Cladding 101: What, Where, Why

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In construction and restoration, the act of covering a building, with another material is known as cladding.

Think of it as using a second skin to cover the walls of the building, and you would be right. The two main reasons for cladding is to protect the building and to improve a buildings’ aesthetics.

Frequent fliers to Dubai would have seen the jaw-dropping Burj Khalifa.

Not content with being the worlds tallest tower, the unique and striking sail shape makes it an architectural marvel. The 160 floors (yes, 160!) are sheathed in glass made from reflective glazing and specifically designed to withstand the extreme temperatures of the Dubai climate. Other popular buildings with cladding are the Alcoa Building in Pennsylvania and closer to home, the Olympic Stadium in London is also covered by a ‘skin’ of PVC. These three examples show the different materials that can be used to protect different buildings. The choice of material largely depends on the location and special circumstances.

The use of a protective covering isn’t exclusive to hotels, stadia and really large buildings.

You can also clad the exterior (and interior, in some cases) of private homes, smaller office buildings etc. Generally, cladding in private houses involves window capping i.e. the weatherproofing of exterior window and door casings; bathroom cladding which is the covering of the interior of your bathroom wall to achieve a stylish look and even down to cladding the window sills and skirting boards.

Cladding has been used in construction since the 19th century. It has evolved from the use of thick stone slabs to the use of granite, timber, oak, thin stone strips, brick, and in recent times, composite materials that are strong, yet light. In recent times, cladding is used to protect buildings that have been marked as Conservation or Heritage sites. Depending on the style of the structure, different types of cladding materials are used, from timber to vinyl to fiber-cement etc.

Why clad?

The number one element that cladding is supposed to protect against is water, specifically moisture. Precipitation can come from rain, snow, sleet. It can also come from the tiny pockets of moisture that vines and plants hold in their roots. The moisture slowly weakens the stone and brick structure of the building, leading to rot and damage. In climates with constant high winds, the buffeting and pelting by grit and sand particles can present a problem to buildings façades.

Modern cladding systems include curtain walls, rainscreen cladding and other special cladding solutions. It is rare to find two buildings with exactly the same protective ‘skin’ on them. Each structure presents a unique project and has its own special circumstances and characteristics. Cladding can be used to add a modern or retro look to any building. An added bonus is that, with the right materials, it can greatly improve the energy efficiency and lower the energy consumption of the property.

From the days of barns in rural Norway using timber beams, to the modern use of PVC sheets on the roof of the Olympic Park, cladding has evolved through the ages. The materials used have been refined over and over again and are on track to satisfy varying modern requirements. Individual companies have developed unique structural elements, to create tailored cladding solutions for their clients

At SRL Limited, we have a competent team of curtain walling contractors.

We also stock a large range of curtain walling accessories. We cut the glass for your cladding on site and can create a unique and bespoke finish using a range of options. Call us today and let help you with that remodelling project.

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