to the climate, environment, expectations around lifespan and maintenance – and to the desired appearance or architectural style.
Weatherboard cladding is low maintenance, providing a clean-lined, tidy appearance with minimal effort. Durable and able to withstand significant weather events, weatherboard is not likely to stain or become damaged from rain or wind.
Traditionally, weatherboard cladding was made with timber however, there are now various options to create the same traditional look of timber weatherboard cladding in different materials. Some of the most popular include vinyl, engineered timber and composite materials, steel and fibre cement.
These materials are available in a wide range of colours and finishes, with modern weatherboard cladding offering the potential to satisfy any taste and provide an elegant – if understated – appeal.
There are a number of natural stone cladding systems available in New Zealand, including schist, granite and slate. Stone provides exceptional insulation, increasing energy efficiency and minimising the home’s carbon footprint. Non-porous and non-absorbent, stone offers moisture protection and weather resistance.
Stone can add internal and external character and is an attractive option that provides a rustic, natural look with little need for upkeep.
Fibre cement is a stable, reliable and durable cladding solution that can be trusted to do its job – stand the test of time with very little need for religious maintenance regimes.
Fibre cement consists of sand, cement and cellulose fibres and is most commonly applied in sheets or horizontal boards. It comes second only to timber in terms of energy efficiency in construction. A sturdy cladding, fibre cement brings high levels of fire resistance and resistance to rot and termites. While it may offer less character than timber or stone cladding, it is far more budget-friendly and is available in an endless variety of colours and finishes, allowing room for individual flair.
Brick is generally considered a highly effective exterior cladding option, aesthetically pleasing, known for longevity and able to withstand the effects of weather and environment. However, bricks can be seen as time consuming, structurally limiting, and labour intensive – and therefore costly.
Brick cladding is preferable to weatherboard cladding for homes in hotter climates. By contrast, brick is a low maintenance option, ideal for seaside structures where it is far more able to withstand the salt air and winds than other cladding options.
Brick veneer is a popular choice of cladding given its similar appearance to natural brick (these days often indistinguishable), it is lightweight (relative to natural bricks), and offers ease of installation. Further, its high insulation capacity means it's an ideal choice for internal cladding for fireplaces, backsplash, walls and sidings.
Being so lightweight, brick veneer is able to be installed on most residential walls and is much easier to manipulate during installation than its natural counterparts. Durable and fireproof, brick veneer looks appealing without any need for paint – and therefore should be considered a highly effective cladding option.
While brick is one of the more durable cladding solutions, in some situations water may infiltrate the system and result in significant damage to a home. Applying plaster cladding over the brickwork will offer greater protection, and provide a rustic feel, injecting new life and character into the building.
To revamp the image of a traditional brick home while adding decades to its life, Stucco is an option well worth considering. Available in a vast array of colours, textures and finishes, Stucco is extremely low maintenance and does not require painting.
Profiled metal cladding is widely considered a robust cladding option. While steel is usually more expensive, it is also more durable, with aluminium composite panels (ACP) often cheaper to build with, but more susceptible to weather-related damage.
Offering a modern and creative feel, aluminium and steel are the most popular metal cladding materials. They are available in a range of profiles, most commonly corrugated or trapezoidal.
After the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017, concerns were raised about the fire risk posed by the popular aluminium cladding. While aluminium is flammable, and a heat conductor, it should be noted that many other forms of cladding are also flammable – the key is to mitigate this risk.
Additionally, the core between the aluminium layers of the ACP cladding of the Grenfell Tower was polyethylene, whereas ACP is available with a fire-resistant core that complies with the New Zealand Building Code.
It's important to know whether the ACP you choose is fire-rated or not, as both versions are still legally allowed to be installed in New Zealand.
However, the New Zealand Building Code makes very clear the functional requirements in terms of the fire performance of external walls. One option is to ensure a stringent regime of vertical firebreaks is incorporated into the design.
Aerated concrete panels are a popular and effective option for cladding - suitable for both residential and commercial buildings. Aerated concrete offers a highly durable cladding solution that is much more lightweight than traditional concrete, making it significantly more cost-effective to install.
Concrete cladding has a relatively long lifespan and can last for several decades with proper installation and maintenance. The exact lifespan of concrete cladding depends on several factors such as the quality of materials used, environmental conditions, and exposure to elements. In general, concrete cladding can last for up to 50 years or more before needing significant repairs or replacement. Regular cleaning and maintenance can help extend the lifespan of concrete cladding.
Top banner image credit: European Larch Cladding from Rosenfeld Kidson & Co.