What Materials Are Houses Built From?

Learn what materials are most commonly used in house construction these days

Updated on:

Planning to build a house brings forth critical decisions, one of the foremost being what material are houses made of. Today, the market is flooded with a plethora of building materials, making the choice rather daunting. This article is our attempt to assist those struggling with this very decision.

Read it to learn more about the building materials for house construction. We will tell you what building materials are considered the most frequently used these days, and also, you will learn more about each of them. In addition, with the building construction material list that we are going to share with you, it will be easier for any of you to decide which building material would be better should you decide to build a house or any other construction.

Finally, you will find out why it is so important to choose the best and the most high-quality building material if you are going to build a house. With all that in mind, you will surely manage to choose a material to build a house (or any other building) that will last for decades and be safe.

Various building materials for house construction
Photo by Randy Fath on Unsplash

The Most Common Building Materials For House Construction

If you have ever paid attention to what houses and buildings around you are made of, you probably realize that the construction industry uses a variety of different building materials. Those materials are used for different aspects of a home building process. 

Construction materials near an unfinished house
By vista.com

To better understand how a home-building process goes, you need to know that, before starting to build a house, architects should consult with structural engineers. They do that to consult on the load-bearing capabilities of the materials with which they want to design. And the most common home construction materials that are used today are the following:

  1. concrete
  2. steel
  3. wood
  4. masonry
  5. stone
A worker uses a concrete mixer for concrete
By vista.com

So, what is a house made out of? Broadly, all building materials fall under two major categories - natural or manmade. Natural materials include stone and wood, the raw, organic elements often seen in traditional construction. 

On the other hand, manmade materials like concrete, masonry, and steel are a testament to human innovation. Houses made of these materials reflect our ability to create robust structures that withstand the test of time. 

Building materials stacked near the warehouse
By vista.com

And now let's take a closer look at this list of building materials and learn more about each of them.

Steel

In the realm of house construction, a variety of materials come to mind. Of these, steel remains a primary choice, finding its place in the framework of a house. This metallic alloy, combining iron and carbon along with other elements, contributes significantly to what a house is made of.

There is a type of steel that is called stainless. Stainless steels are highly praised by builders for their ability to resist corrosion and oxidation because of the additional chromium in their make-up. And since this type of steel is very strong compared to its weight and size, it is often used by structural engineers for the structural framework of tall modern buildings and large industrial facilities. 

Moreover, here are a few more steel qualities that one should know about this material before using it for building projects:

  1. Steel has high strength-to-weight and strength-to-size ratios
  2. Steel takes less time to install than other materials (e.g. concrete)
  3. It can be installed in any environment
  4. Steel can be susceptible to corrosion if improperly installed

Nevertheless, steel costs quite a lot in comparison to other metals. This is why structural engineers should consult on choosing the most cost-effective sizes to use in a house to support the actual load on the building.

Concrete 

Concrete is another popular construction material that is widely used today. It can be described as a composite material because concrete is made of fine and coarse aggregate bound together by a liquid binder (such as cement) that hardens or cures over time. 

The most common type of cement used in the US is called Portland cement. It is a fine powder, produced by heating limestone and clay materials in a kiln and adding gypsum. After mixing, the cement hardens or cures into the stone-like material that we actually think of as concrete.

Concrete has the following features as a building matreial:

  1. Its strength varies depending on the mix.
  2. Concrete can be poured into a form to take any shape and harden into a material that will resemble stone
  3. Cement takes at least seven days to cure. So engineers and architects must take that hardening time into consideration when they make building schedules for concrete construction.

In general, cement is also used widely and frequently because of its versatility, affordable cost, and strength. This material is able to carry a heavy load and withstand the forces from the surrounding environment! These features make it the ideal material for a house foundation, by the way. This is the reason why a concrete home foundation is so common.

Wood

Wood has been used for thousands of years for building homes, and it can surely be called one of the oldest (or even the oldest!) construction materials! This natural material has properties that make it ideal for building even in the days of engineered and synthetic materials. 

In order to be used in home construction, wood pieces are planed by the machines and cut into standard dimensions, for example, 2”x4” (1.5”x3.5” actual) and 2”x6,” (1.5”x5.5” actual). Like this, their measurements can be accurately factored into building plans. 

