Whenever we think walls, we think paint or wallpaper. But there’s another way to add a dramatic touch, not spoken of much but getting trendy now, and that is cladding. Cladding is nothing but an additional layer of material on walls, which provides protection and insulation but also adds an aesthetic effect. Exterior cladding is more widely used than interior cladding, but the latter is just as worthy of a good long look. Whether you’re trying to match your walls to a theme or simply trying to change the façade of your home, there is certain to be a cladding solution.

On the outside

Cladding material for exterior façades is usually a non-structural material, which protects the wall against moisture, sun, and wind, while adding beauty. Varieties used widely include stone and wood finishes.

Common stones used are granite, limestone, marble, quartzite, slate and sandstone, which can be fixed with cement mortar. Stone as cladding is durable, but depending on the design it may not be as waterproof as other varieties. Masonry cladding involves the application of carved stone or bricks to the facade of the building, and provides good padding that’s easy to maintain. Timber cladding, used widely in Chennai, is resistant to wind and bad weather conditions, but only if the wood is treated correctly. It’s a good insulator and can be covered in a range of finishes to offer additional protection.

Other unusual materials that are trendy now are steel, aluminium, stone, Shera boards and PVC/vinyl. Steel is popular in extreme climates due to its strength and ability to withstand harsh weather. Although it doesn’t itself provide great insulation, it can be insulated from within. It’s more flexible than other cladding, allowing for structural movement and wind resistance.

Powder-coated or anodised aluminium is strong, pest-resistant and easy to install through clamps but the most expensive of all cladding. According to Rahul Jindal, MD, Loom Crafts Furniture, “Aluminium cladding saves both time and money. It is lightweight, easy to install and can be conceptualised with the architecture. With exceptional strength and durability, it is an ideal option for a luxurious finish.” Aluminium cladding is available in various textures and colours.

Suitable substitutes

Natural stones are expensive, heavy and tough to install. Stone veneers solve this problem. These are thin, lightweight sheets like mica that have the characteristics of stone on the outer surface and can be fixed easily to the building façade. Moreover, they don’t require expensive extensions or reinforcements to a house’s foundation. Shera-board is a wood replacement that looks exactly like wood and is available in planks, but it’s affordable, comes in many finishes and colours, and is easy to install.

The inside story

Cladding a portion of your living, dining or bedroom wall to highlight an area or to grab attention is what interior cladding is all about. The options available are endless, especially because it does not require the specifications that exterior cladding does.

Stone is often chosen for its looks, and can be real stone, raw concrete or veneers. It gives a rustic look and is durable. Varieties include marble, granite or other natural varieties. Transparent onyx marble is a big fashion statement, and can be lit up from inside to create drama. Brick cladding is great, as you can create a variety of designs by just using different coloured bricks. You can also render over them if you choose. They are lightweight, easy to install and maintain, and provide insulation. Plywood cladding is done mainly to hide cables or wires and is a non-structural process.

Best choices

Wood is one of the best cladding solutions. “Wooden cladding gives a natural feeling, versatility and warmth. Wooden claddings can make a strong design statement. It offers good thermal and acoustic insulation,” says Gaurav Saraf, joint MD, Square Foot. Wooden claddings are also a good option for India where dampness causes wallpaper to peel easily.

Laminates are good for internal wet areas such as bathrooms or showers. Laminates don’t chip, fade or require grouting, ensuring a mould-free shower area. They can withstand greater impact than ceramic tiles. PVC cladding is also good for wet areas, and can be made to look like mosaic, marble or timber. Apart from these, designers often explore unusual material such as paper tubes, broken stone or tile chips, stucco work, fabrics, fibre glass, and eco-friendly material like jute or bamboo.

If you’re looking for a way to update your home, cladding allows you to get a whole new look at a fairly low cost. And this is true for both exterior and interior walls.

Useful Tips

• Make sure the walls are strong enough to take the extra weight of cladding. Take professional advice.

• The walls must be even before cladding is applied, so ensure that plastering is done before the cladding is started.

• The cladding must comply with building regulations regarding fire protection and ventilation. Wood, for instance, should be flame retardant; chemicals can be applied for this.

• Consider if it’s worth applying insulation before you install cladding. It can make a big difference to your fuel bills and carbon emissions.

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