Types of Wall Cladding

Updated February 21, 2017

Wall cladding, or siding, is a building material used to cover the exterior walls of a home or business. It is available in a wide variety of materials that are chosen based on their appearance and functional characteristics. When comparing different types of wall cladding, you should consider things like design, installation, maintenance and costs.


Homeowners can select from a number of different materials when choosing wall cladding. Vinyl siding is the most widely used type of siding in the United States, and also one of the most affordable. Aluminium cladding is more costly than vinyl, but is also more durable and long-lasting. Wood shingles made from cedar or redwood may be used for their aesthetic appeal, though they tend to be relatively costly and high-maintenance. Fibre cement cladding is designed to mimic the look of real wood, yet can last for decades with little to no maintenance. Masonry cladding products like EIFS or brick are some of the longest lasting of all siding materials, though both are fairly costly and difficult to install.


Wall cladding serves both an aesthetic and a functional purpose when installed on the exterior of the home. Materials and colours are often selected to give the home a specific look, or to complement the architectural design of a building. Cladding also protects the home from rain, wind and other weather-related elements. It helps to keep moisture and mould from penetrating the walls, and often provides some level of insulation against thermal transfer and air leaks.


Most cladding materials are installed directly to plywood or OSB wall sheathing. Products like vinyl, aluminium or fibre cement siding are nailed to the sheathing in overlapping rows, with special corner beads and end caps used to complete the installation. Wood siding may be installed in the same manner, or in the form of shingles and shakes like those found on a wooden roof. EIFS (exterior insulated finish system) is trowelled onto the wall to resemble stucco or plaster. It is installed over cement boards that may be nailed to wall sheathing or directly to the framing members.


The required maintenance for wall cladding varies depending on application, finish and climate. Vinyl siding is sold with integral colour and requires painting, though it is not as durable as most other products, and may crack in cold temperatures. Aluminium is often left unpainted, but may dent if exposed to high winds or sharp impacts. While wood requires painting, cleaning and regular repair, fibre cement is virtually maintenance-free. EIFS and brick are very durable and require only painting as needed.


For many homeowners, cost is one of the primary concerns when selecting wall cladding. It is important to balance not only the upfront material costs, but also the life of the material and replacement costs over time. Homeowners should also consider the cost of maintenance and installation. For example, fibre cement costs more than vinyl siding, but will often outlast a vinyl application several times over. Homeowners should compare the difference in cost between these two products with the cost of multiple replacements or repairs of the vinyl.

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About the Author

Emily Beach works in the commercial construction industry in Maryland. She received her LEED accreditation from the U.S. Green Building Council in 2008 and is in the process of working towards an Architectural Hardware Consultant certification from the Door and Hardware Institute. She received a bachelor's degree in economics and management from Goucher College in Towson, Maryland.