This article is part of our series: An overview of 5 key material options for a stunning facade.
Introduction to timber cladding
Timber cladding has made a resurgence in recent years. It has long been a material of choice for many a residential extension and new build project. However, recent increases in popularity in the commercial construction sector are especially notable.
The expectation of the public has moved towards the use of natural and sustainable materials in the built environment, so it’s not surprising that commercial clients and architects are opting more for wood, both for new builds and in existing spaces.
It has great aesthetic appeal. It’s a great addition to an insulated system. And it’s usually one of the more cost-effective options. So, you can see why it’s such an attractive choice for many.
“With its added environmental credentials – such as sustainability and thermal and sound insulation properties, it’s easy to see why timber cladding on buildings has become so popular.” Timber Decking and Cladding Authority (TDCA)
Key five key advantages of timber cladding
Probably its most differentiating quality. Wood comes directly from trees from forests which are often sustainably maintained by replanting. Many suppliers these days will also provide evidence of the source of the materials. And at the end of their lives, timber cladding panels can be re-purposed or recycled. So, you can be assured that you’re contributing to a greener world.
Wood simply looks great. Natural, versatile and welcoming. The number of options and combinations are practically endless once you consider type, enhancement and finish. Architects and designers have found ever more innovative ways of applying timber cladding to create truly gorgeous effects.
Durability and longevity
Timber cladding is made of tough stuff. From naturally tougher tree species to the advent of modification, timber cladding is durable against the elements (and hungry insects). It’s not unusual to get 30-60 years out of them and they can be easily replaced or repaired, especially if looked after.
Another important green credential. They have natural insulating qualities and are a particularly good fit for application with a decent insulation system. They also reduce the need for less green forms of insulation and keep up good thermal efficiency and soundproofing.
By the square metre, timber often comes out the least expensive both as a material and for the installation. Considering its cheaper maintenance costs, timber cladding is often one of the best lifetime cost-efficient options available.
The key considerations when considering timber cladding for your project
a. Wood type
b. Orientation or profile (eg vertical, horizontal or diagonal)
c. Building or wall type (new build or existing buildings)
d. Durability and
Wood type – the three primary classes of timber are; softwood, hardwood and modified timber. The first two types refer to the species of tree the wood originates from, with plentiful varieties available. Modified timber means that the wood has undergone an additional process to enhance its qualities (such as heat or chemical treatment to improve durability against decay).
Orientation or profile – timber cladding is often applied horizontally, but a vertical orientation is becoming more popular. These options give architects more design possibilities to play with. The type of timber cladding panel connections must be suitable for the profile chosen – especially in you opt for a quirky diagonal effect.
Tip: the diagonal option is worth considering where surfaces have uneven x and y dimensions or where vertical or horizontal boards don’t work. Other practical considerations should be considered when going diagonal. However, many decide it’s worth the additional effort to create visually stunning effects.
Building or wall type – how the timber should be attached to the building depends not just on its orientation but the type of foundation it’s to be applied to. (Be sure to check out our Top Tip below for an important point to note when installing timber panels).
Durability – timber cladding can last a considerable period of time, especially if its durability is optimised through modification. Different wood types have different levels of durability which is why clients often choose modified timber to get the aesthetic benefits with improved resistance against the elements, mould and insect damage.
Suitability – typically timber cladding is not acceptable for use in high-rise buildings. Other factors include the use of a lower-durability material in very wet conditions and the effect of natural leakage of fluids such as tannins or sap on surrounding materials. On this point, some metals like zinc (also a popular cladding material), can be marked or damaged by the excretions from some types of wood.
(Further details and considerations can be found on the TDCA website, here).
Challenges with some timber cladding options
Timber cladding also has some potential disadvantages, depending on your requirements. It’s not suitable in taller buildings. It might not be hardy enough against tougher weather conditions (especially if you choose a less strong and untreated wood). If you choose one of the harder woods, they can be on the heavier side, which should be factored in depending on the structure they’re fitted to.
In summary, timber cladding is an appealing choice for the eco-conscious, those looking for both a naturalistic aesthetic and great option for an insulated system, and those who are cost-concerned.
Timber cladding resources and associations
If you’re leaning towards including timber cladding in your project, then we also recommend checking out these other helpful resources:
Timber Decking and Cladding Association (TDCA)– The TDCA is the definitive authority on timber cladding in the UK and sets the standards that all good timber cladding suppliers, designers and installers adhere to, including the TDCA CladMark accreditation for quality.
Timber Trade Federation (TTF) – The TTF is an association of timber importers, merchants, agents and manufacturers who promote the use of sustainable timber across the construction industry. They include advice and guidance, especially around sustainability.
Timber Research And Development Association – TRADA is a membership organisation aiming to bring best practice in design, specification and application of wood in the built environment whose website contains lots of helps information when choosing a product.
Top tip when installing timber cladding
Finally, from our experience of installing timber, we’d also advise you to consider how best to attach the panels to the structure. For example, we use a ventilated strip (such as KompeFix – others are available) to separate the timber panels from the supporting structure. This allows the wood to ‘breathe’ (expand and contract in differing heat and humidity) and allowing moisture to flow-through rather than get trapped and cause problems.
Whether choosing timber or another material, everyone has unique requirements and navigating the options isn’t always easy.
Here at Renderline, we’re on hand to provide advice and support through the critical design phase, so get in touch if you’d like to discuss your project further. Send us a message, connect and chat with us on Twitter or LinkedIn, or give us a call.
We’d also love to hear about your experiences, thoughts and ideas relating to design and install of any of the products and systems mentioned in this article – feel free to comment below and join the conversation.
Thanks for reading,
For info on other types of facade materials such as brick, tile, stone and zinc cladding, check out our series summary: An overview of 5 key material options for a stunning facade.