Is fibre cement cladding the right solution for my Self Build? Interview with Ged Ferris, Marketing Manager at Cembrit
Without a doubt, cladding has a huge impact on both the aesthetic appeal of a home and its performance. House cladding has several functions such as protecting the layers beneath, insulating the house, and of course appearance.
All the work put into the layout and design of a house should be highlighted with an impressive external look, which is usually the main factor when choosing cladding. Choosing the right cladding is often time consuming as there are many options to choose from such as timber, brick, stone, render, fibre cement or PVC.
Today, we will present our interview with Ged Ferris, Marketing Manager from Cembrit, a company specialising in manufacturing fibre cement cladding.
In this article, Ged explains what fibre cladding is and why this long-lasting and low maintenance solution is really worth considering when choosing cladding for your dream home.
WHAT ARE CEMBRIT AND WHAT PRODUCTS DO YOU OFFER?
Cembrit is a leading European manufacturer of fibre cement building products. Our products and solutions add exciting new design opportunities for moulding attractive, durable settings for people’s lives.
Our product groups include cladding panels and building boards for interior and exterior use, roofing slates and shingles, as well as corrugated sheets. We work strategically on developing new application possibilities for fibre cement and on expanding the total market for building products in fibre cement.
Our product range allows us to offer our customers a choice of product, no matter what the project is – from heritage and listed buildings to large housing association projects and single storey bungalows, hospitals and educational buildings to retail and office buildings.
WHAT DIFFERENT KINDS OF CLADDING DO YOU OFFER AND WHICH ARE CURRENTLY THE MOST POPULAR AMONG SELF-BUILDERS?
We offer a range of cladding, including large format panels (Patina, Patina Rough, Transparent, Solid and Cover) that are suited to commercial projects, building boards (HD, PB, Cempanel and Windstopper) that are used internally, and a weatherboard option (Plank), which is perfectly suited to the Self Build market as it is mainly used on residential buildings.
The reason why fibre cement products such as Plank are gaining ground in the UK is its amazing sturdiness combined with minimum maintenance, which is particularly the case as a substitute for wood. I am confident that fibre cement weatherboard is the ‘timber cladding’ of the future.
WHAT ARE FIBRE CEMENT CLADDING PANELS MADE OF AND WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF THIS MATERIAL (WEIGHT, TECHNICAL PERFORMANCE AND STRENGTH)?
The fibre cement manufacturing process was invented in the 1890s by an Austrian, Ludwig Hatschek. He spent seven years experimenting with combinations and quantities of cellulose, reinforcing fibres and cement solution in water, until he settled on a final ‘recipe’. The resultant ‘slurry’ was fed into a paper making machine (basically a cylindrical sieve or sieves) rotating through the mixture, collecting layers of the solids which were then transferred onto a continuous belt. The layers were then built up to the desired thickness and then removed and if necessary, compressed.
Man-made PVA and cellulose fibres have long since replaced mineral fibre, and other solids are now added to the slurry to provide performance characteristics for specific applications. The Hatschek method remains in use for most products, but at Cembrit’s building board factory where versatile HD board is produced, we use a ‘flow on’ type of machine.
This type of machine is a mechanically simpler design, which uses less water during production. The hydration part of the process is particularly important, as done correctly, ensures the material gets progressively stronger, providing concrete-like strength yet at a much lower weight. The advantage is that a lightweight sheet can be produced which is easier to transport and work on site, leading to quicker installation than heavier, more fragile or liquid-based alternative claddings.
The beauty of fibre cement as a building material is 4-fold: malleable during production, low weight, fire resistant, and rot resistant.
Immediately after it is formed, fibre cement is still pliable. This means it can be moulded into 3-dimensional shapes, can be embossed and because the fibre matrix supports the cement and other solids, can be far thinner than concrete. Random and natural surface effects can be achieved but with the consistency of a production line giving superb levels of control and cost efficiency. By the simple formation of a repeated wave in the wet material, larger panels can be made self-supporting and thereby provide an excellent method of cladding large areas.