Wood in larger sizes is usually used to construct the frames of large structures like bridges and multi-story buildings. In addition, wood has another nuance: some tree species are more suitable than others in terms of particular uses, as well as for uses in some climates. This is why structural engineers and architects need to determine which type of wood would be ideal for each construction project they are working on.

Except for that, wood has plenty of beneficial features:

  1. It is readily available and an economical natural resource
  2. Wood is relatively lightweight and easy to standardize in size
  3. It provides good insulation
  4. Wood has high tensile strength (meaning it keeps its strength while bending)
  5. It is very strong when being compressed vertically

However, since wood is rather lightweight and needs to be pressure treated to come into contact with the surrounding soil, this material is a less popular choice for foundations or basement walls. This is the reason why wood-framed homes usually have a reinforced concrete or pier and beam foundations.

Stone

This is one of the most long-known materials used for building. People used to build their homes from stone thousands of years ago! This is also the longest lasting building material available. 

Stone has many advantages as a building material. However, you should still make some considerations when planning a building using stone:

  1. Because of its density, stone can be difficult to work with with. It is pretty heavy and difficult to move
  2. Stone can’t keep warmth effectively, which is why it is not an efficient insulator
  3. Various stone types have different features. For instance, slate is fire-resistant. Granite is one of the hardest stones and one of the most durable products.

Brick

All the constructions made of bricks use individual units (bricks) to be built. Those units are usually bound together by some kind of mortar. And if hundreds of years ago people used to make bricks from clay, today things are different. Brick houses are rather durable and long-lasting. The strongest and most commonly used masonry unit nowadays is a concrete block. It can even be reinforced with steel! 

Besides, brick has a few useful qualities:

  1. Brick is durable
  2. It is  fire-resistant
  3. This construction material is able to resist compression loads, which makes it great for load-bearing walls
  4. Reinforced with concrete, bricks can support multi-story buildings

Thanks to these features, brick can be an economical choice for a home building project. However, you need to make sure that the builders use high-quality bricks and mortar! Only in this case will they build a long-lasting, safe, and strong building!

Like this, now you know better what building materials people use these days, and what distinctions these materials have. This information can help you to better realize which of the materials might be the most suitable option for your particular project.

MaterialCostDurabilitySustainability
SteelHigher initial cost, but cost-effective long-term due to low maintenance.Extremely durable, resistant to pests and harsh weather.Highly recyclable, but energy-intensive to produce.
ConcreteAffordable and varies with type and additives.Excellent longevity and strength, ideal for structural components.High environmental impact in production, but durable over time.
WoodGenerally less expensive, varies with wood type.Can be prone to pests and moisture, but durable with treatment.Renewable, especially from sustainable forests, but requires energy for processing.
StoneExpensive, especially for premium types.Extremely durable and requires minimal maintenance.Low production impact, but quarrying can be ecologically damaging.
BrickMid-range cost, more than wood but less than stone.Highly durable, fire-resistant, and weather-resistant.Energy-intensive production, but bricks are durable and recyclable.

Why Is It Important to Choose the Correct Building Material Your House Is Made Of?

There are different types of building materials on the market these days. And you already know that several of them can be used more often than others. Some of those materials are cheaper and more people can afford them, whilst others are more pricey. 

However, as you have probably guessed, the higher the price of the material for building the better the quality of it. And the quality of your building material is the major and the crucial factor that influences the lifespan and the safety of the entire building!

But why else is it important to take into consideration the quality of the material you use to build a house? The answer is simple. The right building materials have a big impact on the quality of the entire structure. No matter how experienced a construction team is, when the materials are cheap and of a low standard, the building will have many problems both during the stage of construction and later, and in addition, it will not last long.

Unfortunately, people often overlook the selection of the right building materials. Many project planners often do the following thing: they decide to use construction materials of moderate or even low quality. In the majority of cases, they do it in order to cut the budget since high cost of the qualitative materials is the reason for choosing alternative options. However, it is important to note that any alternative building material will be of lower quality and it will not be as good as the original choice!

If you build a house using low-quality construction materials, chances are high that it will not last very long. What you may face is different types of both internal and external damage, for example, cracks on the walls. In addition, a building made of improper materials is more prone to faster aging. You surely understand that such a building will quite soon become hazardous for livung.

