In building, cladding panels make up part of the skin, or envelope, of a building or home. They perform both a functional and aesthetic purpose by protecting the building from exterior elements, while also providing the desired finish for the structure. Cladding panels are completely supported by the building framing, and perform no structural role.
These panels may consist of fiber cement, metal, or thermoplastic materials. Some manufacturers also produce cladding panels from thin sheets of stone veneer or concrete. Each of these materials offers a completely different look to suit a variety of architectural design styles. Some feature a smooth finish, while others may be molded or embossed to resemble lap siding, stone, or brick. Others can be curved or shaped to give the walls texture and create a unique finish for the building.
Typically, installers fasten cladding panels to the wood or metal framing members that make up the building's exterior walls. When the panels are too small to reach from stud to stud, they may be supported by a layer of plywood sheathing attached to the building framing. Cladding panels can also be built with stiffeners or reinforced edges for added support.
Depending on the type of panel, they may be installed using nails or screws. Many include pre-drilled holes that indicate where fasteners should be placed. Others feature a click-together installation or some other integral system that eliminates the need for visible fasteners. Very lightweight cladding panels may be installed using thinset mortar or some form of heavy-duty adhesive. This type of installation is most common on residential applications.
By nature, most cladding panels offer very little insulation. Installers often add a layer of insulation between the framing and the panels to improve thermal resistance and reduce noise within the building. Some specially designed cladding panels may also include a layer of foam insulation built in to ensure an airtight wall.
When choosing cladding panels, building owners must consider a variety of factors to ensure a successful installation. The panels should be designed to keep moisture out of the building. While overlapping panels can help keep out water, caulk and other sealants can also be used to improve water resistance. Panels should also be able to resist the spread of fire, as well as damage from wind and pests. If long-term durability is a concern, choose thicker metal panels or those made from composite materials to avoid dents from everyday activities.