When it comes to cladding, the right timber species can make all the difference. Not only does species affect the overall appearance of architectural cladding products, it also impacts durability and maintenance requirements. With so many timber species to choose from, selecting the right one can be a daunting task. Each species has its own unique properties and characteristics that need to be considered. In this article we’ll explore some of the considerations that go into choosing the timber species used to produce architectural cladding.
1. Sustainability Considerations
Timber is one of the world’s most sustainable materials. Softwoods like pine are hardy, grow rapidly and are easy to recycle at the end of their life. This makes them ideal for construction applications.
But pine is rarely used as an architectural cladding species. The soft timber and high moisture content means pine and other softwoods are a poor choice as outdoor cladding. When installed out in the weather, softwood products quickly deteriorate and crack, which is why most manufacturers choose hardwood timbers when making cladding products.
The only challenge is that hardwood timbers are far less sustainable than their fast-growing counterparts. Being slow to grow means hardwoods are tough, but it also means they represent a significant investment of energy, water and labour. On the other hand, hardwood timber typically lasts longer as a product, making it ideal for applications that require hard-wearing materials, such as cladding.
2. Treatment Requirements
Timber treatment is a major step in producing cladding materials. It’s also a serious expense that has the potential to create harmful byproducts.
Despite this, treatment is critical for increasing the lifespan of timber cladding. Timber treatments drive out moisture and create a protective barrier that discourages rot, insects and dirt from sinking into the fibres. But not all timber cladding species require treatment. Some timber species boast natural properties that make them ideal for outdoor environments without the need for treatment. This includes species such as:
- Western red cedar
- European oak
- Sweet chestnut
- Douglas fir
Avoiding the need for treatment doesn’t just minimise production costs. It also reduces the amount of harmful chemicals and processing that goes into each board, which can be a major selling point for builders, architects and end customers.
3. Timber Durability
Last but not least, it’s important to think about the durability of the timber being used. Timber cladding is subject to incredibly harsh conditions. Rain, storms, dirt and the sun’s UV rays all take their toll on natural timber. While protective coatings like paint, varnish or chemical treatments are helpful, it’s impossible to protect cladding materials forever.
That’s where the durability of the timber stock comes in. The more durable the timber is, the longer it will last in the weather. In fact, the durability of timber is the single most important factor in selecting a hard-wearing species, and it can add decades to the life of cladding products.
Australia’s Best Timber Species for Architectural Cladding
Australia’s natural forests produce a number of tree species that are ideal for cladding applications. Unlike foreign products, Australian timber can be produced locally, and it’s resistant to many of the local creepy crawlies that cause problems in architectural timber cladding. Some of the most popular species of Australian cladding timber include:
- Spotted gum – One of Australia’s favourite hardwood species, spotted gum is known for its rich earthy hues and high oil content. It’s commonly found in decking products, but it is also a stunning option for architectural cladding.
- Ironbark – If deeper colours are more your style, ironbark cladding features a deep reddish hue that fades to a silvery grey in between treatments. It’s popular for this dramatic colour shift as well as its performance in hot, sunny environments.
- Western red cedar – Popular across the world, western red cedar blends rich earth tones with the classic blonde grain of cedar trees. This type of timber is highly stable and known for repelling many bugs, which can help keep your cladding free of infestations.
- Blackbutt – Blackbutt is a popular hardwood cladding timber that’s known for its neutral tones and weathering characteristics. Blackbutt cladding is right at home in every setting, where the timbers gradually fade until they blend into their surroundings.
- Hemlock – The blondest wood on our list, hemlock timber is vibrant and bright, making it ideal for both indoor and outdoor installation. Hemlock offers fantastic affordability and a lightweight finish that is uniquely suited to cladding applications.