The latest series of Grand Designs is airing on Channel 4. This popular self-build programme inspires us all to dream about our ideal home build project. Extending beyond the number of rooms and layout, architects plans, project management and interior design play their part.

The programme shows us that a house can take many different forms. It need not be confined to the rectangular brick box that most of us live in. Projects include an experiment into using soil and cedar cladding to thermally insulate and camouflage a home in Bletchley. In another, an abandoned barn is transformed into a luxury home, with the original pine cladding, an old drying rack and a felled oak tree are repurposed.

charred timber cladding

Finding a suitable plot of land and undertaking a self-build may be beyond reach, yet home renovations, extensions and exterior wall cladding can be used to transform a mundane building into a home with a stunning finish.

As we watch the current series, we are aware that the English Planning System is being overhauled. The new National Design Model is expected to focus on beautifying the built environment. The ability of new builds to preserve, and fit in with, the local character is expected to be a primary shift in gaining planning permission. Selecting the right exterior materials will be a means of achieving the desired effect.

What are the Different Types of External Cladding Material?

Exterior Cladding has been used on homes for centuries and can take many forms. In addition to the timbers used in the two Grand Designs project referred to above, the most common options are:

Brick slips – these are thin strips of brick, with an appearance that is more like a tile. They can be laid in the traditional brickwork style to match neighbouring houses.

Stone cladding – as a readily available materials, natural stones have been used in construction for centuries. As a cladding material, thin layers of typically sandstone or slate are used.

Both brick and stone are used when less traditional or aesthetic materials, such as breeze blocks or concrete are used in construction. These finishes helps the building to blend in with other facades in the surrounding neighbourhood.

Render – A smooth or textured finish can be applied to a building in much the same way as internal walls are plastered. Render is a budget-friendly concrete mixture which offers a protective, weatherproofing and often coloured finish.

Composite boards – These lightweight boards are usually designed to mimic the appearance of wood. Fibre cement is widely used in this product, however new eco alternatives, including panels made from recycled plastic and reclaimed wood fibres are now available on the market.

Metal – large, prefabricated sheets of aluminium, steel, copper and zinc are used for metal cladding. This material can be sandblasted, powder coated and painted to provide a contemporary finish. Although more common on commercial buildings, it is now being used on residential properties.

Which is the Best Type of Timber Cladding?

Larch and Cedar are popular choices, as the oils and resins have properties which help to preserve and protect the timber. Faster growing species, including Douglas Fir, provide lower-cost option, with oak at the other end of the scale.

Any tree felled for timber cladding will be cut and kiln-dried. This greatly reduces the moisture content, giving it greater stability and strength. Protective applications including oils, varnishes and paint can coat timber cladding to enhance weatherproofing and lifespan. An alternative option are the traditional techniques of Yagisuki; Japanese charred timber cladding.

Oak Hill house finished with grey cladding made from Kebony

What is Charred Timber Cladding?

When a carefully controlled burn results in charred timber, the cell structure is altered. The process visibly blackens the wood and it also increases its strength, resilience and durability. Charred timber cladding is low maintenance, as unlike oils, paints and varnishes, charring is not a process that needs to be repeated. It will not peel off or fade over time and adds character to builds and renovations.

The workshop team at Exterior Solutions Ltd have learnt the art of yagisuki and we developed our range of Shou Sugi Ban® charred timber cladding. By using different burning, brushing and finishing techniques, we can offer timbers with a traditional black finish or RAL-matched colours. Texturally, you can opt for a smooth finish or a stronger grain definition.

Is Cladding Safe?

Following the fatal incident at Grenfell Tower, some people are understandably concerned about the flammability of cladding. The cheap cladding used on these flats was inferior and unsuitable for this application. Supplying cheap cladding that is unfit for purpose has cost lives and damaged reputations.

In quality products, timbers are sourced from sustainably managed forests. The wood is professionally cut and dried at timber mills and is properly prepared and treated by specialist cladding suppliers. It is professionally treated and thoroughly tested.

Although counter-intuitive, the process of controlled charring was developed as a means of flame resistance. Exterior Solutions Ltd can further enhance this wood preservation technique with flame-retardant coatings as required.

How Much does Charred Timber Cladding Cost?

The cost of cladding depends on the type of timber and finish. If you are interested in the Shou Sugi Ban® range of cladding, Exterior Solutions Ltd can provide a couple of quotes for your shortlisted options. We also send samples to help you make an informed decision. For further information, please call our team on 01494 711800.