Are you wondering why US homes are made from wood and bricks instead of concrete? In this article, I’ll share some of my research on the topic and give you some ideas.
There are a few reasons why US homes are made of wood and bricks instead of concrete. The first reason is availability. The USA has vast forests to supply building materials. Second, history plays a large role in how people build their homes, as does American culture and style.
In the sections below, we’ll do a deeper dive into why US homes are primarily made of lumber instead of concrete.
Why Do Americans Prefer Wooden Houses over Concrete?
Americans have been building houses with wood for a long time. In the beginning, there were log cabins. Now, we have intricately framed homes built with a myriad of designs.
Here are several reasons Americans build houses with wood instead of concrete:
- Wood is readily available for houses
- Wooden houses are faster to frame and build
- Americans like the options of wooden houses
- Americans like the feel and style of wooden houses
Let’s look at each of these options in more depth. Then, in the later sections, we’ll talk about some more reasons why Americans build homes with lumber.
Wood is Readily Available in the United States
For many generations, logging timber has been a large part of the American identity. Especially in the western states, large logging companies still harvest a lot of lumber. While the pandemic has caused some lumber shortages, time will tell whether this has a greater impact on wood used for homes.
Due to the large harvesting and processing of lumber in the United States, it’s only natural that wood carries over into building homes. Since this process is streamlined, many see it as a hassle and an added cost to switch to concrete-built homes.
Wood Homes are Faster to Build than Concrete
Under our current system, many construction companies and builders state that using wood makes building a home faster. Obviously, the people in the current system are used to building homes with wood; however, that doesn’t mean building with concrete couldn’t become more efficient in the future.
Also, prefabrication and modular building methods have become popular for smaller homes. Many homes have parts built in a factory, and the parts are then transported to the site and installed. Wood makes this possible. Concrete would be heavier to transport and more difficult to install once on the site.
Again, all this is subject to our “current” system. In the future, there could be prefabricated homes that use concrete.
Wooden Homes Provide Options
One reason people like wooden homes are the absolutely endless options. Really, with wood, if you can dream it, you can build it. Wood doesn’t rely as much on its bulk as it does on good engineering. For this reason, if you’re an especially creative person, you can build your home in almost any way you’d like.
Americans have a history of creativity and extravagance. For this reason, many – even those who could afford other options – like wood for its versatility.
Not to say that concrete doesn’t provide options. Concrete could make some very creative homes with the right tools and techniques. However, more US construction companies are accustomed to wood.
Americans like the Feel and Style of Wood
Americans are familiar with wood. They like the feel it provides, and they like the style. And, frankly, it’s familiar. The current method for framings houses has been around for over a hundred years. As anyone knows, when you’re used to something, it’s hard to start doing something different.
In the next sections, we’ll talk about some reasons people think Americans should consider options besides just wood.
Reasons Americans Should Choose Material Besides Wood for Their Homes
People often wonder, “why are we still using wood and bricks to build our homes?” This isn’t just a random question. Many people feel there are good reasons to adopt other materials for constructing homes.
With that said, this article is simply a discussion of possibilities. Not all ideas apply to all homes in all places.
Reasons to use concrete to build houses:
- Concrete is more durable
- Concrete is more sustainable
- Wood is getting expensive
Let’s look at these reasons in more depth.
Non-Wood Materials like Concrete and Steel are More Durable
Some say that, in general, concrete is more durable than wood. The reasons, they say, are that wood is flimsy against inclement weather, that it rots if it becomes wet, and that it can burn easily around wildfires.
While wood may be inferior in some instances, this is debated. For example, some say that a wooded structure is more suited for earthquakes, as it can flex slightly without cracking. Also, it’s contended that if a natural disaster damages a wood structure, it’s easier to repair.
Many people also say that people should only use concrete to build homes near tornado zones. While concrete might provide some protection from high winds, if a dangerous tornado throws cars, even a concrete home won’t stop that (unless it is built like a military bunker). For tornado protection, many people build underground storm shelters or safe rooms.
With all this said, there are serious nuances to everything. When it comes to building materials, it’s not a one-size-fits-all. You need to consider your situation and ask about the best material for the job.
Some houses have a combination of steel framing and wood, creating a strong structure.
Wood and Sustainability
Some argue we should be taking fewer trees for lumber and homebuilding and looking into other options. Again, this is a nuanced issue. In some areas of the country, there may be a benefit to reduced logging. However, in other areas of the country, logging occurs at a well-controlled and sustainable level.
Wood is Getting Expensive
With some of the recent supply issues, people may begin looking at other options for home building. Technology is like a snowball rolling down a mountain – it just keeps getting bigger and moving faster.
There are some pretty interesting practices in the works, like 3D printed homes. Essentially, there are massive printers that construct a home very quickly. Obviously, this is a new idea, but if it continues to gain traction, we could see more homes like this in the future.
Wood and Bricks for Houses
Why build houses with concrete when we can build them with bricks? We should say here that brick houses are not always as sturdy as you think. Many brick houses simply use bricks as the siding; however, structurally, the home may consist of planks and plywood.
For these reasons, the bricks might do little to protect against fires, termites, or inclement weather. Of course, this will depend on the home. It’s good to know that some “brick homes” might just be using bricks as a nice aesthetic, not a structurally superior material.
Also, another disclaimer: Not all wooden homes are built to the same standards. Some builders construct homes with large, robust beams and tight engineering. Others are built more cheaply and will be more susceptible to water damage – and are less likely to last through the ages.
The Debate Around Wood and Brick vs. Concrete Houses in the US
It’s worth discussing the potential for bias when around this issue. As you’ll see, some businesses have a vested interest in a particular way to build a home, and that sways their opinion regarding the best methods.
For example, those in favor of forest protection will naturally be more likely to move towards less lumber used to build US homes. This doesn’t mean the information is incorrect; it just means these groups are more likely to highlight the benefits of a non-wooden home.
On the other hand, those in the logging business, or who have been building primarily wooden houses, may be more likely to point out the advantages of wooden houses. Again, these aren’t’ necessarily wrong; it’s just wise to be aware of the point of view.
As we’ve tried to do in this article, it’s important to consider both sides and compare to find the best answers for your situation. For some, it might make sense to move away from wood and bricks. For others, wooden homes will continue to work.
Key Takeaway on Wood for Homes in the US
The United States has been framing and building homes with wood for hundreds of years. For this reason alone, the country will likely continue using wood to build homes. However, with the rise in lumber prices, the increase in wildfires, and the advancement of modern technology, we could see many more homes built from alternative materials in the future.
What’s your opinion on why US homes are built with wood? Do you think it has more to do with culture, or with building methods and economics?