11 alternatives to timber cladding for garden rooms
Timber cladding is a hugely popular option with garden room designers and buyers. It is a key design feature of both contemporary and traditional garden room designs. Wood cladding also adds an extra layer of thermal insulation to the build-up, and usually, the cladding species chosen for a garden room are highly durable with long lifespans.
While garden rooms clad in Western Red Cedar, Siberian Larch, or Thermowood are generally low maintenance due to the timbers' natural properties, they will change colour and look aged if left unprotected. If you do choose to maintain the 'new' look and colour, you are setting yourself up for ongoing maintenance.
Low-maintenance timber cladding alternatives
There are other cladding options that you can choose for the exterior of your garden room that are either maintenance-free or only requires minimal maintenance to stay looking good. We are seeing more and more buyers choose one of these manufactured finishes for the exterior of their garden room building.
In a previous incarnation, this article was called 7 Alternatives to timber cladding for garden rooms. In this update, we have added four more systems that the industry has widely adopted. It just shows how garden room designers are constantly evolving their designs and palate of options.
Composite Wood Cladding
Composite wood cladding is growing in popularity. The finish has improved significantly over the last few years. The colours and finishes are more realistic than when they first came on the market.
Known as WPC = Wood Plastic Composite, composite wood is a mixture of resins and wood fibres that are pigmented during manufacturing. This combination creates a hard, highly durable product that is not susceptible to rot or warping. Composite wood will maintain its colour as it ages, and does not require painting.
Some composite wood cladding options have a woodgrain texture. Others have a brushed surface which is more uniform in appearance.
Most composite wood cladding ranges are manufactured with hidden fixing systems, so the board's surface is not spoiled by nail or screw fixings.
Typically, as the wood composite boards lock together, they create a flat finish with contemporary grooves between each panel. Akin to the look of tongue & groove timber cladding. Recently we have seen garden rooms finished with composite wood with a slatted profile, which adds a lot of character to the walls, as we can see in these Garden2Office and Miniature Manors projects, which both utilise Ecospace's slatted cladding.
While the majority of composite wood-clad garden rooms we feature utilise the WPC cladding as part of their multi-layer structures, there are ranges of modular composite garden rooms. They make use of composite wood cladding both inside and out. While a quick, cost-effective option, they do limit your options to personalise the building.
The higher-spec option is to mix composite wood cladding with an insulated timber frame. This gives you the flexibility to specify the internal finishes etc. too.
Plastisol Coated Steel Cladding
Plastisol-coated steel panels can form the outer leaf of an insulated timber frame build-up. Plastisol is a PVC finish that comes in a range of colours. The surface of the panels has a subtle leather grain texture.
Plastisol steel coating has a lifespan of 25+ years. This is one of the reasons that Booths Garden Studios use it on their buildings. Each Booths Garden Studio is designed to be maintenance-free for 25 years.
Booths Garden Studios are one of the longest-established names in the industry, so their Plastisol-coated steel has been tried and tested for garden rooms for many years.
Brick cladding is an option on a few garden room ranges. Designers can often match the colour of the bricks with those of your house if you want a streamlined look.
Brick slips are typically used. They are thin layers of brick which look no different than their full-size counterparts once the mortar is applied.
Vita Modular offers brick cladding as a standard option on their range of contemporary designs.
Stone cladding offers character and texture unlike any other cladding option. There are several finishes to choose from, from contemporary grey slate to characterful cream stone.
Rather than using thick stones, a thin layer of stone is fitted over the highly insulated core structure and a breathable membrane.
A Room in the Garden and Garden Spaces offer stone cladding on their garden rooms. Looking at the images, you wouldn't know that thick sections of stone hadn't been used.
Corrugated Steel Cladding
Another steel cladding option is corrugated steel, also known as wriggly tin. It has been long used for agricultural buildings and is becoming a popular choice in contemporary garden room design. Often mixed with timber cladding, it could be used on its own to clad the whole building. It is available in a galvanised finish or with a Plastisol colour coating in various colours.
