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What is Cement Cladding?

By Sheri Cyprus
Updated May 17, 2024
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Fiber-cement or cement cladding is a building material used on residential and commercial exteriors. Cladding is the common term used in the United Kingdom and Australia to refer to what in North America and other parts of the world is known as siding. Cement cladding, or siding, is applied to building exteriors in boards or sheets to help in fireproofing, reducing sound and providing weather protection.

The full name of fiber-cement cladding is fiber reinforced cement (FRC). The fibers in the cement cladding are cellulose. Cellulose is the main material in plants. Cellulose fibers used in industry are usually extracted from cotton plants or wood pulp. When cellulose from recycled paper is used, the result is environmentally friendly building cladding or siding.

James Hardie Industries, a building products company founded in Australia, is credited with developing FRC as a replacement for harmful asbestos cladding or siding. Asbestos cladding was banned in many countries in the 1980s after it became widely connected with causing respiratory problems as well as lung and chest cancers. It was used commonly on houses and commercial buildings built between the 1930s and the 1970s. Asbestos is considered highly toxic and must be removed only by professionals. Builders or homeowners who suspect a building contains asbestos siding or cladding should report the details to a public health board; lab testing may be required.

Cement cladding is available in many different colors. The wide variety of cement siding or cladding finishes include brick, stone, granite or marble. Different textures of the cladding are available such as smooth or a wood grain look. Cement siding or cladding is also sometimes called rainscreen since in helps prevent moisture leaks and is considered as weatherproofing for buildings. Cement-fiber cladding is also termite and fire resistant.

FRC or cement cladding is considered both easy to work with and simple to maintain. It's placed onto buildings in sheets or panels that overlap. Cladding is sold in different thicknesses. Some cement siding or cladding boards are made to snap apart while others need to be cut with an electric saw.

Paint usually works well on cladding made from cement. Unlike wood cladding or siding that tends to shrink and expand with changes in weather, cement varieties are more consistent. Paint isn't as likely to peel on cement siding as it is on wood. When environmentally friendly cement cladding is used, many people prefer to use paints with a low volatile organic compound (VOC) to further the green, or environmental, theme.

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