Facade cladding: a way to improve the appearance and insulation of a house

Torben Schröder

If the exterior plaster already has a slightly greenish shimmer and the energy consumption is too high, it’s worth considering facade cladding. When it comes to materials, you have far more options than the wood that is often used – other possibilities include plastic and metal. Here we explain the advantages of facade cladding, the costs you will incur and what to consider in terms of visual appearance.

View of a large house standing in front of a forest. The light wood and dark metal on the facade form a strong contrast.
© Getty Images / iStockphoto

In this article

The advantages of facade cladding

Facade cladding is a construction that involves mounting facade panels on the actual masonry of a house. This can be done subsequently during renovation work or of course when first building a new house. On the one hand, the purpose is to enhance the visual appearance of the house. On the other hand, the additional integration of insulation elements will make the building more energy efficient. Here is a list of all the advantages at a glance:

  • Facade panels are very eye catching – and can help with the sale or rental of the property.
  • You can give your house a very individual touch thanks to the wide range of design options available in terms of materials and colors.
  • Damage to the facade is easier to repair than damage to the basic structure of the house.
  • You will achieve better thermal insulation if you place extra insulation material on the facade. This reduces operating costs and protects the environment.

All this can be offset by disadvantages such as the costs of material and assembly. We explain below how much you might have to pay.

Facade cladding: types, costs and subsidies

The financial burden of a new facade depends mainly on one factor: whether you decide for or against insulation. The simplest option, a non-insulated facade, is to fix vertical beams made of wood or aluminum to the masonry. The workmen mount wooden, plastic or metal facade panels directly onto these beams. The cost per square meter is around 150 francs.

The most elaborate alternative is known as a mounted rear-ventilated facade with insulation. The basis for this is formed by a substructure made of wood, steel or a combination of both, which is attached to the masonry. Several layers of insulating mats are usually placed on top. A clever cavity integrated behind them to a depth of three to five centimeters ensures the best possible rear ventilation. The facade panels in turn seal off the construction from the outside. The costs can be between 250 and 450 francs per square meter.

View of facade work on a building that is completely surrounded by scaffolding.

With or without insulation? This is an important decision when it comes to the facade. Insulation is expensive to purchase and install, but it can reduce your energy costs in the long term.

In Switzerland you can take advantage of subsidies if you decide to install an insulated facade, in other words if you choose to have a positive impact on the environment. Information can be obtained from “Das Gebäudeprogramm”, a federal and cantonal funding program dedicated to reducing energy consumption and CO2 emissions. The type of building measures that are supported and the level of funding varies from canton to canton. The cantons’ harmonized promotion model serves as the basis for planning and calculating.

Finding the right facade cladding

The outer surface of a house facade is formed by the cladding. It serves as protection against rain, heat and cold. In addition, the material you use and the color you choose will define the visual appearance of the building. We present four common alternatives below.

Wood: timeless and popular

The original wooden version of facade cladding is widely used, especially in Switzerland. There is a vast selection of varieties available. In order to protect the environment, many homeowners opt for local woods such as spruce, larch or oak. The wood can be applied in the form of slats or shingles. Shingles are sawed pieces of wood that resemble roof tiles. A wooden facade usually requires special care and must be covered with protective agents and fresh paint so that it doesn’t rot in the medium or long term. There are also different types of wooden facades, as listed below:

  • Untreated wooden facade: the non-prepared wood will develop a fine layer of patina over time. This changes the color and hence the entire appearance of the house.
  • Glazed wooden facade: although the color of the wood may change slightly when the glaze is applied, the original structure and grain always shine through and won’t be hidden. The glaze has a protective effect against the weather and against age discoloration. The weathering glaze creates the opposite effect from a visual point of view. It makes the wood appear gray and naturally weathered right from the start – while also protecting the wood.
  • Pressure-impregnated wooden facade: the wood is treated with special salts that protect it even more against the weather. To do this, air is first extracted from the cell cavities by creating a vacuum. This makes room for the protective agent solution, which penetrates deep into the wood at high pressure and impregnates it. The facade can take on natural greenish and brownish tones.
  • Covering wooden facade: a covering layer of paint provides maximum protection for the facade and preserves its appearance.
Close-up of a man standing on a ladder painting a wooden facade brown.

The most popular material for facades is wood. A covering layer of paint provides optimal protection against weathering.

Stone: attractive and sophisticated

Before you decide on this option, you must be sure that your house is suitable from a structural point of view. This is because stone is heavy. The type of stone traditionally used is brick, but you can also choose natural stone like slate. The installation is time consuming and costly for the roofer, as they may have to work on slates by hand on site. A cheaper alternative is to use imitation stones, which look very similar to the originals.

Metal: expensive and rare

Metal cladding is more often used on public buildings than on private houses. The reason for this is the relatively high price. Common types of metal are steel, stainless steel and aluminum. The advantages of choosing metal are, in the case of aluminum, the low weight and, with sufficient rust protection, the high resistance to weathering and the modern, cool look. Assembly is usually quite simple, since the metal plates are often fitted with plug-in systems. A metal facade is also suitable for partial cladding, for example of a bay window or a side wall.

Plastic: inexpensive and versatile

The widest choice exists when it comes to plastic cladding. The most important advantage is that plastic can imitate all the materials described so far yet is much cheaper. It also defies all weather conditions with little maintenance.

You have the choice between smooth surfaces made of vinyl and structured imitation rock made of special polymers. Since the plastic is produced industrially, you also have a full range of options when it comes to colors.

Conclusion: an attractive facade is worthwhile

Whether in a stylish aluminum design, a traditional wooden look or modern plastic – facade cladding will make your house stand out as something special. You can also reduce your energy costs by opting for an insulated facade. That makes it worthwhile in two respects.

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