What is Building Cladding?

B. Turner

Building cladding is the exterior skin, or envelope of a building, and includes all moisture barriers and siding materials used to cover the outside of the structure. Cladding can serve both a decorative and a functional purpose. It is used to complement the architectural style of the building while also offering protection from rain, wind, snow, and other outside elements. Building cladding can also add insulation to the structure while minimizing sound transmission through the walls. While the term cladding is widely used in Europe and Australia, these exterior finish materials are typically known as siding in North America.

Vinyl siding is a popular exterior cladding.
Vinyl siding is a popular exterior cladding.

Before exterior cladding can be installed, the structural framing of the building must be complete. This typically involves using wood or steel studs to frame out the exterior walls. These walls are then covered with plywood or oriented-strand board(OSB)to help brace against wind and other forces. Some buildings may be built from masonry or concrete rather than wood or steel, and do not require plywood or OSB sheathing.

Plywood sheeting may be used for cladding in a more rustic style house.
Plywood sheeting may be used for cladding in a more rustic style house.

Once the structure has been framed or masonry walls have been erected, the building cladding can be installed to the exterior surfaces. First a moisture or vapor barrier is installed to protect against moisture penetration and minimize the risk of rot or mold. This moisture barrier usually consists of building paper or plastic sheeting that is nailed or stapled to the walls. After this barrier is in place, building cladding or siding materials can be installed over the top.

Buliding cladding is also known as siding in North America.
Buliding cladding is also known as siding in North America.

While many different materials are available for this purpose, most are installed using similar techniques. Planks or shingles made from wood, vinyl, aluminum, or fiber cement are nailed in overlapping rows starting from the bottom of the wall and moving towards the top. These cladding products are typically installed using a blind nailing technique, which means that the fasteners in each row are covered by the row above. This helps to protect nails or screws from rust or corrosion, which helps to extend the life of the entire assembly.

Masonry building cladding is often installed using a curtain wall system. A curtain wall is self-supporting, and is separated from the structure by several inches to create an air cavity between the building and the exterior cladding. This air cavity helps to keep moisture out of the home by allowing it to drain to the base of the wall and exit through planned channels, known as "weep holes." Masonry cladding can be made from brick or natural stone, and is often called masonry veneer.

Building cladding will need a moisture barrier to help prevent the growth of mold.
Building cladding will need a moisture barrier to help prevent the growth of mold.

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Discussion Comments


Great post you have here.

Cladding is also popularly known and used in the United Kingdom (UK) and Middle East. It is perfect in giving life to any architectural facades and design of homes, buildings and architectural structures.


I have seen so many new and contemporary buildings use wooden cladding, but for me UPVC Cladding

is definitely the best.


@Georgesplane- Wood siding can be very durable if you take care of it. If you apply the right type of stain, you can have beautiful siding that lasts for years. Many stains will have a ten or twelve year guarantee against rotting or fading. All you will have to do is replace the occasional shingle that is damaged from weathering or plow damage.

Wood cladding panels are also a bit more aesthetically pleasing than vinyl. Depending on the type of home (usually more expensive homes), wood siding is often more desirable.


@georgesplane - If you are looking for a low maintenance siding then vinyl cladding is your best option. You do not need to paint or stain vinyl. You only need to hose it off when it gets dirty. It is also easy to install. If you are handy enough, you can install vinyl siding yourself, just make sure you have the right tools and you find a good tutorial.


I just bought a house, and it needs to be re-sided. The paint is peeling, and some of the siding is weathered. I am trying to determine if I should install new wooden shingle siding, or if I should opt for vinyl siding. Does anyone have any opinions or feedback as to what type of siding I should opt for? I live in the northeast so the wall cladding needs to be well suited for long, harsh winters.

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