20 Best External Cladding Options (2024)

Exterior facade cladding design has changed a lot over the past decade. Once, bricks were seen as basic components of building but more recently, innovations in manufacturing and available materials have allowed for almost limitless design options with all sorts now available to Architects, Main Contractors, and Homeowners. Nowadays, choosing your preferred material is quite enjoyable and can dramatically transform the appearance of your property. In this post we’ll explore 15 design ideas that you can consider when designing your next project.

Brick Slips

brick slip cladding

Image source: Aqaurian Cladding

Brick slip cladding may be the perfect solution for your building project. Not only does it provide that authentic brick look and feel, but also some added benefits make this material worth considering over traditional bricks such as durability or increased water resistance in certain waterproofing applications.

Brick slips are proving more popular than ever due to their stylish appearance which can mimic traditional masonry style buildings from centuries past but combined with contemporary design elements like powder-coated aluminium window frames and smooth white render.

Timber Cladding

timber cladding

Timber cladding is a highly versatile material which offers property owners the ability to create striking facades for projects which don’t require a fire rating. Sourced responsibly and lasting many years, this sustainable cladding material provides an ideal solution for many design projects. Many different types of timber can be used including Western Red Cedar, Larch, Oak, Sequoia and many more.  Timber cladding is a sustainable and environmentally friendly material that can be used for construction. It has many incredible advantages, such as being carbon neutral due to the natural cycle of growth in trees which absorb CO2 while releasing oxygen – this means they balance out any emissions far better than other popular building materials like concrete or steel.

One thing to note though is the significant amount of maintenance required to keep the timber looking it’s best. Regular staining of the timber will be required to prevent discolouration and timber is susceptible to warps and cracks over time which need to be monitored.

Aluminium Cladding

aluminium cladding

One of the most popular choices for modern facades is aluminium cladding. Naturally lightweight and very adaptable, aluminium cladding opens up several design options as different finishes can be applied such as anodised, powder-coated and even stone effects. Aluminium can also be extruded and pressed which can create one-of-a-kind facades further boosting its kerb appeal and desirability. The recyclability of aluminium also makes it a strong contender when considering the lifespan of a building. The construction industry has seen a heavy focus on environmental factors in recent years which means opting for a sustainable cladding material has never been more important.

Stone Cladding

stone cladding

One of the earliest forms of cladding was made from stone. Stone is typically used in a cubic structure so that it also enhances the structural integrity of the building, however, years of innovation have improved the available cladding options in stone. Newer technologies and tools allow cladding manufacturers to cut, polish and coat stone in ways which were not possible before.

The natural beauty of stone cladding is something that is difficult to replicate with man-made materials. As time goes on, each piece can take on a different hue due to the varying processes taking place during its formation.

Composite Cladding

composite cladding

Hugely popular in today’s market, composite cladding offers an attractive external finish with little to no maintenance required. There are almost endless options to choose from with many different companies offering composite cladding in the UK. Typically taking the form of traditional weatherboard cladding, composite cladding can be finished in almost any colour with many companies replicating conventional timber colours and finishes. The key advantage of using composite weatherboard cladding is you get the appearance of real timber cladding but without the maintenance hassle. Many composite systems come with a 15-year warranty against fade and weathering which timber cladding can’t compete with.

Perforated Cladding

perforated cladding

Slightly unusual and less common than other cladding styles, perforated cladding has the ability to really catch the eye of passers-by making your property really stand out. Used for more than just striking design features, perforated cladding can also give Architects options where safety and visibility must be considered, particularly for fire protection. By varying the size and location of the perforations, areas of light and dark are created to form an image or design. This gives designers the possibility to display any image they choose, making it one of the most customisable systems available today.

uPVC Cladding

pvc cladding

Image source: National Plastics

Plastic cladding, also known as uPVC cladding, is one of the cheapest options you can go for. Lightweight and available in almost any colour, uPVC cladding is a great choice for budget conscious property owners. Whilst the performance properties are less desirable (uPVC can be prone to cracking and changing colour under prolonged UV exposure), for projects with tight budgets, uPVC cladding could be the best all round choice.

Zinc Cladding


Image source: GSL Southern

Zinc cladding is an excellent choice for properties because it’s not only attractive visually, but it also comes in many forms and profiles including cassette panels, standing seam or even shingles. Zinc cladding can be used to clad the entire façade or just a single element. It makes a great addition if you’re looking into doing some remodelling on your property.

Zinc, like other metals can be chemically treated to alter its naturally occurring patina. These treatments are usually designed so that the zinc will weather quickly; giving it a more weathered look which would typically take 3 – 10 years to achieve.

GRP Cladding

grp cladding

GRP (Glass Reinforced Plastic) cladding has been around for several decades. It comprised of cross woven glass fibres which are reinforced with plastic resin. The result is a highly durable and anti-vandal robust finish which is often utilised in high footfall areas and railways due to the fact it’s hardwearing and does not conduct electricity. GRP cladding panels can be moulded to almost any shape and texture and finished in any RAL colour offering an array of design possibilities.

3D Cladding

3d cladding

Image source: Arup

One of the newest types of cladding available, 3D cladding can be seen throughout modern architectural projects and is featured on some of the most eye-catching buildings constructed in recent years such as the Selfridges building in Birmingham (pictured).

Fibre Cement Cladding

fibre-cement cladding

Image source: Squaredeal uPVC

Another popular choice when it comes to cladding a property is fibre cement cladding. Developed in the 1980’s and as its name suggests, fibre cement cladding comprises of cement which is reinforced with cellulose fibres with added sand and water. The result is a rigid cement board which often has a woodgrain texture embossed on the face of the board which makes it an ideal choice for external cladding.

