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What is Wall Cladding?

Jeremy Laukkonen
Jeremy Laukkonen

Wall cladding is a type of decorative covering intended to make a wall look like it is made of a different sort of material than it actually is. Some of the most common examples are on the outside of buildings, but cladding can also be an artistic element in interior decorating. It’s usually non-structural, which means that it doesn’t impact the stability or integrity of a building’s architectural core. In most cases it’s designed to be permanent, and it may provide benefits like insulation and waterproofing. It can be made out of almost anything, but various metals, stones, and composite materials are the most common.

Main Function

There are various kinds of cladding, ranging from brick and stone to wood and metal.
There are various kinds of cladding, ranging from brick and stone to wood and metal.

Cladding is almost always intended to be stylistic rather than functional and is usually designed to help accent a particular feature or room. Though it could conceivably cover every surface in a house or building, it’s more common to find it in just one or two key areas. A single bathroom wall might be covered in wood paneling, for instance, which could give the illusion of depth and warmth, or a single corner or side of a office building might be layered with intricate stone work. The idea is usually to add interest and vibrancy without the expense of actually re-building a wall or partition. As such, the various materials and textures are usually affixed to the top of an existing structure.

Metal Cladding

A bathroom wall may be covered in wood paneling.
A bathroom wall may be covered in wood paneling.

Metal is a popular and versatile type of wall cladding, particularly for building exteriors. Copper and its alloys, brass, and bronze are some of the most popular choices. Other metals, such as aluminum, may also be used to achieve more durability, and typically also come in a wider range of finishes and colors. Sometimes the finished product is smooth and shiny, but it can also be textured, weathered, or patterned. A lot depends on the owner, the designer, and the overall vision they’re trying to achieve.


It’s also common to see carved stone or brick affixed to the facade of a building or built into an interior wall. In these cases the intent is usually to mimic the look and feel of an exposed wall in a structure that is built in a more modern fashion. Stone is typically very durable but, depending on the particular design, it may not be waterproof. Certain types of stone may allow moisture to penetrate to the underlying surface, which can be particularly problematic if that surface is made of wood or other material that is prone to rotting.

Composite Materials

In addition to actual brick and stone, there are also various types of imitation cladding that are made of composite materials designed resemble other, more expensive substances. These may look like brick, for instance, but really be made of asphalt, fiber cement, or other building products; ply board may be stained and dyed to look like rich cherry or birch wood, too.

Cost is usually a factor in these decisions since composites are usually a lot less expensive to manufacture and install. There may also be structural advantages, particularly in interior settings. A homeowner may want a wall of stones over a fireplace, for instance, and brick walls can give a great feel to an urban restaurant or cafe — but unless the building was designed from the beginning with these features in mind, the sheer weight of this sort of cladding might cause significant strain on the building’s foundation. Creating lighter-weight imitations can create the same general feel without the stress of reassessing the building’s integrity.

Potential Drawbacks

Care and cleaning can pose difficulties, particularly in highly textured patterns that could collect dust. Copper and other alloys may also be subject to oxidation and discoloration if left untreated on outer or exposed walls; sometimes this is a “natural” look that is desirable, but not always. It’s usually important for owners to learn about how to maintain the cladding’s appearance at the time it’s installed to avoid instances of fading, discoloration, or deterioration.

Though cladding is usually fairly easy to install, removing it sometimes presents challenges. In most cases the structure of the wall and larger the building isn’t impacted, but the aesthetics often are. It’s usually necessary for people who are removing these sorts of coverings to have something else in mind for the wall. In most cases it is bare and stripped beneath the cladding and, depending on how things were affixed, may have a number of surface blemishes that will require more than a coat of paint to restore.

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    • There are various kinds of cladding, ranging from brick and stone to wood and metal.
      By: Alx
      There are various kinds of cladding, ranging from brick and stone to wood and metal.
    • A bathroom wall may be covered in wood paneling.
      By: johnbraid
      A bathroom wall may be covered in wood paneling.