If you’re in the process of designing a new home, remodeling an existing home, or repairing a home you own, the more you know about building facades the better. Some facades appear more frequently than others, but each facade has its merits. Today, we will discuss some common building facades for residential homes and where they are commonly used.
What Is a Building Facade?
The facade of a building refers to the appearance of its exterior in general, but the front in particular. For example, you may have noticed many homes have fiber cement siding on the back and sides, but brick on the side facing the street. The brick would be considered the facade of the home and is generally an upgrade.
What Are the Different Building Facades?
Building facades can technically be any material, even those that perform poorly against water. We will discuss the term facade as it relates to someone interested in learning their options for their home project. Any building facade must be able to prevent water from entering the structure and control air flow.
Traditional Building Facades
1. Natural Wood Siding as a Building Facade
A wood siding facade is generally what we would describe as board and batten siding. Board and batten siding is made from thin boards of varying widths to create a watertight facade. Wide boards are installed vertically with small gaps between them, and a narrow board called a batten is installed over the gap.
Board and batten siding is popular for country style home facades, barndominiums, and storage structures like barns. Board and batten building facades can technically be formed from any natural wood, but most are built with a naturally rot resistant wood like cedar, redwood, or poplar.
2. Wood Panel Siding as a Building Facade
Another popular wood siding facade is made from wooden panels similar to plywood. Known in the industry as T1-11, this wooden panel contains a lap joint which is used for connection to an adjacent panel.
Compared to a board and batten building facade, T1-11 eliminates the need for the battens while speeding up the installation. T1-11 is installed 32 square feet at a time, making it very quick to install. The material also has grooves milled into it from the factory to resemble boards and battens.
3. Natural Wood Lap Siding as a Building Facade
Natural wood building facades differ from both board and batten and T1-11, but borrow properties from both. Natural wood lap siding used as a building facade will also use thin boards, but these will be installed horizontally and slightly overlap each other. In this design, each board is a bit thinner at the top than it is at the bottom.
Known as a chamfer, this gradual thinning of the natural wood allows each board above it to overlap it by a half inch or so. Without the chamfer, the boards would have large gaps on the ends, allowing moisture and insects to get behind the siding. Most siding is available in this shape, which is often referred to as shiplap.
4. Natural Stone as a Building Facade
Next to wood, natural stone is likely the most popular building facade ever created. Natural stone is infinitely durable, visually unique, and adds great visual appeal. Natural stone as a building facade is commonly combined with other materials like fiber cement siding, natural wood siding, and brick to create a one of a kind building facade.
5. Brick as a Building Facade
We are all familiar with a brick building facade. However, you may not know that bricks are available in literally dozens of sizes. Bricks make a great building facade because they are durable, require almost no maintenance, and look great. Bricks are available in a large number of colors, textures, and blend well with other materials.
However, always purchase your bricks from the same dye lot, meaning make sure the numbers on the brick pallets match. Even though the mixtures are tightly controlled, there will be slight differences in color from batch to batch. Make sure you have more than you need, because if you run out the new bricks may not match exactly in color.
6. Hardboard Siding as a Building Facade
Hardboard siding rose in popularity during the latter half of the twentieth century, due to its consistency, stability, and low cost. Generally, hardboard siding is made from paper products laminated to form a siding panel. Hardboard siding is impact resistant and very stable, but the material must be sealed properly or it will absorb moisture.
7. Stucco as a Building Facade
Stucco is a mixture of cement, water, sand, and lime that forms a very thin cement product, applied over lathe to form a building facade. Stucco is usually applied to metal lathe as scratch coat, brown coat, and top coat. Each coat builds upon the thickness of the other, with the last coat often including a color pigment.
The scratch coat is more coarse and is primarily there to establish adhesion to the metal lathe. The brown coat has more sand and less cement than the scratch coat, and is usually applied over a pre-moistened scratch coat. The finish coat is finer still and will contain the pigment, if the project uses it.
Stucco is a great building facade because it is adaptable, easily repaired, and comes in many colors. The metal lathe is attached to a layer of substrate like styrofoam, providing additional insulation value. Combined, these materials make for a building facade that is visually appealing, adaptable, and available in many colors.
