Cladding Alternatives

Written by rebekah smith
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Cladding Alternatives
Buildings built near water must have different cladding than those built in dry areas. (Thomas Northcut/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Cladding is the external composition of a building. Cladding includes the sophits and fascia and the walls, doors and windows. Trim, caulking and flashing are also types of cladding. Different types of cladding are used throughout the world, based on cost, durability, maintenance, environment and aesthetics. Cladding may also be selected based on its energy efficiency and environmental impact.

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Types and Life Cycle

If maintained properly, stucco cladding will last more than 50 years. Brick is the most expensive cladding alternative, but it will last more than 100 years. Wood cladding will last 25 to 75 years depending on the environment and how well it is cared for. Fibre-cement cladding will last approximately 50 years. Aluminium siding, sophits and fascia will last approximately 20 to 50 years. Vinyl siding costs the least and lasts approximately 25 years. Hardboard siding must be replaced between 10 and 20 years, so it is the least durable. Wood-resin or plastic composite siding will last approximately 20 to 30 years.


Every form of external cladding provides poor insulation. Brick is a porous material, and therefore absorbs water, then dries after the rain stops. It is also the only material that can be trusted to carry a load, and it has low maintenance requirements. Plywood, stucco and hardboard all have vulnerable joints where water can leak in and damage the framing of the structure. Stucco and wood shakes require little maintenance unless they are painted or stained. Wood siding must be stained or painted or it will require a lot of maintenance. Hardboard must be painted regularly. Vinyl, metal and fibre cement are all low maintenance, but plywood requires a lot of maintenance.


Bricks fail when the mortar is missing or when the bricks crack. Stucco can crack and bulge, which allows water to flow inside the wall. It also can come off in sheets. Wood rots, splits, curls, burns and cracks, so any siding made of wood is susceptible to these problems. Vinyl and metal siding can become loose and break off. It is easily dented. Fibre cement can break off or slip, leaving the framing or plywood underneath exposed to the elements. Hardboard rots, swells and cracks. It also breeds fungus.

How to Choose

Your best option when purchasing new cladding is to choose something highly durable and resistant to wind, water, vermin and mechanical damage. Ideal cladding will provide insulation and have a long life cycle. Choose cladding that is low maintenance and easy to install. Your cladding should last at least through the end of your mortgage term. The environmentally conscious buyer will choose cladding that is recyclable and made with recycled or waste materials. Wood uses the least amount of energy to produce, releases the least amount of greenhouse gases and pollution, does not pollute water, has low solid waste and is ecological. Steel has the highest energy use and water pollution rates. Concrete has the highest greenhouse gas release, air pollution, solid waste and ecological resource use.

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