The external cladding is one of the key design choices you'll make
Your choice of exterior cladding material will have a significant impact on the appearance of the building. We have gathered together examples of the different claddings commonly used, in the Design Ideas section of the site. We suggest you take a look.
As well as having an aesthetic influence, your choice of external cladding material will also affect the amount of ongoing maintenance your garden office will need.
The most common material used for garden office cladding is wood, but this obviously comes in different grades of durability. As low maintenance garden offices have become popular, other cladding materials such as composite wood and colour coated steel have appeared in the market.
These are the external cladding finishes commonly used in garden office design:
- Treated softwood cladding
- Thermowood cladding
- Larch cladding
- Cedar cladding
- External grade plywood
- External grade MDF
- Composite wood cladding
- Metal cladding
- High pressure laminates
A garden offices external cladding is typically fixed into treated battens, over a breather membrane.
Properties of a durable cladding
A good external cladding for a garden office will not only protect the building from the ingress of moisture but be durable against rot, insect and fungal attack. It will also have a durability towards UV light. Protection from these risks will create a longer lasting finish, that needs less ongoing maintenance.
Some cladding materials have a natural durability to the risks outlined above. While others can be easily treated to protect them. Finally, you have the option of choosing an engineered product which have been designed to have an extended maintenance-free lifespan.
Common woods used in external cladding
The entry-level timber cladding used on garden offices is fast growing pine cladding, in its natural state it is a honey colour. It machines easily so can be used for all cladding profiles.
Pine cladding does need protection against rot, insect and fungal attack as well as protection from UV-light. As in its natural state, it's not a durable cladding. There are a few key ways of doing this:
Rot, fungal and insect attack are a big concern with timber cladding's, and usually, pine cladding will be treated against these attacks. The best way of doing this is in factory conditions where the wood is impregnated with preservative at high pressure. This treatment is available in clear finishes which allow the natural colour of the wood to show through, or if the Tanalised treatment system is used the wood will have a greenish tint. Some suppliers will apply preservative by brush. While this is better than nothing it won't penetrate into the wood in the same was as preservatives that are applied at pressure.
Another preservative treatment used on pine cladding is heat treatment, known as Thermowood. In this case, the wood is heated at very high temperatures which preserves it. Thermowood clad garden offices are often left without a decorative finish. Although they take them well, and weather to a silver colour over time. The weathering of Thermowood tends to be more even than that seen on untreated pine.
Many pine clad garden offices are painted, which not only repels moisture but offers a uniform colour. Some people find the grain and knots in softwood cladding 'busy', so the opaque finish of paint hides them.
People's fear of painted garden office cladding is that it is going to need a lot of maintenance and while it will require a repaint every 5 to 10 years - depending on the exposure of the building. Garden office designers tend to choose paint finishes that have an extended maintenance-free lifespan, that will age well, with the surface biodegrading rather than flaking.
Western red cedar cladding is by far the most used material when it comes to garden office cladding. The reason for this is because it is a dimensionally stable wood, it has a natural resistance to insect and fungal attack, and as a rule, doesn't need a decorative finish.
Cedar starts out a reddish brown colour, but with exposure will weather to a silver tone. While the silver looks lovely, it will have a dramatically different appearance from the new building, and in a sense, ages the building.
If decided at the design stage you can preserve the natural redness by applying an oil which protects against UV-light. This needs really needs to be applied before the wood is exposed, so if preserving the original colour is important to you, think about it at the design stage.
Cedar cladding needs non-ferrous fixings, the resins in the wood can corrode other fixings which will weaken the fixing and stain the face of the wood. Check with your supplier that non-ferrous fixings are used. They are expensive, and we have known some companies to not use them because of this.
Siberian Larch cladding
Siberian Larch is another wood that has a natural durability making it an excellent garden office cladding. This is thanks to the resins in the wood which make it resistant to rot and fungal attack.
Left untreated larch will weather to a silver grey colour. Larch cladding has visible knots which add character to the building.
Companies like Garden Spaces offer a preservative system which can be applied to all sides of the cladding before fixing. The preservative helps to ensure that as the cladding weathers, the change in colour is even across the wall.
Siberian larch is commonly used as garden office cladding, but if you are looking for a UK grown and sourced product, then you might consider Scottish larch. This would be a particularly attractive choice if you are designing an eco-friendly garden office because its carbon footprint will be smaller than other cladding options.
