Cladding choices and trade-offs. Metal cladding it is

With the scaffolding gone finally some better views of the exterior of the home and our cladding.

 

 

Choosing a cladding has been more difficult than I imagined and choices and materials different from what I had envisioned. I loved the look of vertical timber cladding and it is also the option with the best environmental credits.

In the end the only choice was metal cladding as this was the only cladding allowed for fire safety reasons but we had already settled on this option for maintenance and cost reasons.

The maintenance frequency of the cladding was an important consideration as our home is built on a steep site on piles about 2-3 meters above the ground and maintenance will require scaffolding of the whole house. Also, the m2 price of the timber options forced us to look at alternative cladding options.

Cladding we didn’t look at were:

  • Brick: too heavy for our piled construction, don’t like the look anyway
  • Natural Stone: too heavy, too expensive
  • Plaster: not my taste
  • PVC (vinyl) cladding: a No Go for environmental reasons and health hazards

This roughly left us with the following options which I tried to evaluate on aesthetics, cost, life cycle costs (LCC), maintenance and environmental impact.

  • Metal
  • Timber
  • Weatherboard
  • Fibre cement
  • Composite types
  Aesthetics Cost /m2 LCC Maintenance Environmental impact Embodied energy MJ/kg

Metal

Ok low $30-$100 Low Low Medium. High embodied energy to manufacture but recyclability very good.

High 

31.3

Timber

Beautiful high $100-$200+ High High Low

 

Low

3-10

Weatherboard

Not a fan ? High High Low? ? low

Fibre cement

Not a fan, looks very artificial ? Low-medium Medium Medium

(paint every 8-10 years)

Non recyclable, but non toxic

9.3

Wood Composites Medium. Some look good, some a bit artificial $100+ ? Medium (recoat every 7-10 years) Could be reused, non recyclable

24.2 hardboard.

 

I didn’t research fibre cement too much as I didn’t really like the look of it and didn’t see any other good reasons to use it. Probably there are some good wood composite or other new innovative composite or recycled material cladding options but the few I bumped into looked very artificial or were expensive so crossed this one of the list as well. Weatherboard is a very traditional cladding and still used a lot as a cladding material. BRANZ (link) did research on the lifecycle costs of different cladding materials and weatherboard turned out to be the most expensive option over the life cycle of the product and was high maintenance so that one was number three removed from the list.

Remained timber and metal. Beautiful, environmentally preferred but expensive and high maintenance versus low cost, low maintenance. The cost difference was quite staggering. While the cost impact of better insulation maybe increased the price by $2,000 the difference in prices for different cladding were tenfold that. Even looking at the low cost end of metal cladding for our small home the price difference between more expensive metal cladding options like standing seam and our choice for T-rib from was $14,000. Price difference with timber would have easily gone over $20,000 I would expect.

The main environmental drawback of metal cladding is that it requires more energy to manufacture so has a higher embodied energy but with the price difference, low maintenance, long longevity, recyclability and fire safety requirement it was our choice of cladding.

My first thoughts for metal cladding were not too positive thinking of all the old rusted metal sheds and roofs which are plentiful in New Zealand but quite happy how the cladding looks on our home.

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