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Exterior cladding options to consider for your home

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Aluminium is popular due to its lightweight  and low-maintenance nature. PHOTOs/Tony Mushoborozi.

As technology advances, it enables innovation and production of durable materials, leading to intricate and sophisticated designs. From traditional materials such as bricks that were considered as the basic component of construction, manufacturers are now able to creating timeless exterior design.

Cladding materials form a protective external layer and are designed in different sizes, colours and materials. Although cladding may vary according to one’s need or preference, common options include stone, metal, wood, vinyl and new innovations such as perforated, 3D.

Roger Tamale a civil engineer, says when choosing cladding options, one should consider factors such as sustainability, energy efficiency, durability, climate, maintenance, aesthetics and cost of the materials.

Aluminum

Aluminum cladding refers to the application of aluminum sheets onto the exterior of buildings. In modern architectural designs, most facades are built with aluminum due to its ability to improve the energy efficiency of buildings as it provides insulation and reduces heat transfer that in the end lowers heating and cooling costs.

While this option is light weight especially during installation, it is also known for its ability to form different shapes and sizes, a feature that enhances design expression.  Aluminum is also a common option because it is highly recyclable, which makes it an environmentally friendly choice.

Stone

It is one of the earliest forms of cladding and it involves the use of natural stone panels or tiles that range from granite, marble, limestone, sandstone, and slate.    The unmatched natural beauty and authenticity of the different types of stones uniquely varies in textures, colours, and patterns to offer a timeless sense of prestige, elegance and sophistication that enhances the aesthetics and value of the building.

Stone is exceptionally durable and lasts for more decades without significant deterioration. With the upgrades in technologies and tools, stones are now being cut, polished and even coated in ways that were not possible, and these have become a popular choice for residential buildings.

Stone cladding can be used to pull off an impressive interior yet others will prefer it for the exterior.  However, stone cladding requires careful application because if done poorly, it can cause serious damage to the structure.

Willy Kashokoozi, a civil engineer notes that poorly executed stone cladding can create problems such as water ingress and lead to rising damp, particularly if the stone cladding has been fitted down to the ground level. Rainwater is also often trapped between the stone veneer and the wall itself.

Many types of natural stone are excellent cladding materials. These can be broadly divided into three geological groups, sedimentary rocks such as limestone and sandstone, metamorphic rocks such as slate and marble and lastly, igneous rocks such as granite.

In selecting the best type of stone, architects must consider a number of factors including appearance, intended use, size of the project, and most importantly, the composite that will provide adequate strength and durability.

Composite

Composite cladding involves a mixture of wood fibres and plastic, materials often recycled along with additives such as colourants and binding agents. This option mimics the look of natural wood and it offers little or no maintenance making it better than timber as it takes long to fade.

It is also resistant to rot, decay and insect damage offering long-term performance in outdoor environments. Composite cladding also comes in various colours, textures and profiles that provide flexibility in design and architectural style.

Ceramic tiles

Ceramic tiles are made from clay, sand and other natural materials which are shaped, glazed, and fired at high temperatures to create durable and waterproof surfaces. They come in a wide range of colours, shapes, texture, sizes, and patterns, offering endless design possibilities for cladding applications. Ceramic tiles are resistant to moisture, stains, scratches, and fading making them easy to clean and maintain.

However, Henry Kajjubi, a tiles dealer warns that although ceramic tiles are durable, they can be brittle and are prone to cracking if subjected to heavy impacts or extreme temperature changes.

Concrete panels

Concrete panels are typically made from a mixture of cement, aggregates like sand water and other additives. They are cast in molds and cured under controlled conditions to achieve the desired strength and finish. They allow for customisation in terms of size, shape, texture and colours making it an attractive option.

Although they are heavy, they are durable and offer excellent structural strength and stability through providing support and protection to buildings against external forces like wind, earthquakes, and impacts. Sometimes concrete is with insulation materials integrated into the panel structure and this provides thermal and acoustic insulation properties contributing to energy efficiency and improved indoor comfort.

Plastic/ Upvc

Unplasticised polyvinyl chloride cladding involves the use of PVC panels or boards that are rigid and do not contain plasticisers. Just as any other plastic, this type of cladding is highly resistant to moisture, ultra violet rays and weathering making it suitable for outdoor applications without the risk of warping, rotting or fading. It requires minimal maintenance over its lifespan, typically only needing occasional cleaning with soap and water to remove dirt or debris.

However it is crucial to note that this type is prone to discolouration, deformation during high temperatures and can lead to waste generation during disposal. It is very cheap for budget conscious property owners.

Glass cladding

This involves the use of translucent glass panels typically manufactured from silica sand, soda ash, and limestone to cover exterior surfaces of buildings. It is environmentally friendly, does not fade and needs low maintenance.

Because of its transparent, quality, glass maximises day lighting by allowing natural light to penetrate into the building, reducing the need for artificial lighting while also creating a bright and airy interior environment and maintaining visual connections with the surroundings. It is also associated with sleekness, clean lines and modern aesthetics that enhance the home’s exterior visual appeal.

Tamale says, “Although this option is costly and is prone to breaking, it is wise to use high quality glass panels as these are key in resisting weathering, UV radiation, moisture, and temperature fluctuations and this helps to maintain their structural integrity and appearance over time on your home.”

Stucco/ render

It is the commonest option used on buildings. It involves a mixture of water, sand, lime and cement, and water applied as a thick plastic-like coating onto the external walls. It usually forms a grey wall colour but building owners opt to use paint to give the building a desired look. It is also cost effective and capable of withstanding various weather conditions like rain, wind and extreme temperatures.