Every country and culture has its unique style of constructing homes. One would think that in the modern world, most houses would be built with objective standards of durability and strength. After all, a long-lasting and stable home is the best kind, right? Interestingly, this isn’t always the case.
Americans tend to favor timber over stone or brick homes despite its relative shortcomings. Why is this so? Let’s find out.
1. Economic and Financial Factors Play a Big Role
When you have plenty of trees, it makes sense to use timber as a construction material. When compared to concrete and bricks, timber allows for a far more cost-effective way of building homes. The cost of construction materials has serious implications on the final price of a home.
The real estate market also keeps pushing housing prices out of the reach of most Americans. Reports show that the average cost of a home is getting closer to half a million dollars. It should be obvious that buyers aren’t too eager to spend more on a home than they need to.
If you are trying to sell your brick home, yes, the resale value is going to be good. However, finding a buyer will be tough. Not all buyers may be willing to pay a premium for a brick home. This is particularly the case if there are other comparable options available at a lower price point.
Aspects like energy efficiency also play a role. While brick homes can have good thermal mass properties, they may not always be as energy-efficient as timber homes.
2. Engineering Brick Homes is Far More Complex
America has a long history of timber framing and wood-based construction. Contractors these days favor timber for the relative flexibility it offers in construction.
The very nature of constructing with bricks poses many engineering complexities that require more thought and planning. For instance, bricks and mortar are brittle materials and are prone to fracturing during earthquakes. Structural failure is far more probable with brick homes than timber homes.
Good foundation design becomes critical as bricks are significantly heavier than timber. This requires a foundation to bear and distribute much heavier loads. Even a small mistake in weight distribution can lead to cracks and other issues in brick walls.
To top it off, construction firms often lack engineers who have experience in dealing with brick homes. Considering that most people in the country aren’t looking for such homes, this isn’t that surprising.
However, many of them do sponsor their employees to take on online engineering degrees to have a more well-rounded crew.
Educating Engineers states that the popularity of these online degrees has skyrocketed in recent years. That said, no matter how flexible and convenient an online degree is, it doesn’t address market demand.
3. Weather And Geographical Factors
The prevalence of timber homes over brick homes in America can also be attributed to weather and geographical factors. Timber’s natural insulating properties make it a popular choice because it can adapt to different climates. Be it the cold winters of the Northeast or the milder temperatures of the West Coast, it makes little difference. Timber manages to prove its versatility throughout the country.
This versatility is a big reason for its popularity. One of the most commonly cited reasons for building with wood is the affordable rebuilding costs after natural disasters.
For instance, some regions of the U.S. are prone to earthquakes. Timber’s flexibility can be advantageous by allowing buildings to absorb and dissipate seismic energy without suffering extensive damage.
Similarly, when faced with tornados and hurricanes, brick homes are not invincible and can suffer serious damage. Thus, home builders find it far cheaper to rebuild a timber home over a brick one.
For better or worse, Americans love their wooden homes. They are easy to build, affordable, and can be insulated more effectively. People might have given brick homes a try were it not for the engineering complexities, costs, and weather issues.
While brick homes might seem preferable in terms of sturdiness, the underlying challenges ensure that timber remains the de-facto choice.
At the same time, wood isn’t without its problems. Timber homes are obviously weak to fire. This is evident by the number of homes that have burned down in California wildfires almost every year.
Lastly, the timber industry is pretty hard on the environment. Every year, close to 15 billion trees are cut worldwide. That amounts to more than 41 million trees every single day. Sure, not all of those trees are chopped for construction, but do we really want to add to that number?
If brick homes aren’t the answer, then something else has to be. Hopefully, options like ICF and other alternatives to wood and bricks find ways of gaining popularity.