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The History of Cladding

In construction, the word “cladding” refers to the components that are attached to the structure of a building to form non-structural, external surfaces. Cladding provides thermal insulation, weather resistance, and can also improve the appearance of a building.

You may assume that cladding is a rather modern invention with not much history, but this is not the case. While cladding has changed rapidly over the years in terms of the material it is made from and how it is used, it is thought to have been around in some form or another for many centuries. Here’s a look at the history of cladding:

Cladding in the Dark Ages

Believe it or not, some sources place the existence of timber cladding being used throughout history since the dark ages – 500 to 1500 AD. Evidence has been found in Europe, particularly in areas in regions dominated by forest, as the wood used would have been easily accessible.

Back in the 5th century, Anglo-Saxon homes in Britain used timber cladding. Reconstructed housing in Suffolk from this period shows how the pieces of timber were stood upright on wood or stone cills.

Evidence of cladding could also be found in buildings in Norway from the 12th century. It was at this point in history that the Borgund Stave Church was built, sometime between 1180 and 1250 AD; it used vertical wooden boards in its construction.

These churches were typical across Northern Europe, and at one time there were thousands. But by 1640, most fell into disrepair. The Borgund is one of the best-preserved stave churches in Norway.

Borgund Stave Church

16th to 18th Century

Cladding continued to be a popular building material used in architecture. During the 16th to 18th century, wood was still easily accessible and therefore used to construct huts with sturdy beams.

In the 16th century, “weatherboarding” became a popular form of cladding to use on a building’s exterior; it was a construction style that involved using long thin pieces of “clapboard” to cover exterior walls. Early weatherboards were spilt from oak or elm, and the name comes from the Dutch “klappen”, meaning “to split.”

Even though housing materials were starting to replace timber, weatherboards were still prevalent in areas where wood was more available than brick. However, this process was superseded in the late 18th century by industrially sawn softwood boards imported from the Baltic, and then later, North America. This industry combined timber production with technologies like wire nails and this enabled timber frame construction complete with weatherboarding to be common in building construction.

Timber Cladding

19th to 21st Century

The industrial revolution brought a dramatic shift in the growth of cities. There came a demand for larger and taller buildings, and thus the development of the skeleton frame structural system enabled the exterior walls of buildings to no longer be a part of the primary structural system. This type of system was called a “curtain wall”, as the cladding system could be light and independent of the building’s structural system.

Over time, timber cladding dropped in usage as we entered a period of “modernism”. As the availability of cheap, mass-produced brick could be transported anywhere in the country by rail, construction became the Victorian route to providing mass housing to a newly industrialised urban workforce. By the 20th century, brick and other materials had effectively eclipsed timber construction in all but small parts of the UK.

In the 21st century, timber cladding is still a popular material to use, but not so much in parts of the UK, but rather in constructions like Swiss Chalets. However, some modern-day examples of wood cladding that can be found in Britain are the Woodland Trust Headquarters and the Olympic Velodrome.

Modern Day Cladding

Today, cladding can be made from a wide variety of materials including wood, metal, brick, vinyl, composite materials and recycled polystyrene and wheat/straw fibres. There are also many different cladding systems based on considerations such as the structural requirements of a building, its appearance, durability and how the building is going to be used.

Metal Cladding

At Bushbury Cladding, we provide wall cladding sheets such as box profile and corrugated metal sheeting. Our extensive range of hygienic wall cladding sheets are easy to install and offer seamless efficiency. We only use the finest British steel, and we can deliver orders nationwide. Contact us today if you have any questions are our cladding or roofing sheets.