This is why it is wiser and more reasonable to choose the high-quality building matrials than use cheaper alternatives that will need fixtures and/or replacement later, which will cost you even more.

So, now you are aware of the most commonly used building materials. You know what materials are used nowadays and what specifics each of them has. In addition, we have explained why it is so essential to build using high-quality materials for construction. With that, you will be able to easily define which material might be more suitable for you and your project. 

Links on this topic to authoritative sources:
  1. Building material : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Building_material

Facts

  1. Stone: Stone construction boasts some of the oldest and most durable structures. The Pyramid of Khufu in Egypt, composed of 2.3 million limestone blocks, is the last standing wonder of the ancient world, dating back to 2580-2560 BC.
  2. Adobe: Adobe, a combination of mud and straw, was used for constructing the world's largest adobe city, Chan Chan in Peru, which spans about 20 square kilometers and dates back to AD 850.
  3. Wood: The world’s largest wooden structure is the Great Pagoda at the Tōdai-ji Temple in Nara, Japan, which houses a 15-meter high bronze Buddha.
  4. Brick: The Great Wall of China, mainly built using bricks, holds the record for the longest brick structure in the world, stretching over 13,000 miles.
  5. Concrete: The Three Gorges Dam in China, built mostly from concrete, used 27.2 million cubic meters of concrete in its construction – that’s enough to build a wall 1,800 miles long, 3 feet high, and 1 foot thick!
  6. Steel: The Burj Khalifa in Dubai, currently the tallest building globally, employed 31,400 tons of steel bars in its construction.
  7. Glass: The Apple Park Headquarters in Cupertino, California, boasts the world's largest curved glass panels, with roughly six kilometers of the material used in the design.
  8. Bamboo: The Bamboo House in Costa Rica, standing at 16.4 meters tall, holds the record for the tallest bamboo structure in the world.
  9. Cob: The largest cob building in the world is the two-story Cob Castle in England, complete with towers and crenellations, built in the 1990s.

Houses aren't just places to live; they are testaments to human ingenuity and adaptability. As you can see, the range of materials used in home construction is vast and varies based on cultural, geographical, and technological factors, often leading to some quite astonishing records!

History

Our story begins with our earliest ancestors, who discovered that caves offered protection against the elements. As humanity began to migrate, however, we needed portable housing. Thus, the tent was born, crafted from animal hides and supported by a skeleton of wooden branches.

As societies began to settle, our housing requirements evolved. The rivers of Mesopotamia offered an abundant supply of mud, leading to the development of adobe, a sun-dried mud brick. By 7000 BC, our ancestors were building entire cities from this material, like the sprawling metropolis of Uruk.

Over in the Indus Valley around 2500 BC, fired bricks were coming into vogue. The people of Mohenjo-Daro built their houses, drains, and even a sophisticated bathhouse from these sturdy, durable bricks.

Our journey then takes us to the rainforests of Central and South America, where the ample availability of wood led to the construction of large, communal longhouses, which sometimes housed up to 50 people.

Skipping ahead to the Industrial Revolution, we see the advent of new materials like iron and steel. Suddenly, buildings were springing up into the sky, transforming the skylines of cities like New York and Chicago.

In the 20th century, with the advent of new technologies and materials, houses began to take on new shapes and designs. The development of reinforced concrete enabled us to build even taller and sturdier structures. Meanwhile, prefabricated and modular homes made housing more accessible and affordable.

In more recent years, we've seen a renewed focus on sustainable materials. Bamboo, known for its incredible strength and rapid growth, is gaining popularity. Houses made from recycled shipping containers, straw, and even cob are becoming more common as we strive to build homes that are both comfortable and kind to our planet.

Expert Advice

With a wide range of options available, selecting the right one for your project can seem overwhelming. Here are some expert tips to guide you through this process:

  1. Consider Your Climate: The local weather patterns play a major role in deciding the construction material. For example, adobe is excellent for dry, hot climates as it maintains a steady, cool temperature. In contrast, a wood-frame house might be better suited for cooler climates, as wood has good thermal insulation properties.
  2. Think About Durability: Stone and brick are very durable, resisting the elements for centuries if maintained properly. Wood, while requiring a bit more upkeep, can also last for generations.
  3. Factor in Eco-friendliness: Sustainability is becoming increasingly important. Materials like bamboo, straw, and cob are environmentally friendly and renewable. Also, recycled materials, like shipping containers, are growing in popularity.
  4. Don't Forget Aesthetics: The visual appeal of your house is also crucial. The natural beauty of wood, the rustic charm of brick, or the sleek modernity of steel and glass - each material has a distinct aesthetic, so choose one that matches your personal style.
  5. Assess Availability and Cost: Depending on your location, some materials may be more readily available and cost-effective than others. Consult with local builders or suppliers to get an idea of what materials are commonly used in your area and their cost.
  6. Consider the Home's Function: Are you building a family home, a vacation cabin, or a modern city loft? The function and the style of the house can influence your material choice.

