By Jan Dowling July 31st, 2013. Comments Off on If walls could talk: Everything you need to know about exterior cladding

Once upon a time cladding had one function and one function alone: to protect your home from the elements. In other words – to stop the rain getting in. Today, cladding still has that function of course, but it plays many other important roles too. It is an insulator of both noise and heat.  This means keeping the home cooler in summer and warmer in winter whilst reducing power consumption and ultimately your energy bills.

Increasingly, cladding is a design tool. Home designers are using an ensemble of materials, textures and colours to create feature walls and beautiful visual and textural facades for home exteriors.

Like any building material, every type of cladding has its pros and cons – so it’s important to weigh up which cladding material is the best choice for your unique building project.

Here we explore the different types of cladding available for your renovation or building project – something for every budget and style. To find out more about these and discuss the best option for you, speak to the experts at Dowling Homes.

Which cladding?

Cladding isn’t as cut and dry as you might think. There is a world of choices depending on the look, feel and finish you are hoping to achieve. Here are some cladding options worth exploring:

Solid brick

What’s not to love about bricks? Their character can turn the exterior of a house into something quite extraordinary. Solid brick walls, or ‘double brick’, consist of two layers of attached bricks that form the load-bearing exterior walls of a house. The great thing about double brick is its thermal properties. It is a high-embodied energy construction system that can yield high thermal efficiency. For even more cost effective thermal or acoustic benefit, insulating the cavity is a worthwhile investment. Australia’s brick organisation, Think Brick, says brick delivers superior sound insulation, exceptional weatherproof and age proof properties, and up to 25% savings on energy bills when combined with insulation in your home.

Brick veneer

Brick veneer is all about looks. It is essentially a single layer of brick covering an exterior wall of a house that’s made from another material, such as wood or steel. However the weight of the structure is carried by the inner part of the wall, not by the brick veneer. Some brick veneer systems comprise an insulation board that is bonded to the exterior face of the wall before being finished with bricks for a traditional brick appearance.

Weatherboards

Ask someone to describe an Australian home and the word ‘weatherboard’ is sure to come up. The traditional cladding material for Australian homes, weatherboards are designed to protect homes from our country’s unpredictable weather, with layer upon layer of weatherboard planks lapping over each other to ensure rainwater drains down the outside. This results in very good weather-tightness properties.

Timber weatherboards are available in cedar, pre-primed and treated finger-jointed pine, Baltic pine, cypress pine and more – check out James Hardie for inspiration. Timber cladding can also be a good choice for the environment, as products from Weathertex prove.

But these days, you’re not limited to timber weatherboard. You can choose from a whole range of modern designs and materials for weatherboard, including aluminium, fibre-cement, metal, acrylic and vinyl (PVC). These have greater design flexibility and are easy to install. All in all, weatherboard is easy to work with and affordable. Weatherboard is also a natural insulator thanks to its cellular structure – use batts and foil to give this a boost.

Scyon

An innovative James Hardie product, Scyon is an advanced lightweight cement composite designed to be easy to install and contemporary in looks. Currently, there are three types of Scyon cladding to choose from: Axon, Stria and Matrix. The difference comes down to the joints. Stria has a horizontal ship-lapped joint, while Matrix has a geometric, expressed joint look more associated with commercial buildings. Axon cladding is a vertically grooved cladding panel that gives a sharp and uniform appearance – perfect for a modern look. A key advantage of Scyon cladding is that it is pre-primed and easy to install thanks to the stepped shiplap on the long edges. Axon cladding, for example, enhances energy efficiency when used with the right insulation achieving an R-value of up to 2.8 for the wall, in accordance with James Hardie’s Wall System Thermal Performance Total R-Values Technical Supplement.

Lightweight blueboard

Lightweight rendered blueboard is a strong 7.5 mm sheet, which is designed to be acrylic coated with colour or texture to provide a beautiful rendered look, without the masonry. Blueboard is available in a range of different sheet sizes, providing many options from a plain straight wall or a more decorative wall with columns and top moulds.

Autoclaved aerated concrete

With good insulation properties, aerated concrete comes in blocks, reinforced panels and lintels. Hebel is an extremely lightweight high performance autoclave aerated concrete (AAC). It is manufactured from sand, lime and cement to which a gas-forming agent is added. During manufacture, the gas expands the mixture to form extremely small, finely dispersed air pockets. This results in the finished aerated concrete which is a great choice for a contemporary modern exterior, especially because Hebel can be personalised with your choice of texture and colours. Leading builders use Hebel because of its environmental, acoustic and insulation benefits. It is particularly suitable for bushfire areas thanks to its high fire resistance, and provides in-built insulation so you can enjoy better energy ratings. Hebel is extremely versatile and is available in blocks and panels of various sizes and widths.

Plywood sheet

Plywood sheets come in various patterns, with some designed to look exactly the same as shiplap cladding. Normally, gaps are covered with battens or flashings. You can also get plywood weatherboards.

Monolithic systems

As the name suggests, monolithic cladding systems have a seamless appearance. This sleek look has become extremely popular in high-end housing projects, with cladding designed according to very exact specifications. In the past, people suffered from leaky homes as a result of sub-standard monolithic cladding with unsuitable jointing and flashing. However, today builders are more attune to the manufacturers’ specifications. While it results in an attractive look, ongoing maintenance is essential. The traditional monolithic system is stucco or solid plaster, or fibre cement sheet. All monolithic claddings rely on the final coat for waterproofing, and this needs to be well maintained.

Mix-match

A cutting edge (and affordable!) trend in external wall cladding is to combine cladding materials. This simply means choosing two or more different cladding materials to create a unique contemporary look on your exterior walls. It’s a great way to break up large expanses of wall and to define different areas of your home. It can also be used to create a feature wall with added texture and colour. It is recommended to limit the range of different claddings used on one particular building. This means you reduce the number of unnecessary cladding joints – the weakest part – to reduce the risk of leaking.

Another trend is to use one cladding material but with two or more different colours. Or maybe different tones of the same colour, such as lighter or darker grey. Some housing designers use extreme contrasting colours to define areas of a home, such as cream and burgundy. Explore your creativity…

A word on weather-tightness

Wall cladding is the primary defence against the weather, so whichever cladding you choose it needs to keep the weather out of your home. This is only possible if it is suitable for your location and is installed correctly. Experienced builders like Dowling Homes can provide expert advice on the best cladding for your building project and explain whether there are any limits on where the cladding can or can’t be used, as well as how the materials should be used.

Don’t forget insulation!

When cladding or recladding, this is the perfect opportunity to improve your home’s insulation by adding bulk insulation batts and reflective foil sarking. This will increase both the energy efficiency and comfort of your home.

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