Your choice of exterior cladding can significantly influence the style of your garden office, for instance a garden office with tongue & groove cedar cladding will look quite crisp and contemporary whilst a oak clad building will have a soft traditional feel. Let’s look at some of the options for garden office cladding:
Western Red Cedar
By far the most popular type of cladding for garden offices, it not only looks great but has a natural resistance to decay and fungal attack which makes it the perfect low maintenance cladding. Cedar has a life expectancy in excess of 30 years and each plank has subtle shade differences. Cedar starts out a reddish brown colour but within a few years will weather to a silver grey colour which is equally attractive. Cedar has quite a flat finish and some suppliers oil the cedar which gives it a soft sheen, if you want to maintain the reddish brown colour you can apply a preservative but the colour is never as good as the real thing! Western Red Cedar is often imported from Canada and North America but it can also be sourced from UK forests, British cedar has more of an amber colour. Cedar is a very stable wood so has minimal shrinkage or twisting. Because of the natural oil in Western Red Cedar it is important that stainless steel fixings are used as it can have a corrosive effect on other fixings.
An oak clad garden office has a lot of character; there are two types of oak used for cladding – green oak and dry oak. Green oak is newly sawn and can range in colour from a pinkish colour to a rich honey colour, as the wood dries out the colour deepens to golden honey and then weathers to silver. Green oak needs careful detailing to allow for shrinkage. Dry oak is more expensive than green oak and is dried naturally or in a kiln and should have a moisture level between 15 and 25%. Dry oak varies in colour from golden honey to dark brown but like green oak will weather to a silver colour overtime. Oak is a very durable cladding and full of character so you should expect knots and splits in the boards. Oak has a high tannin content which will exude from the boards resulting in streaks on the face of the boards; tannin also corrodes ferrous metals so oak cladding should be fixed with stainless steel fixings.
Larch is durable softwood thanks to its high resin content and is much stronger than other softwoods such as pine. We produce larch here in the UK but most garden office suppliers use Siberian Larch for their cladding as its easier to machine and the knots stay solid in the wood, with British Larch the knots can fall out as the wood dries. Larch has a strong grain pattern and starts off a golden yellow colour which weathers to a silver grey.
European Redwood is regularly used as garden office cladding as it is cost effective, on its own its not durable so needs to be treated against rot and fungal attack. With pressure treating the wood is flooded with preservative at a high pressure and gives the wood a 20+ year lifespan. In addition to pressure treating it’s a good idea to give the wood a decorative finish with stain or paint – this will offer additional protection and look good but will require ongoing maintenance.
Some supplier use Thermowood cladding, this is softwood that is treated to temperatures in excess of 200oc, during heating chemical and structural changes occur and the wood becomes more durable. Many suppliers leave the Thermowood bare and let it weather to silver but it can be painted if you want a splash of colour.
Exterior grade plywood can be used to clad garden offices giving them a smooth appearance. It is important that exterior grade plywood is used (known as WBP which stands for weather and boil proof) as the glues used in exterior grade plywood are weather resistant. Plywood really needs to be painted or varnished to protect it; this will obviously require ongoing maintenance.
A few garden office suppliers have chosen to clad their garden offices with steel and aluminium. The metal usually has a powder coated finish which is extremely durable and is low maintenance. Metal claddings are normally smooth sheets although some suppliers are able to replicate profile cladding such as shiplap and metal cladding is available in a wide choice of colours. Metal cladding requires little maintenance, perhaps just a soft brush to remove the cobwebs.
Most commonly found on garden office roofs cedar shingles can also be used as wall claddings, they create a building with a rustic feel, and are a useful cladding on curved walls as each tile is hung individually. Cedar shingles are normally darker than the cedar used for cladding but like cedar cladding will weather to a silver colour over time. Because of the natural oils in cedar shingles stainless steel fixings should be used as other types of fixing will corrode.
Although timber cladding is the most common type of garden office cladding some suppliers are becoming more adventurous with their choices and specifying fretwork screens and even living walls.
In the next part of this guide we will look at the different cladding profiles and how the type of cladding you choose can influence the look of your garden office.