 

Remember, it's not just about choosing one material. Most homes use a combination of several materials, so consider how different materials can work together in your design. And always consult with an architect or a construction expert when making your final decision.

Safety

Here are some key safety instructions related to the materials used for building houses:

  1. Handling and Storing Materials: Materials should be properly stored to prevent slipping, tripping, or falling hazards. Heavier materials should be stored low and closer to the floor, and all materials should be stacked in a stable manner. Always use appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves, safety shoes, and hard hats when handling materials.
  2. Working with Wood: Ensure all wood materials are free from nails and other sharp objects before handling. Always use safety glasses when cutting or nailing wood. Beware of splinters and rough surfaces that can cause injuries.
  3. Handling Masonry Materials: When working with bricks or stones, wear gloves to protect your hands from abrasive surfaces and sharp edges. Heavy materials like these should be moved using machinery or equipment, not manually, to prevent back injuries.
  4. Dealing with Metals: When working with metal, such as steel beams, always wear gloves to prevent cuts from sharp edges. If welding or cutting metal, use appropriate PPE, including safety glasses, gloves, and flame-resistant clothing.
  5. Handling Glass: When handling glass, always wear safety gloves and goggles. Any broken glass should be cleaned up immediately to prevent injuries.
  6. Working with Insulation: Some insulation materials can irritate the skin and lungs. Always wear long-sleeved shirts, gloves, and a dust mask or respirator when installing or removing insulation.
  7. Chemical Safety: Many construction materials, like paints, adhesives, and solvents, contain potentially harmful chemicals. Always use these materials in well-ventilated areas and wear appropriate PPE, including gloves and safety glasses.
  8. Fire Safety: Remember that some building materials are highly flammable, such as certain types of insulation, paint, and solvents. These should be stored safely away from potential ignition sources.

 

In all cases, proper training in the handling and usage of each specific material is crucial. Always be aware of the risks associated with the materials you're working with and take appropriate precautions to maintain a safe construction site.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

Who Chooses A Material For Building A House?

Usually, an architector would do that, but the person whom the house is being buit for can suggest his/her preferences.

Can A House Combine Several Different Materials?

Of course! It can be made of stone, for instance, and have glass walls, or wooden elements.

What Is The Most Long-Lasting Building Material?

Typically, stone and cement are among the most long-lasting ones. But you still need to use high-quality materials.
What Is The Difference Between Load-Bearing And Non-Load-Bearing Walls?

Load-bearing walls provide structural support, while non-load-bearing walls are used for partitioning spaces and do not carry any load.

What Material Are Modern Houses Made Of
  1. Steel framing: Steel is a strong, durable, and recyclable material often used in modern construction for its resistance to fire, pests, and weather damage.
  2. Concrete: A versatile and sturdy material, concrete is used for both structural elements and exterior finishes, providing excellent insulation and design flexibility.
  3. Structural insulated panels (SIPs): These prefabricated panels consist of an insulating foam core sandwiched between two structural facings, typically made of oriented strand board (OSB). SIPs offer energy efficiency and a quick construction process.
  4. Insulated concrete forms (ICFs): ICFs are modular units made of insulating foam that are stacked and filled with reinforced concrete, creating energy-efficient, durable structures.
  5. Cross-laminated timber (CLT): An engineered wood product, CLT consists of layers of lumber glued together to create strong, lightweight panels ideal for modern, sustainable construction.
  6. Glass: Modern architecture often features extensive use of glass for windows, walls, and facades, providing natural light and a sleek aesthetic.
  7. Composite materials: A combination of materials, such as wood-plastic composites, are used in modern construction for siding, decking, and other applications, offering durability and low maintenance.
Publication date:
@livewireScriptss