Clad to please – with Freefoam Building Products

Colin St John, UK general manager of Freefoam Building Products says new innovative PVC-U cladding can help achieve the highest standards of energy efficiency while meeting home buyers’ desire for traditional looking homes.

Designing and building a home that saves energy, that is affordable to build and buy and that people actually want to live in, is harder than it looks.

Many say it’s getting harder. The mortgage market more or less shut down after the financial crisis in 2008. More mortgages are now becoming available and the terms on which they are offered have been relaxed. Government initiatives like Help to Buy are making it easier to obtain funding for house buyers, and early results are encouraging. So much so that housebuilders like Barratt are planning to build more homes.

But money is still tight. We are a long way from the numbers we were building before the crash, and the market in the rest of the country lags behind London and the South East.

Buyers do not have the confidence to invest more than they must and housebuilders and property developers have to be careful not to load up their properties with higher specs than necessary because they will struggle to get their money back.

To date, housebuilders and developers have absorbed the cost of higher specs associated with building regulations. But the Government’s Zero Carbon 2016 deadline is approaching fast.

Further improvements in energy efficiency seem to involve a difficult trade-off between energy efficiency, looks and cost. The big question on housebuilders’ minds is: will the greater build costs implicit in the progression to Zero Carbon risk pricing homes out of reach of most hopeful home buyers?

It surprises many continental Europeans, especially those from Northern Europe, that British home buyers are so traditional in their tastes. Cool looks, clean lines and modern designs may be a winner on the Continent, but the British public likes traditional styles and a homelier look. So it’s a concern that homes designed and built to the highest energy efficient standards seem to trade traditional looks and mass buyer attraction for improvements in energy efficiency.

Housebuilders are unlikely to discover a single silver bullet at this stage. Rather the solution is likely to be a variety of smaller innovations and improvements to traditional products and materials in new combinations.

Take cladding, for example. Homeowners like the look of traditional timber-clad homes, but they are less keen on maintaining them. In fact, it comes as shock to many house buyers that timber cladding needs maintaining, and it’s something they forget once they move in. As a nation we’ve grown up with the expectation that products are built to last without much in the way of maintenance, and homeowners resent having to give up their hard earned holidays or pay for someone else to do it for them. It’s a challenge Freefoam has taken to heart.

Cladding has come a long way in the last ten years, especially with newer UV resistant PVC cladding with high fidelity, embossed textured wood graining and innovative ‘secret’ fixing. Freefoam’s environmentally friendly lead-free Fortex cladding has been designed to be easy and fast to fit. It’s four times lighter than cement fibre board and requires no specialist storage. It’s a consistent, stable low-maintenance long-life façade which qualifies for 20 year guarantees on white and, using Colourmax™ technology, 10 year guarantees on each of seven colours. Thermal conductivity is excellent, between 0.06 and 0.1 W/mk depending on profile thickness.

Keith Wells, Managing Director of South Hants Property Service Ltd in Portsmouth used Fortex Weatherboard in Colonial Blue and White to create a stunning new façade on an existing pub and divided the building into five individual properties. He comments:

“The Fortex product was the ideal solution for this refurbishment. It was light to handle and straightforward to install using the range of fitting accessories.”

Experienced developer and self-builder Vic Drake in Sevenoaks, Kent used the Fortex Weatherboard range on an individual five bedroom property. He explained:

“Although we like the finish of wood and most is now sustainably sourced we found it was heavy to transport, needs ongoing maintenance and can lose its insulation properties over time. Cement composite cladding was another option, and although it is very durable and holds its colour well it is very heavy. It isn’t eco-friendly to manufacture, cannot easily be recycled and is not as easy to fit as Fortex, which comes in 5m lengths. Our planning department were very happy with the embossed wood effect finish. It is aesthetically pleasing and in keeping with other local traditional properties.”

Visit or call Freefoam on 01604 591110 now for more information.