What Is Cladding? (2024 Guide: Definition, Types, Benefits)

Table Of Contents

Do you know that cladding plays a crucial role in protecting buildings from harsh weather conditions? It acts as a shield, safeguarding the interior and structure of the building from external elements. But what is cladding, and why is it so important?

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the definition of cladding, the different types of materials used in its production, as well as benefits and disadvantages of cladding. You’ll also see why it’s important to consult with professionals like GLRE for top-quality cladding solutions tailored to your building’s needs. Let’s start by defining what cladding is.

What Is Cladding in Building: An Overview

Cladding refers to the external skin or layer attached to a building’s primary structure. It enhances the building’s appearance while providing additional protection. Cladding also serves as a decorative element for a building, thereby improving its aesthetic. It’s non-load bearing, meaning it’s not integral to the structure but serves as an extra layer of defence.

Stone Cladding

Cladding can be made from several types of material. Keep reading to learn more about them!

6 Types of Cladding Materials

So, what does cladding look like? There are various types of cladding materials used in the construction process. These can include stone, brick, UPVC, metal, timber, and glass.

  1. Stone Cladding: Stone cladding involves using thin layers of natural stones like slate, marble, or sandstone. It adds a touch of elegance and uniqueness to a building’s exterior. Stone cladding is often used to decorate building landscapes.
  2. Brick Cladding: Brick cladding is a popular choice, especially for older building structures that aim to restore their traditional appearance. Bricks come in different colours and designs, allowing you to choose a style that complements your building and surroundings.
  3. UPVC Cladding: UPVC cladding, meaning “Unplasticized Poly Vinyl Compound”, is a cost-effective and low-maintenance option. It guarantees free maintenance and offers resistance to weather conditions. UPVC cladding comes with UV stabilisers, protecting it from direct sunlight and ensuring longevity.
  4. Metal Cladding: Metal cladding, such as aluminium composite material (ACM) or high-pressure laminate (HPL) panels, provides a sleek and modern look for commercial and residential buildings. However, there have been concerns about the inability of HPL cladding to prevent the spread of fire.
  5. Timber Cladding: Timber cladding is commonly used in commercial and residential buildings. It restores the original appearance of older houses and adds warmth and character to modern structures. However, be aware that it requires regular maintenance, including painting or staining, to preserve its integrity.
  6. Glass Cladding: Glass cladding offers a more contemporary and elegant look to buildings. It allows natural light to enter the office space and provides a visually appealing facade. However, glass cladding requires careful consideration when it comes to thermal insulation and energy efficiency.
Glass Cladding

These are the common examples of cladding materials available in the market. Each material offers unique characteristics and aesthetics, allowing you to choose the one that best suits your needs and preferences. They all offer valuable benefits besides improving aesthetics, as we’ll see below.

What Are the Benefits of Cladding?

Cladding offers numerous benefits to buildings, both aesthetically and functionally.

Let’s take a closer look at some of these advantages:

  • Protection: One of the primary benefits of cladding is its ability to provide an extra layer of protection to a property. It enhances the structural integrity of buildings and shields them from external elements such as wind, rain, and temperature fluctuations.
  • Structural Support: Cladding can provide additional structural support to the building, reinforcing walls and improving their load-bearing capacity.
  • Low Maintenance: Many cladding materials require minimal maintenance, reducing the time and effort spent on upkeep. UPVC cladding, for example, is known for its low maintenance requirements, saving building owners both time and money.
  • Aesthetic Appeal: Cladding can dramatically transform the appearance of a building, enhancing its curb appeal and market value. With a wide range of colours, finishes, and styles available, you can choose a cladding material that suits your desired aesthetic.
  • Energy Efficiency: Certain cladding materials, like insulated metal panels or composite panels, offer excellent thermal insulation properties. This helps regulate the temperature inside the building, reducing energy consumption and lowering utility costs.
  • Durability: Cladding materials are designed to withstand the test of time and resist wear and tear. Stone cladding, for example, is known for its durability and ability to maintain its natural colour and lustre for many years.
  • Fire Resistance: Some cladding materials, such as fire-resistant glass or non-combustible metal panels, provide an additional layer of fire protection to buildings. This is especially important in high-rise structures where fire safety is a top priority.
Metal Cladding

The benefits cladding offers may vary depending on the type of material they’re made of; hence, ensure you consider these differences when choosing the right cladding material for your building. In addition to these benefits, cladding does have some downsides, as we’ll observe below.

What Are the Disadvantages of Cladding?

Cladding, while offering numerous benefits such as improving aesthetics, enhancing insulation, and protecting the underlying structure, also comes with the following disadvantages:

  • Limited Heat Resistance: Some cladding materials, like UPVC, are not as heat-resistant as others. In hot and humid climates, this lack of heat resistance can pose challenges and potentially lead to discomfort inside the building.
  • Poor Wind Resistance: While claddings generally have a tough resistance to wind, some reports suggest that modern claddings may fail to withstand strong wind. This can be an issue of concern in areas prone to high winds, as it may result in damage to the cladding, compromising the structural integrity of the building.

These disadvantages highlight the importance of carefully assessing the suitability of cladding for specific environmental conditions. It’s best to consult a professional to correctly evaluate your environment and advise on the best type of cladding to use for your buildings. Guidance from experts can also help identify those types of cladding that aren’t allowed in your region, which leads us to our next topic. 

