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Corten - Rainscreen Cladding Material

Corten is a material that is continuing to grow in popularity. In this article, we want to share the science, history and application of corten as a rainscreen cladding material with you.


The science:

Corten is a unique choice as a rainscreen cladding material for many reasons. Made of weathered steel panels, the material forms an outer layer of rust over time (after exposure to the elements) acting as protection for the steel layers underneath them. This gives the building and the cladding a much longer lifespan as well as an attractive copper colour.

In essence, the Corten material is self-protecting because the rust layer on the surface becomes a tight oxide layer that slows down the progress of corrosion and anticorrosive properties of weather resistant steel are better than those of other structural steels.

The corrosion process usually takes about 1-6 months and weathers to a natural brown colour which darkens gradually.


Applications in rainscreen cladding:  

The Corten material is economical, long-lasting and fully recyclable, which is hugely important to architects, contractors and customers.

Sotech are experienced manufacturers of Corten rainscreen cladding panels and as such, the materials works effortlessly with two of our key systems: Optima FC and Optima TFC.

Optima FC:

Optima FC is a secret fix rainscreen cladding option with a versatile carrier and panel secret fixed system. Whilst it is therefore suitable for exterior use as rainscreen cladding or interior use as a wall covering due to the weathering effects required for optimal performance.
There is a captivating example of the FC Optima system and the Corten material in use at the Marine Wharf, Sussex Quays project.

Corten - Rainscreen Cladding Material

This high end residential development is just minutes away from the Thames, Marine Wharf offers buyers and investors a range of apartments in beautiful landscaped grounds and 1,800sqm of open space.

Marine Wharf - Rainscreen Cladding in Corten Marine Wharf - Rainscreen Cladding in Corten

Installed by BR Hodgson, we supplied over 2200sqm of our Optima FC Secret Fix rainscreen cladding system in Corten A for this project, which was expertly designed to maximise the natural light hitting the building.

Optima TFC:

The Optima TFC rainscreen has been developed as an economical alternative to a complete secret fix rainscreen cladding. The cost effective rainscreen solution requires discreet colour match wafer head fixings in the vertical panel recesses.Superior manufacturing techniques ensure accuracy of panel’s size and form leaving even recesses and cruciform of pristine appearance.

You can see a beautiful example of Optima TFC with Corten in play on Charles Street at Sheffield University.


Sheffield University CortenThe unique feature pods on the new Charles Street building at Sheffield Hallam University used over 600sqm of our Optima TFC Through Fix Cassette rainscreen cladding, also in Corten A.

Corten material used on Charles Street - Rainscreen Cladding project

Specified by Bond Bryan Architects and installed by Hobury Building Supplies, the pods are part of a new building that aims to improve the Sheffield student experience and enhance the university’s reputation that embodies a modern design and also aims to improve the surrounding area.
Sheffield University Corten



The Corten material was originally developed in the 1930’s by the United States Steel Corporation, primarily for railway coal wagons. It originally experienced a high amount of demand because of its toughness and ability to withstand weather conditions, and these are properties that are helping to maintain its popularity today. In a time where extreme weather is becoming the norm and longevity is key, Corten is still a strong choice for architects across the country.


Popular culture:

The reach of Corten is extending beyond just that of cladding and architecture; across the North East in particular, we’ve also seen a number of pieces of modern art made of Corten pop up across the region, and become recognisable landmarks.

For example, a famous Corten sculpture that has touched hearts across the North East is the World War One inspired ‘Tommy’, located on Seaham harbour.

Tommy Seaham - Corten Material

Image source

Designed by local artist Ray Lonsdale to represent a solider contemplating the horror of war just moments after peace was declared, and the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that many veterans suffered after that day, the installation was meant to be present for only three months to mark the war’s centenary, but has become a permanent fixture after thousands of locals campaigned for it to stay.

Standing at 9 feet and 5 inches tall, the stunning sculpture is made entirely from Corten weathered steel; this is an ideal choice of material not only due to the rustic, distressed look created by the corrosion process, which seems to evoke the feel of war so well, but the weather resistance of Corten ensures the sculpture’s longevity in a location so close to the tumultuous North East coastline.


Considering Corten for your project?

Corten is a unique material that has a wide range of advantages, especially when specified as a material for rainscreen cladding, and its popularity among artists and architects is surely set to continue growing in 2016 and beyond.

If you would like to discuss the application of Corten in one of your projects, give us a call on 0191 587 9213.

Sotech has invested heavily in sophisticated design and manufacturing technology and we can show you how this material can be used to create a unique and long lasting effect on your building.

Or, feel free to come and visit us on site to see the Corten material and how it works with Optima FC and Optima TFC first hand.


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