Australian houses have been using weatherboards – or cladding – since the first Europeans started to build them. It’s a classic look, with homes from the smallest shacks to the largest mansion sporting it.
Thankfully, the materials used for cladding have developed and improved in recent decades, with some needing very little maintenance while still offering great insulation from outside temperatures.
There are a few lightweight cladding solutions and if you’re planning an update to the exterior of your home you might be wondering which material to go for, so here’s a quick rundown of the more popular types.
Timber cladding is very popular indeed and it comes in lots of woods, sizes, shapes, shades and weights.
It’s easy to install timber cladding and it’s also very easy to maintain it; even holes and scratches can be resolved with wood-fillers and sandpaper.
However, if you neglect your timber cladding for any length of time the boards can become sun-bleached and grey and may develop cracks and splits. You’ll need to give the boards a coat of primer and paint every few years and you’ll need to take extra care with the ends of the board as they’re porous and vulnerable to damp.
Metal cladding, usually aluminium, can be rolled into shapes and profiles that look like timber weatherboards – or you can have very obviously metal cladding if that’s the look you’re going for. These boards are usually finished with highly durable paint that will last for many years.
Metal cladding can be installed so that the boards overlap vertically to look like long bands. This arrangement can also cope with thermal expansion and contraction.
There are only a few downsides to metal cladding once it’s up, but the installation itself can be tricky because the edges are sharp and the boards need a very good metal saw to cut. Metal cladding is usually thin so it can be dented easily and it’s impossible to remove just one board – the entire wall will need to come off.
Vinyl is a great option because it’s very lightweight, easy to work with, UV-resistant and highly durable. It’s very popular in the US and is gaining traction in Australia.
The upside of vinyl cladding is that it’s solidly coloured so there’s no need for painting or any other maintenance. The boards are easy to cut and drill with household tools and many vinyl panels also have polystyrene backing for extra insulation, which saves on air conditioning costs in the summer.
The downside is that vinyl can scratch easily and these scratches can’t be sandpapered out. Most vinyl cladding has a wood grain finish, but the colours may fade over time in strong sun. Vinyl also expands and contracts a lot with temperature changes so the cladding will need lots of expansion joints.