What Type of Cladding Is Banned in the UK?

The type of cladding that is banned is aluminium composite panels with an unmodified polyethene core; this ban applies to all buildings of any height. The decision to ban these materials was made by the UK government in 2022. While the Grenfell incident of 14 June 2017 spurred this decision, data demonstrating the danger of polyethylene-cored cladding has been available to the government as far back as 2002.

What Was the Cladding on Grenfell?

The cladding on Grenfell Tower was external cladding made of aluminium composite material (ACM). This cladding was installed during the refurbishment of the tower block, which took place between 2012 and 2016. Unfortunately, during a kitchen fire, the ACM cladding caught fire and rapidly spread, resulting in a devastating blaze. The tragic incident claimed the lives of 72 people who were residing in the building, which contained 129 flats spread across 20 floors.

Grenfell Tower

Incidences like the Grenfell Tower of 2017 highlight the need for careful consideration of safety and building regulations when installing cladding for your buildings. Continue reading for some recommendations.

Cladding Safety Considerations: Fire Safety and Building Regulations

When it comes to cladding, safety should always be a top priority. In recent years, there has been a heightened focus on fire safety due to incidents involving combustible cladding materials. As a result, building regulations and standards have been revised to ensure the use of safe and non-combustible cladding materials.

In the UK, regulations have implemented a ban on the use of combustible materials on the exterior walls of buildings taller than 18 metres and containing multiple dwellings.

Fire Safety

Building owners and developers need to comply with these regulations and prioritise the safety of occupants. This includes using non-combustible cladding materials, conducting fire risk assessments, and implementing effective fire-stopping measures. Building owners and developers should also consult professionals to handle their cladding projects.

The Importance of Professional Installation and Maintenance

Proper installation and regular maintenance are crucial to ensure the longevity and effectiveness of cladding systems. It is recommended to engage the services of experienced professionals like GLRE, who specialise in cladding installation and maintenance.

Professional installers have the knowledge and expertise to handle complex cladding systems, ensuring that they are installed correctly and function as intended. Regular maintenance, including inspections and cleaning, can help identify any issues or damage early on and prevent further deterioration.

By investing in professional installation and maintenance, building owners can be confident that their cladding systems are in good hands and will continue to offer the desired protection and aesthetic appeal.

At GLRE, we specialise in high-level glazing and cladding services for UK office buildings. Our team of skilled professionals is committed to providing exceptional service and innovative solutions. Contact us today to learn more about our services and how we can help with your cladding projects.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is an example of cladding?

Examples of cladding include the following:

  • Brick Cladding: Brick cladding involves applying brick tiles or veneers to the exterior or interior walls of a building.
  • Wall Cladding: This refers to creating a curtain wall system using any material to cover and protect the exterior or interior walls of a building.
  • Timber Cladding: Timber cladding involves using wood panels or boards to cover the exterior or interior walls of a building.
  • Glass Cladding: Glass cladding involves the use of glass panels or sheets to cover building exteriors or interiors. 
  • Wooden Cladding: Wooden cladding is similar to timber cladding and involves using wood panels or boards to cover walls.
  • Stainless Steel Cladding: Stainless steel cladding entails covering building surfaces with stainless steel lightweight panels or sheets.
  • Stone Cladding: Stone cladding involves attaching natural or artificial stone panels to building exteriors or interiors.
  • Aluminium Cladding: Aluminium cladding involves covering building surfaces with aluminium panels or sheets.
  • Scyon Cladding: Scyon cladding refers to a type of cladding made from fibre cement composite material.
  • Porcelain Tile Cladding: Porcelain tile cladding involves applying porcelain tiles to building exteriors or interiors.

Is cladding good or bad?

Cladding is generally good for buildings — claddings made with composite materials, in particular, offer advantages such as thermal insulation and additional protection for exterior walls against extreme weather conditions. The water resistance property of composite cladding helps to prevent excess moisture and condensation from being absorbed, thereby contributing to the durability and maintenance of the building’s structure. In summary, cladding is good as it enhances the functionality and resilience of exterior walls.

Why is cladding a fire risk?

Cladding can pose a fire risk, particularly when constructed using combustible materials. Combustible materials, when ignited, can contribute to the spread of smoke and flames during a fire. This increases the risk of the fire spreading to adjacent areas, floors, or rooms within a building. As the fire spreads, it can compromise escape routes, making them impassable and trapping occupants inside the building.

What is the most popular cladding?

Timber cladding is the most popular cladding type, particularly for buildings focused on sustainability. This form of cladding is favoured due to its organic and renewable nature. Additionally, it is considered effectively carbon neutral, as timber continues to absorb and store carbon dioxide even after being fitted onto a building.


Cladding plays a vital role in protecting buildings and enhancing their appearance. By understanding the different types of cladding materials available and their respective benefits, building owners and developers can make informed decisions when it comes to selecting the right cladding for their properties.

Engaging the services of professionals for cladding installation and maintenance ensures that the systems are installed correctly and properly maintained over time. Remember, when it comes to cladding, it’s not just about aesthetics; it’s about protecting your building and its occupants for years to come. Contact us today to discuss your cladding projects.

No items found.

Newsletter Signup

Signup to receive our email newsletter providing you with the latest GR updates, offers and more.
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Book a Site Survey

Book an inspection from the UK’s leading glazing refurbishment company.