Stucco can be applied over almost any masonry product, like concrete, concrete blocks, stone, bricks, and other stucco. Stucco can be used on the entire exterior, small sections, or just the foundation. Since the pigment can be mixed into the stucco material, often the need for maintenance and repainting are reduced.
8. Corrugated Steel Panels as a Building Facade
Corrugated steel panels are commonly used as a building facade, although primarily on barndominiums, country style homes, and industrial buildings. Corrugated steel panels are extremely durable, easy to install and inexpensive, but tend to only be used where durability and color are the most important design elements.
9. Aluminum Siding and Cladding as a Building Facade
Aluminum siding has been around since the latter half of the twentieth century and does a great job as a building facade. Aluminum siding is impervious to moisture and also installs easily with galvanized fasteners. However, aluminum siding will dent very easily, so most modern homes use vinyl siding instead, as it is much more impact resistant.
Aluminum siding is commonly used as a building facade because of the variety of available options. Aluminum siding is lightweight and available as a lap siding, vertical siding, shakes, and other shapes. Aluminum siding looks great surrounded by stone, brick, and stucco because it does not compete visually with the masonry.
In fact, aluminum is such a versatile material for a building facade it is commonly formed on site for a specific purpose. The process is so common it would be difficult to find an aluminum or vinyl sided home without it. Known as cladding, the aluminum appears in all areas of a building facade, like around windows, doors, patios, stoops, and porches.
10. Vinyl Lap Siding as a Building Facade
Vinyl lap siding has likely been the most used building facade material in the last fifty years. Vinyl lap siding is inexpensive, durable, easy to install, and looks great even after years of use. Vinyl siding can be molded into almost any shape and texture, making it one of the most versatile building facades available today, along with aluminum.
Modern Building Facades
11. Fiber Cement Siding as a Building Facade
Fiber cement siding is a very common building facade, especially for homes built in the last twenty years. Fiber cement siding is generally a horizontal lap siding made from a mixture of fiberglass strands and cement. Fiber cement siding makes a great building facade because it is durable, textured, and infinitely paintable.
Fiber cement lap siding makes a great building facade because it is consistent, durable (when sealed), and can complement almost any other building facade material. Fiber cement lap siding must be installed and sealed correctly, or it will absorb moisture. Paint and caulk must be used to maintain the surface or the warranty will not apply.
12. Artificial Stone as a Building Facade
A newer approach to a stone look without the weight and expense describes a material known as artificial stone, or faux stone. Faux stone is available from a wide variety of manufacturers, but most are available to replicate river stones, slate, stacked stone, and others. The designs work similar to a jigsaw puzzle, allowing for infinite possibilities.
Most faux stone siding is installed with several stones to a sheet and interlocking panels. Faux stone facades can be installed as is, or mortar can be added to some versions for visual effect. Faux stone is often attached to a rigid backing like fiberglass mats and installed in sections with corrosion-resistant fasteners.
13. Composite (Engineered) Lap Siding as a Building Facade
Composite lap siding is a newer, more technologically advanced take on traditional hardboard siding. Composite lap siding, also known as engineered lap siding, addresses common problems with traditional wooden lap siding, like twisting, bowing, and splitting.
Because these materials are molded and have no natural grain, they are ideal where long, straight lines are required. Most of these materials (although not all) are moisture and rot resistant, and accept paint very well.
Coal Ash, Polyurethane, and Fiberglass
One of the newer advances in building facade technology is the use of discarded materials like coal ash to form lap siding panels. One advantage these panels have is that they are very stable in long lengths. Versions like this one are made from about 70% recycled industrial waste.
Wood Chips, Dust, and Resin
Some composite siding materials use a blend of wood debris from manufacturing processes and resins to form lap siding panels. The panels are sold under several brand names, but these composite siding panels are stable and resist deterioration. One big advantage is that they are available in very long panels, reducing joints.
Oriented Strand Board(OSB), Resin, and Wax
Oriented strand board siding utilizes the low cost and stability of OSB and encases it with multiple layers of protection like wax and resin. OSB siding can be molded into any number of shapes, like lap siding, shakes, and vertical siding. Due to the OSB composition however, the material is vulnerable to moisture.