Definition of Cladding
Cladding is any material used to cover a structure’s exterior. Picture a protective layer over a surface like a roof or exterior wall. Just as your skin protects internal bones and organs, cladding protects against the elements and shields against environmental conditions.
Cladding doesn’t have to be waterproof, but it often controls how elements hit or fall on a surface. Think about how a raincoat allows rain to slide off of you rather than soaking your clothing. Cladding can also serve a decorative function, to hide a more structural but perhaps not attractive substrate (which is stronger material that underlies a surface and acts as a stabilizer).
In the diagram, the cladding, made of lightweight panels attached to the surface, deflects rainwater from the side of the structure. Cladding is not usually part of the structural frame, so it does not support a building’s weight. But cladding does keep wind and rain out, and it allows the structure to last longer.
Cladding has been used in architecture for a long time. Over the ages, materials have varied. From ancient times through the 19th century, it was usually a hard substance like cedar wood or stone, or a material resistant to corrosion like copper, brass and bronze. Such metals will react with the elements (copper turns green, for example), but they still protect what’s beneath them.
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