Terracotta Cladding

terracotta cladding

Image source: Palagio Engineering

It is no wonder that terracotta cladding has become a popular choice for architects throughout contemporary architecture. Flexibility in design and colour, natural textures like brick or wood with their distinctive look make these materials stand out from other construction material options while still maintaining durability enough to last decades without showing any signs of wear.

ACM Panels

ACM panels

Image source: Valcan

ACM cladding panels are an increasingly popular choice for exterior building cladding. ACM panels are made from aluminium composite materials, which consist of two layers of aluminium sandwiching a core layer of polyethylene. ACM cladding panels are highly durable and low maintenance, making them an ideal choice for busy commercial buildings. They are also available in a wide range of colours and finishes, giving architects greater flexibility when designing facades. In addition, some ACM cladding panels are available with a fire-resistant core, making them a safe and practical option for commercial refurbishment projects.

Weatherboard Cladding

weatherboard cladding

Weatherboard cladding is one of the most traditional types of cladding available which has been around for hundreds of years. Originally engineered from timber to create robust and protective planks, weatherboard cladding is available in many different substrates such as composite timber, fibre cement, aluminium and more. Weatherboard cladding can be produced in different profiles such as Shiplap, Lapboard, and Tongue and Groove which give unique and interesting visual effects.

Glass Cladding

glass facade cladding

Image source: Dezeen

Often overlooked, glass is a popular material for use in facade cladding. It offers several benefits that make it an attractive choice for use in buildings. Firstly, glass is a very durable material. It is resistant to weathering and can last for several decades with proper care. Secondly, glass is a very low-maintenance material meaning It does not require regular cleaning or painting, and it will not fade or discolour over time. Glass also reflects light well, making it an ideal choice for use in buildings that receive a lot of natural light. Finally, glass is a recyclable material, making it an more environmentally friendly than some of the other options listed above.

Stucco Cladding

Stucco Cladding

Stucco cladding, often referred to as render, is a mixture of cement, sand, lime, and water that is applied as a thick plaster-like coating onto the exterior walls. Stucco cladding is an excellent low-cost choice for external cladding due to its numerous advantages. First and foremost, stucco is a highly durable and long-lasting material, capable of withstanding various weather conditions, including rain, wind, and extreme temperatures. Its robustness ensures that it requires minimal maintenance over time, making it a cost-effective option. Stucco cladding can also be painted over allowing ongoing flexibility to the building’s aesthetics but compared with other systems it isn’t the most visually appealing choice.   

Slate Cladding

slate cladding

Image source: Dezeen

Slate cladding is a distinguished and elegant option for exterior building finishes, known for its natural beauty and longevity. Made from natural slate, this type of cladding offers a unique texture and a range of colour variations, adding a sophisticated and timeless charm to buildings. Slate is highly durable, resistant to harsh weather conditions, and maintains its colour and structure over time, making it an excellent long-term investment for exterior applications.One of the key advantages of slate cladding is its natural composition, which ensures that every panel is unique, thereby providing an aesthetically pleasing and varied appearance. This natural stone is also fire-resistant and waterproof, offering additional safety and durability benefits While slate cladding is a premium choice, it is essential to consider its installation and structural requirements. The weight of slate can be significant, necessitating proper support structures and expert installation.

Ceramic Tile Cladding

Ceramic Tile Cladding

Ceramic tile cladding is an external wall covering option that utilises ceramic tiles as the primary material for covering and protecting the exterior surfaces of buildings. Ceramic tiles are made from fired clay, and they are renowned for their durability, resistance to wear and tear, and low maintenance requirements. Ceramic tile cladding offers numerous benefits when used as an external cladding material. Firstly, it is exceptionally resilient to weather conditions, including rain, sun exposure, and freezing temperatures. Secondly, ceramic tiles come in a vast array of colours, patterns, and textures, allowing for a wide range of design possibilities to suit various architectural styles. Additionally, ceramic tile cladding is resistant to moisture and can provide an extra layer of insulation, enhancing energy efficiency. Its resistance to fading, staining, and fire makes it a compelling choice for property seeking both aesthetic appeal and practicality in their external cladding solution.

Concrete Panel Cladding

Concrete Panel Cladding

Concrete panel cladding is an external cladding system that utilises precast concrete panels to cover and protect the exterior surfaces of buildings. Concrete panel cladding offers several compelling reasons why it is an excellent choice for external cladding. Firstly, it is renowned for its durability and ability to withstand harsh weather conditions, ensuring long-lasting protection for the building. Secondly, concrete panel cladding requires minimal maintenance, reducing long-term upkeep costs. It also provides excellent thermal insulation properties, contributing to energy efficiency and improved indoor comfort. Moreover, the material’s robustness and fire-resistant qualities enhance the safety and security of the structure. Finally, concrete panel cladding offers a versatile and modern aesthetic, allowing architects and designers to achieve a wide range of contemporary looks, making it an attractive option for both commercial and residential applications.

Corten Cladding

Corten Cladding

Image source: Dezeen

Corten cladding, known for its distinctive rust-like appearance that forms a protective layer, is a type of weathering steel used in exterior architectural applications. It’s celebrated for its unique aesthetic, which allows buildings to have a naturally rugged, industrial look that evolves over time. Corten cladding forms a stable rust-like appearance when exposed to the weather, preventing further corrosion. This notable characteristic is particularly appealing for certain architectural designs, lending a modern, rustic look that blends well with both urban and natural environments. However, this material comes with some disadvantages. Initially, the rusting process can lead to staining, as the steel releases rust particles, which can be problematic especially in areas where runoff might stain other structures or pavements.