Michael Brookman regional sales manager at Vivalda provides guidance to contractors who have not previously worked with cladding.
Many jobbing builders have seen a big rise in cladding jobs since lockdown. Be it home improvement projects, extensions, refurbs or garden makeovers, there has been a spike in demand for this alternative to traditional timber. Vivalda Group, the UK’s largest independent supplier of cladding to the trade, has seen demand increase by around 30 per cent since May.
However, a poor understanding of this increasingly popular alternative to blocks, bricks or timber can cause headaches – especially if it’s a relatively new material. “My first piece of advice is ‘don’t worry’,” explains Michael. “Working with a new material can be daunting, but cutting and installing cladding boards is very similar to timber in many ways. Take good advice and you can’t go far wrong. Offering a range of cement, timber effect or aluminium cladding could add another string to your bow. Here are the five key considerations that builders need to think about:
“Get the spec right – There is now a huge product range available that can satisfy the most creative projects – laminate, cement-based, aluminium and are just a few options from big names such as Cedral, Cembrit, Equitone, Rockpanel and Trespa.
“More clients are asking for shiplap, or timber-look panels, without really knowing what they can achieve with cladding board that give a much better performance than timber. The trick is to encourage the client to be open to new ideas and alternative products. We’re happy to provide samples and can also advise on availability.
“Keep it legal – Since Grenfell there have been several waves of tough new legislation covering the specification and installation of cladding. This should not put you off, as most of it concerns only high rise residential buildings, but even this rule is changing. It’s important to have a basic understanding of the safety rules applicable to facades, which any good supplier can clarify. All products should be able to provide audited fire safety test results should you need to provide details of safety ratings.
“Don’t get in a fix – These are the heart of any cladding system and deserve careful consideration. Getting a clean look at eye level is important so take time to consider hidden fixings. Whether it’s drilled through or a secret fix system, there is now a huge number of alternative ways to fix cladding to structures so take time to see what’s on offer.
“Popular support systems such as Nvelope, Platerstrip and SFS are very reliable and not difficult to use. It’s all about setting out and riveting instead of drilling really. The basic principles are same as timber.
“Supply is king – It’s no good agreeing the spec for a cladding job if you can’t get the product delivered on time. That’s why it’s important to have a conversation first to see what products are most suitable for a project and what availability is like. While certain brands such as Cedral is usually available next day, other more exotic panel types such as timber effect or fibre cement materials may take longer.
“Whether it’s just a 20m2 job or a bigger 100m2 project, ten minutes on the phone to us at the outset can save days and potential pain further down the line.
“Cutting, drilling and fixing – Cutting exotic materials without the right kit can be a nightmare. Don’t risk trying to cut to tight tolerances on site. Get a supplier who has CNC cutting, drilling capability and other approved equipment to provide you with the cladding cut to size, ready to be installed on the job.
“While it’s okay to cut certain panels yourself, as long as you have the right saws, we usually advice builders to use an off-site solution for more complex stuff. Often, you’ve got limited space to cut large boards, the wrong kit and a few tricky angles to get right. Then there’s the guide holes for fixings that need to be done right. It’s often easier to get your supplier to do the cutting and get the boards delivered to site.
“Cladding is definitely on the rise as a building product in the domestic market. Don’t ignore it just because you’ve never supplied it before. Challenge yourself, learn a new skill and expand your horizons.”
For further information on Vivalda visit vivalda.co.uk/