More Ways to Skin a Building: 5 Uncommon Products for Façades

In recent years, architects have warmed up to new aesthetic and materials innovations on tried and true cladding materials.

Sheila Kim Sheila Kim

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Traditional bricks, stone blocks, precast concrete, timber planks and metal panels are all tried and true building products that architects turn to for their façade needs. But in recent years, we’ve been spotting new aesthetic takes on some of these classic cladding materials as well as material innovations that architects are still warming up to or learning about. If you’re looking for something a little less cookie-cutter or entirely new to skin a project, keep these hard-wearing products in mind.


3M: DI-NOC Exterior Series
A high-tech film that mimics metal, wood or just about any other type of material, 3M DI-NOC used to be limited to interior applications such as on walls, doors, curved architectural elements and even furniture. But now the innovative product is offered for exteriors, too, giving architects, designers and contractors an easy way to make over façades with less downtime.


Particularly ideal for branded environments (think awnings, storefronts, walls and signs that may need to be changed every few years), this versatile vinyl film wraps a variety of exterior surfaces using a strong, acrylic pressure-sensitive adhesive for a no-mess installation. It comes in 24 standard stock patterns and with a four- to seven-year warranty depending on climate. Designtex is the exclusive distributor for DI-NOC in the U.S.


Cosentino: Façades by Dekton
The world is finally catching on that this ultra-compact surface material isn’t just for kitchen countertops or interior surfaces, but also suitable for façades. It boasts dimensional stability, zero porosity and resistance to abrasion, stains, UV rays and freezing while sporting beautiful colors, designs and textures ranging from weathered metal to concrete to stone and solid colors.



Dryvit: NewBrick
Dryvit may be known for EIFS (exterior insulation and finish systems) such as its Outsulation, but last month, it forayed into the masonry market, sort of. Dryvit’s introductory product in this category isn’t your ordinary clay brick. Instead, it’s an insulated unit that is coated to mimic brick and, at 1/12 the weight of conventional face brick (and ¼ that of thin brick), it’s loads (no pun intended) easier to handle and install. This allows contractors to skip a step in prep work and apply the brick directly to tilt-wall, precast and concrete masonry units. Also facilitating speedy installation is the units’ built-in horizontal alignment guides.

Fireclay Tile on 388 Fulton by David Baker Architect

Fireclay Tile: Glazed Thin Brick
Thin brick is nothing new, of course, but Fireclay steps it up with a wide variety of on-trend colors and a sleek glazed finish. The units come in a standard format of 8-1/8 by 2-7/16 inches or a corner-wrapping brick, both of which have a thickness of 5/8 inch. Custom is also available.

Fireclay Tile on 388 Fulton by David Baker Architects

We love David Baker Architects’ recent use of this glazed thin brick in stark Onyx and Inkwell hues for the skin of 388 Fulton, a new micro-housing residential complex in San Francisco. We can also see this type of application in funky colors on a private residence, too.

NBK Architectural Terracotta

NBK Architectural Terracotta: Terrart Custom
We’ve been talking about NBK’s handsome terra-cotta panels, shingles and baguettes for some time, but some architects are unaware that there’s so much more beyond the brand’s standard offerings. NBK can fully customize the units in a range of shapes, sizes, colors and finishes to help you build a completely unique façade or ventilated façade. The terra-cotta products lend themselves well to both new ground-up constructions and re-cladding projects.

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