Building cladding is the exterior skin, or envelope of a building, and includes all moisture barriers and siding materials used to cover the outside of the structure. Cladding can serve both a decorative and a functional purpose. It is used to complement the architectural style of the building while also offering protection from rain, wind, snow, and other outside elements. Building cladding can also add insulation to the structure while minimizing sound transmission through the walls. While the term cladding is widely used in Europe and Australia, these exterior finish materials are typically known as siding in North America.
Before exterior cladding can be installed, the structural framing of the building must be complete. This typically involves using wood or steel studs to frame out the exterior walls. These walls are then covered with plywood or oriented-strand board(OSB)to help brace against wind and other forces. Some buildings may be built from masonry or concrete rather than wood or steel, and do not require plywood or OSB sheathing.
Once the structure has been framed or masonry walls have been erected, the building cladding can be installed to the exterior surfaces. First a moisture or vapor barrier is installed to protect against moisture penetration and minimize the risk of rot or mold. This moisture barrier usually consists of building paper or plastic sheeting that is nailed or stapled to the walls. After this barrier is in place, building cladding or siding materials can be installed over the top.
While many different materials are available for this purpose, most are installed using similar techniques. Planks or shingles made from wood, vinyl, aluminum, or fiber cement are nailed in overlapping rows starting from the bottom of the wall and moving towards the top. These cladding products are typically installed using a blind nailing technique, which means that the fasteners in each row are covered by the row above. This helps to protect nails or screws from rust or corrosion, which helps to extend the life of the entire assembly.
Masonry building cladding is often installed using a curtain wall system. A curtain wall is self-supporting, and is separated from the structure by several inches to create an air cavity between the building and the exterior cladding. This air cavity helps to keep moisture out of the home by allowing it to drain to the base of the wall and exit through planned channels, known as "weep holes." Masonry cladding can be made from brick or natural stone, and is often called masonry veneer.