Exterior grade plywood
Engineered woods have been used as garden office claddings from the early days. Exterior grade plywood has been used successfully on some of the most popular garden office ranges for more than a decade - this speaks well for its durability as a cladding.
It is essential that an exterior grade plywood is chosen. As it uses waterproof glues to bond the thin layers of wood. If interior grade plywood is used outside, it will swell and bulge, with the layers of wood coming apart.
Plywood cladding has a smooth finish and is usually painted to give a more attractive decorative finish. As we mentioned above the paints chosen are designed for longevity, and depending on the exposure of the building will only need repainting every 5 to 10 years.
Exterior grade MDF
A few companies use exterior grade MDF products for the exterior cladding of their building. Peoples first thought is that MDF is an interior product, and will not stand up to the rigours of external use, but external grade MDF's are very durable thanks to the resins used in its production. MDF makes a very good cladding as it comes in large sheets, so there are few joints. Unfinished exterior grade MDF has a green hue, but its smooth surface takes paint finishes well.
Composite wood cladding
Composite wood cladding has many of the visual qualities of natural wood, but with the durability of an engineered product. Composite wood comes in several popular profiles such as tongue & groove and shiplap.
With composite wood polymers and wood fibres are mixed together to create the boards. The boards stand up well against heat, cold, moisture and UV-light, and suppliers estimate a 50-year lifespan.
Composite wood cladding's come in a palette of different colours, from natural wood clours such as Cedar colours to shades of grey through to black.
Metal cladding is used widely in industrial building, and are often now used in garden office design. Metal cladding is a durable option. Some companies who use it, offer a 25-year maintenance free guarantee.
Metal cladding usually takes the form of smooth steel sheets which have a coloured paint finish. This finish is baked on at high temperatures. The surface has a slight leather grain texture.
Powder coated aluminium cladding is offered by some companies who specialise in contemporary style buildings. Typically, the cladding sheets are colour matched with the door and window frames. Using a minimal palette like this can be very effective. In many of the examples we've seen, the metal cladding is mixed with sections of timber cladding, to great effect.
Some high-spec garden offices make use of corrugated metal cladding, as you will see used on agricultural buildings. Referred to as wriggly tin, it is often mixed with timber claddings. The contrast in material textures can be very effective. It is commonly used on the side or rear walls that are not as visible.
Cement board cladding
Over the last few of years, we have seen a trend for the use of cement board cladding on garden offices. Cement board cladding is very durable. It is not liable to rot and fungal attack resistant and is low maintenance in the long term. It comes in traditional cladding profiles such as feather edge weatherboard and has a wood grain texture.
Cement board cladding comes pre-finished in a wide range of colours. The durability and maintenance properties are one reason that cement board cladding is becoming popular as a garden office cladding, but the other reason is that it is low combustible.
It has become fashionable to maximise space by siting a garden office within 1 meter of a boundary. The Building Regulations state that buildings sited within 1m of the boundary line need to be built substantially from non-combustible materials, and cement board cladding helps a garden office comply with this ruling.
While cladding boards like Cedral are commonly used. Some companies are making use of cement board sheets. They then paint them with masonry paint, often in a dark grey to help them blend in with other finishes used on the building.
uPVC is not widely used as a garden office cladding material. Some suppliers use uPVC as a covering for corner posts of the building. As well as the fascia and soffit boards, but mix this with other wall cladding materials such as metal sheeting.
uPVC cladding is available though, often in shiplap or tongue & groove profiles. The colour palettes available are minimal, with often white, black or oak effect to choose from.
A few garden office companies offer rendered finishes for the exterior of their buildings. Render takes skill to apply and this is why it is not commonly offered.
Modern resin based renders are chosen as they have a degree of flexibility, necessary with a timber-framed building. The resins also help to repel moisture and prevent staining.
Crisp white renders are the most popular choice, but some companies offer the option of coloured finishes. You could go bold with a bright colour or dark, and colour match the render with the door and window frames.
The modern renders used, usually are pre-coloured, so you don't have to worry about repainting the render every few years.
High pressure laminates
A handful of companies offers high pressure laminates known as HPL. They have been used in commercial building for many years, but only recently adopted by garden office designers.
They are made by bonding layers of kraft paper with resins at high temperature. The resulting product is highly durable and maintenance free. They come in lots of finishes and can be colour matched with the door and window frames. HPL cladding is often mixed with timber cladding materials on contemporary garden office buildings.