Garden2Office offers corrugated cladding finishes on their Swedish garden room designs.
Tricoya panelling is a highly durable, exterior-grade MDF sheet. It has a lifespan of around 50 years. A few bespoke garden room designs offer it. It is also becoming a popular finish on pre-designed garden room ranges.
Being MDF, it can be machined to create different joint profiles. It needs a paint finish, so it requires some ongoing maintenance.
Swift Garden Rooms have used Tricoya in their bespoke designs. Garden Affairs utilise Tricoya on their Proline range.
Cement Fibre Boards
Cement fibre boards are a popular low-maintenance option in garden room design. As the name suggests, they are a mixture of cellulose fibres and cement with colour pigment added during the manufacturing process.
Cedral and Hardie Plank are popular brands. Their boards come in a broad palette of colours and in both smooth and wood grain surface textures. It is fitted in planks to give that traditional cladding appearance. Garden Spaces and Executive Garden Rooms both offer Cedral cladding. Garden Spaces utilise the smooth texture creating a sleek contemporary look, while Executive Garden Rooms often use the woodgrain option, which adds character.
Cement fibre boards are an integral part of a Building Regulation compliant garden room build-up. For this reason, they are often specified on projects built tight to the garden's boundaries.
Resin Mineral Composite
Another composite cladding popular with garden room designers is resin mineral composite (RMC). This is a mix of polyurethane resin, stone flour and glass fibres. Like other composite materials, RMC cladding is pigmented during the manufacturing process, so it maintains its appearance in the long term without requiring painting.
Millboard is a popular RMC board. Both their cladding and decking options are used for the exterior walls of garden rooms. Millboard has a very realistic grain pattern, thanks to it being formed in real wood moulds.
A Room in the Garden and Little Green Rooms utilise Millboard cladding. On this project, A Room in the Garden mixed the thick decking boards and the Millboard cladding to create a highly durable finish on a project exposed to sea conditions.
Cement Particle Boards
Cement particle boards, known as CPB, are similar to cement fibre boards. Instead of a mix of cement and cellulose fibres, the cement is mixed with real wood chips, increasing the boards' strength.
Garden room designers use sheets of cement particle boards in their designs. Some designers use CPB for detailing soffits and fascias or on the reveals of recessed walls. Others use it in large sheets to clad whole walls.
We often see garden rooms that have cement particle boards mixed with Cedar cladding. This can be both a low-maintenance combination and a way to stretch your budget. In these cases, the Cedar is used on the prominent elevations with the cement particle board on the boundary-facing walls.
Some cement particle boards have an A1 fire rating, so it is commonly used in Building Regulation compliant specifications.
Once the boards are fitted and the joints filled, companies then paint the surface. Specialist flexible resin finishes are used. These finishes come in RAL colours, so garden room designers can colour-match the paint with the door and window frames used.
Garden Spaces offer cement particle boards as an option. They utilise it on whole walls but are particularly clever at using it for detailing around Cedar cladding.
Some bespoke garden room companies offer to render either for the whole building or mixed with timber finishes. Render is often chosen when a sharp contemporary finish is required.
Both traditional sand and cement render and modern pigmented acrylic renders are used in garden room design. The acrylic options come in a wide palette of colours and don't require painting. Companies that utilise traditional sand and cement render will then apply your choice of masonry paint.
Renders take time and skill to apply well, so not many garden room companies offer it as an option. Modern Garden Rooms, Garden Spaces, Swift Garden Rooms, Hargreaves Garden Spaces and Executive Garden Rooms offer rendered finishes.
Standing Seam Steel
You may have seen standing seam cladding used on the roof of contemporary-style buildings. It can also be used as wall cladding. The smooth panels divided by the raised seam detail are very eye-catching.
The steel is colour coated, meaning it will not need painting to maintain its appearance.
Vita Modular offer standing seam cladding. As we can see, it looks smart with colour-matched doors, windows and trims.
As lovely as timber cladding is, you can see there are some great cladding alternatives to consider for your garden room.