Exterior cladding – everything you need to know

The overcoat to your home, this important external layer is what gives the house its character

Want to add exterior cladding to your home? Here is our guide on exterior cladding to allow you to create the perfect look what ever or wherever your home is.

What is exterior cladding?

exterior cladding

Image credit: Holly Jolliffe

Cladding is the skin of your house – it’s the outer layer that helps to insulate and protect it from the elements, and it enhances your home’s appearance, too. Brick, stone and render are familiar options, with timber weatherboarding, vertical tiling, flint, metal and modern synthetic materials used less frequently.

Want more project advice and planning tips? READ: How to build an extension – everything you need to know

What materials can you use?

exterior cladding

Image credit: Bridget Peirson

It has become quite fashionable to use more than one cladding material – this could take the form of combining timber with render or brickwork panels, to something altogether more modern. That said, the more finishes you add, the more complex your design becomes. Not only will you need to buy relatively small quantities of materials, and possibly employ several different trades, but junctions between materials will need to be considered, too.


Exposed bricks are the most popular choice, but how they’re made will affect their look, qualities and price. Your bricklayer should discuss bonding patterns, mortar colours and joint details with you.


This natural material isn’t a budget option, but there are less expensive artificial or reconstituted alternatives available, too.

Timber cladding

While timber needs more maintenance than stone or brickwork, it is cheaper. Oak and cedar may be left untreated to weather to a silver-grey, while softwood boarding usually needs painting or staining.

Composite weatherboard

Although composite weatherboarding usually costs more than timber, it is often pre-finished, will not warp or twist and is extremely fire resistant.


Zinc, copper, stainless steel or aluminium are ideal for modern builds, as they’re striking, malleable and lightweight. They’re also quick to put up and are highly resilient.

What are the rules & regulations?

exterior cladding

Image credit: Colin Poole

You don’t usually need to apply for planning permission for repairs, maintenance or minor improvements, such as painting your house, but if you live in a sensitive location such as a conservation area, you will need
permission before completely changing the cladding. If you want to re-render or replace timber cladding to external walls, building regulations may also apply depending on the extent of the work. Cladding can contribute to the spread of fire, so always liaise with building control and planners for advice.

Related: Planning permission – everything you need to know

How to choose render

exterior cladding

Image credit: Ngoc Minh Ngo

The most common term for an external plastered finish, render can hide a multitude of sins and protect the walls. Leave it to the experts though, as a smooth finish can be difficult to master. Render is traditionally
built up in two or three coats, which are less likely to develop surface cracks. The undercoat smooths out the wall’s surface and forms a strong bond, while top coats create the finish. There are additional specialist products to choose from, including through-coloured silicone renders and one-coat renders. Now, coloured choices come with the pigment locked in, which colours the entire render and not just the surface. Insulated render is ideal for both new builds and refurbishment projects – visit incaltd.org.uk for advice.

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