Emma Walshaw is the founder of First In Architecture and The Detail Library, and has written a number of books aiming to facilitate a better understanding of construction and detailing. Contributions by Aida Rodriguez-Vega, architect and researcher at the Detail Library.




It is becoming increasingly popular to use rainscreen cladding materials such as timber, clay tiles and zinc in conjunction with brickwork, render or other masonry finishes. Using two materials can help break up a building’s volume, create a more attractive façade, and differentiate or draw attention to areas of a building such as windows.

Placing different materials in relation to each other can considerably influence a building’s character. As a result, many designers choose to keep transitions between materials flush, creating a seamless appearance and not letting one material dominate over the other.

or example, having timber recessed within brickwork helps frame certain areas, whereas having materials protruding above the brickwork at a high level, such as a top floor, can draw attention to this area.

When using rainscreen cladding at low levels, it is usually recommended that it not touch the ground and be raised at least 5.9in (150mm) above ground level. The exact dimension can vary between materials and building location and can be confirmed by the cladding manufacturer and/or supplier.

This distance above the ground is especially necessary with timber cladding or rainscreen framing, which can be overly exposed to rainwater and splashback when hung too low. If detailed correctly, the break between the ground and rainscreen cladding can transform a building’s volume, making the volume appear lighter, almost as if it were floating off the ground.

Material transitions can be detailed in various ways shaped by the materials, u-value requirements, chosen structure, height of installation, fire requirements and use and location of the building (to name just a few).

Whether you want your materials flush to each other, protruding from the brickwork or masonry, or recessed into the masonry, below are a series of recommendations to help assist in detailing these sometimes complicated material transitions.