Cladding materials are a type of construction product used to finish and protect the exterior walls of a home. Exterior cladding, also known as siding, can be used to give a home the desired appearance while keeping water, wind, and other elements out. A homeowner's choice of cladding materials can have a big impact on the design of the structure, and may also influence factors ranging from energy efficiency to sound control.
Before cladding materials can be installed on a structure, builders must first create suitable framing to support these materials. Typically, contractors use wood or metal beams and studs to frame the home, then fasten siding directly to these framing members. Others may construct the basic shell of the home from concrete, masonry, or other products rather than traditional framing materials. Moisture barriers, plywood sheathing and insulation may be added between the structure and the cladding materials to add strength and improve energy efficiency.
Lap siding represents one of the most common cladding materials used on residential structures. This type of siding consists of thin horizontal strips or vinyl, wood, or composite products arranged in overlapping rows. Some manufacturers also produce siding made from fiber cement or metals like aluminum and copper. Specialty cladding products also come in vertical strips or panels to create a variety of different designs.
Masonry offers another versatile and durable type of cladding system. Most modern brick homes consist of standard wood, metal, or block framing with a brick veneer installed along the exterior surface. This same design technique can be used with stone or other masonry products, which are either attached to the home using mortar or metal brick ties.
Some exterior cladding materials are simply applied directly over the exterior surfaces of the home. One example is stucco, which can be used to create a highly-textured, weatherproof finish. Commercial builders rely on a more advanced form of stuccoing, known as exterior insulated finish systems, or EIFS. This type of cladding is particularly beneficial in areas that experience frequent hurricanes or other severe storms.
Because of the relatively large size of most commercial structures, builders often use cladding panels rather than masonry or lap siding. Panels allow the builder to cover the structure more quickly, and give it a less busy appearance, with fewer joints for water or air to seep through. Cladding panels can be constructed from cement, steel, or other forms of metal depending on the application.