The hydration process means the material gets progressively stronger, providing concrete like strength but at a much lower weight. The advantage is that a lightweight sheet can be produced which can mimic stone without the low yields associated with extraction or can reproduce the effect of clay-based building products without the need for high temperatures in production. Light in weight, it is easier to transport and work on site. Fibre cement is consequently faster to install and less energy intensive in production, saving cost.
Although there is cellulose (wood fibre) content, because it is held in a matrix of inorganic cement the material has excellent fire-resistant qualities, of vital importance for structures for human occupation. The best combustibility ratings can be achieved with the subtlest of variations to the raw materials. All Cembrit fibre cement products are non-combustible and classified in accordance with the EN 13501-1 standard.
Cembrit fibre cement products are resistant to sub-zero temperatures, snow, frosts and thaws, torrential rain, heat, humidity and direct sunlight. They can absorb and release moisture for unlimited cycles without affecting the product’s durability and service life. This makes Cembrit products ideal for external surfaces, particularly single skin constructions, such as equestrian buildings.
The combination of raw material and matrix structure of fibre cement also provides excellent durability. Fibre cement is not susceptible to mould or rot damage thereby exceeding the longevity of timber, it contains no metals so will not rust and decay like steel and has low thermal conductivity so will not distort in the presence of heat like PVC. Fibre cement is however porous thereby making it ideal for use in high humidity climates. With such strengths, you would think fibre cement should be used everywhere, and you would be right.
WHAT OPPORTUNITIES DO THE FIBRE CEMENT CLADDING PANELS OFFER TO ARCHITECTS AND DESIGNERS IN TERMS OF DESIGN?
Plank is a wood effect cladding designed to replicate the look of traditional timber weatherboard and is available with either a woodgrain or smooth surface, providing all the aesthetic appeal of real wood.
There are 25 different surface options available with Cembrit Plank, which have been specially chosen for the UK market. A range of white and dark grey shades match traditional building styles, while the addition of reds, pale browns and pastel green offer a more contemporary choice. In addition, the range includes a ready primed option for clients wishing to add their own choice of colour.
The range includes a comprehensive set of colour matched accessories, including the roofline trims needed for a neat finish at corners and window reveals. The boards can be installed both vertically and horizontally, providing the self-builder with varying design options.
HOW DO YOU ADVISE YOUR CLIENTS IN TERMS OF SELECTING THE OPTIMAL CLADDING SOLUTION FOR THEIR HOMES?
We have a new website that clearly lists the features and benefits of Cembrit Plank, as well as installation guides, tech brochures and videos. We also offer customers free samples, so we advise self-builders to visit the website, see what finish and colour they prefer, and then order a sample of it.
We would also advise self-builders to contact the sales team to gain access to our visualisation tool, which will allow them to get a better idea of how a building can change, depending on what colour is put on it. This can also help when it comes to planning permission and liaising with the local authority.
HOW DO THE CEMBRIT CLADDING PRODUCTS PERFORM IN TERMS OF IMPACT AND STAIN RESISTANCE AND WHAT IS THEIR WEATHER RESISTANCE?
Fibre cement Cembrit Plank is low in maintenance, as it is rot, rust, warp, crack, sun, heat and rain resistant, providing a superior alternative to timber and plastic based alternatives. It is the ideal alternative to timber weatherboarding but does not require preservative treatment and is not susceptible to fire.
The typical long service life of fibre cement gives maximum resistance to exterior exposure that is backed by a Cembrit 15 year warranty – the highest warranty in the market.
HOW MUCH MIGHT IT COST TO INSTALL CEMBRIT CLADDING FOR AN AVERAGE SIZED TWO STOREY HOUSE AND HOW DO YOUR PRICES COMPARE TO OTHER COMPANIES OFFERING SIMILAR PRODUCTS ON THE MARKET?
The cost for product and installation for Cembrit Plank is between £25 – £35 per m², depending on the size and complexity of the project and the number of apertures and trims required.