Cladding is one of those features of interior
spaces where aesthetics meet functionality. Wooden panels for that touch of
tradition and warmth, ceramic tiles for a clean, colourful
look, polished granite slabs for rich, hassle-free maintenance, veneer on ply
or paintings on ply for sophistication and versatility.
Every cladding material has its unique purpose. Thrusting pre-conceived
likes and dislikes about them simply won't work. Any (mis)adventure
may not only spoil the purpose but also the look. So, some knowledge of varied
cladding materials and their distinct qualities is important.
Wooden panels were used on walls
until recently, but now the cost factor, difficulty in maintenance and sparse
availability of quality material are reasons virtually pushing them out of the
Wooden panels are normally used in ¼ inch, ½ inch, ¾
inch-thickness. The overall size of the covered area is also taken into
consideration. They are are excellent sound-and-heat
Normally, teak wood is preferred for panelling (of
course, there were days when the rich preferred rosewood too) because of its
workability, finish, quality, timelessness and high resistance to termites.
As design evolved with a practical edge, ply with different finishes became
a major player, slowly replacing the classical and formal approach.
With time, more technically suitable acoustic panels replaced the wood panel
cladding concept. Also, with air-conditioners and sophisticated heating systems
being used extensively, the purpose of wood in maintaining temperatures too
Further, with the concept of minimalism and its thrust on practicality
catching on across the globe, the use of extensive wooden panelling
has been considerably reduced, unless the theme of the interior warrants it. So
today, the use of wood panel is just a matter of personal preference.
Ply panel is a cheaper option to wooden panelling.
It comes mostly in ¼ inch, ½ inch and ¾ inch-thickness and
different sizes. Ply considerably saves wall panelling
construction time and also adapts to the site conditions well. Apart from its
weakness against termite, the surface of ply cannot be exposed if one wants
easy maintenance and aesthetics. So, finishing the ply surface with laminate,
veneer, varnish or paint is a must.
For economical and colourful ambience, laminate
finish is ideal. But if one wants more sophisticated finishes, the natural or
dyed veneer finishes are perfect.
Natural and dyed veneer are available in almost all kinds of wood finishes
such as mahagony, red cedar, maple, white cedar, biege, walnut and oak. It gives the user plenty of options.
After veneer is fixed on the panel, the surface needs varnish,
melamine or polyurethane coats.
The other option for ply finish is enamel, duco or
vapocured painted surfaces. Though vapocure finish may be expensive, compared to enamel and duco, it is best for easy maintenance and for keeping the
surface new for a long time.
Wood and ply would make you put on your thinking caps this fortnight, lets
explore the other cladding options in the next column
Polished granite cladding
on the interior wall has its own merits and demerits: The advantage of
polished granite slabs is clearly its availability in huge sizes, polished
surface and almost negligible joints, which naturally offer the option of
covering huge wall surfaces. Besides, polished granite is one of the best
cladding materials that allows easy cleaning and thus better hygiene.
It comes in tile form with 2'x1' with ¼" thickness and also in
large slabs of approximately 8'x4' with ¾" thickness. They come in
different colours and patterns. Certain colours and patterns are expensive while others are
Granite slabs and slates can be creatively used on the walls of kitchens,
toilets, wash areas, utility, courtyards etc. Nevertheless, they are most
ideally suited for the walls at places like hospitals, railway stations,
airports and so on. They are also useful for large service areas in hotels and
Polished granite slabs do have some limitations when it comes to colours and patterns. It does absorb oil and in light
shades, the stain shows, while the dark ones are slightly better. So, one is
forced to choose dark colours in most situations and
thus make the space look smaller than what it is.
The economical options like sandstone, kotah stone
and slates can be very effective and appropriate in certain places. Options
like wire-cut bricks and dressed stones are also very interesting materials for
However, when it comes to overall performance, polished granite is one of
the most effective cladding materials. In the hands of a creative designer, the
solutions with these wonder stones can be stretched much more than expected.
Ceramic tile has come a long way and has its certain striking advantages
over other cladding materials because of the variety in sizes, colours, textures, patterns and shapes. Now we can proudly
say Indian ceramic tiles have come of age and are almost on a par with
In addition to enormous collections of Indian tiles, many imported varieties
are also available. Ceramic tiles are a designer's delight because they are
available in glossy, matt, satin finishes.
Creatively, ceramic tiles can be used anywhere. Yet, they are mainly used
for kitchens, toilets, corridors, service and utility walls. The ceramic
surface is excellent for rough use and rough maintenance like acid cleaning
etc. Ceramic tiles can be used on the walls of sump and overhead tank for easy
One has to be careful in selecting the ceramic tile in terms of quality to
make the best use of it. Sometimes the most fancy ones
can be deceptive!
Though vitrified tiles are relatively less familiar for cladding
in India, its usage is fast catching on.
It has the advantages of size and polished surface like granite slabs and an
impressive range of colours and patterns. Further,
like ceramic tiles, vitrified ones are much easier to handle and to install.
With plenty of options and more to come from domestic and foreign markets,
vitrified tiles are here to stay.
Beautiful materials like rectified tiles and glass mosaics can also be
creatively used to evolve outstanding finishes.