ELI5 - Why are homes in USA built with wood while homes in India or Middle. East are built with concrete?

ELI5 - Why are homes in USA built with wood while homes in India or Middle. East are built with concrete?


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on the supply side, we have well managed forests on both coasts and Canada, so the material is abundant. On the demand side, it allows for the style of house we like to build, multi-story with various configurations. It's quick to build and easy to repair. The hollow walls allow us to run electricity, plumbing, and hvac without impacting floor space. It can be made 6" thick for superior insulation It's plenty durable: we have houses that are hundreds of years old made of wood.


That is the correct answer. Starting around 1900, the US federal government set aside land for national forests for the purpose of supplying lumber to the US economy. Many states did the same thing. Good management has ensured that wood for construction remains cheap and plentiful. Canada had a similar story. The cheap wood here is not an accident.


And there are more trees today worldwide (but especially in North America) than there were 100 years ago. Deforestation is still a concern, as "tree cover" ≠ "forest cover", but the logging industry here has been regulated for a long enough time that it's fairly sustainable and supply for domestic lumber currently outweighs demand (which is why it's cheap). Most of the trees harvested for lumber here were also planted by the lumber industry. That's not to dismiss practices elsewhere in the world with more lax regulations (which are taken advantage of by NA companies), but the reason really does boil down to NA lumber companies doing a better job cultivating their own supply than other places in the world.


As a trucker that lives in lumber country, (southern pine, to be specific) the US also ships wood and wood products all over the world. I've hauled wood pulp, stripped logs, and even fully processed lumber to shipping ports, bound for China, Korea, Sweden, and more.


I was a bit surprised to se Sweden in that list, since we have quite a large lumber industry of our own, with most of it exporting, supplying about 3.5% of the worlds timber supply, but I guess there are some types of lumber that just isn't growing here.


It is likely "specialty" hardwoods. The US produces (I believe) more lumber than any other country but we still import a substantial amount as well. With the exception of what we get from Canada it's nearly all what we consider to be exotic hardwood that just don't grow here. I wouldn't be surprised if what is getting exported to Sweden isn't primarily just redwood, walnut, and other similar trees that are in abundance here, but don't grow there.


It was oak, iirc. Most of what I see is pine, though. There's a reason this area is known as "the pine belt".


Brazilian here. We ship wood to the USA too, I've recently found. I guess it's different types of wood.


Now I'm just thinking of Brian Regan's joke about when two trucks full of logs pass each other on the highway... https://youtu.be/5R1Wdhm-kL8


That felt like the first half of a joke


Not all wood is used for the same things. You might a pulp mill over there... A lumber mill over here, and multiple logging facilities. All over the place. One truck might be hauling to the pulp mill, the other to the lumber mill. Making lumber requires higher quality wood than just grinding it up into wood pulp. Before it gets loaded and heads for either, it's sorted.


That's a great joke


Japan bought most of the large redwoods.


Indeed, it seems that most of the incidents of deforestation today are driven by land clearing, rather than logging for the wood supply. I guess North America having a relatively low population density and vast areas of pre-existing open space help it overcome some of the major demands behind land clearing.


North American geography and resources are everything. The fact the the US and Canada are so successful is they have ridiculous natural resources combined with a huge natural barrier in the ocean. Play Starcraft and put yourself an an island alone with mad minerals and vespene gas and guess whose gonna ball out?


I can also recall the experience of chilling on my own in the Americas in eu4, and then the Europeans discover you and it's a fight for your life.


This is also why Argentina is a world superpower.


I just want to emphasize how BAD deforestation is as a problem. "Well-regulated" is a bit generous. Yes, conserving land for timber production is an excellent move, but monoculture is not at all the same thing as forest, and we have lost and continue to lose old-growth forest at an alarming rate. Also - indirectly related - I have heard that Russia supplies a lot of wood to large users like Ikea. I'm sure that conservation is a secondary consideration there at best.


Modern North American forestry is removing monoculture forests and replacing them with native mixed forests. It is way more profitable and better for the ecosystem. I have been to sites with all white pine being removed and it is astounding to see the difference.


Russia’s forests are growing faster than they can be cut down, but one of the issues is that they’re regrowing with a fuckton of Birch and other trees that have little value, iirc.


> supply for domestic lumber currently outweighs demand (which is why it's cheap). Not completely true the oast year, but it was an anomaly caused by COVID


not is south america, rainforest in brazil holds a fraction of the carbon banks it previously held


Most people either ignore this fact or are just completely ignorant to it. It's also why avoiding paper use does not necessarily mean saving trees.


Yeah, paper use keeps private forests profitable, thus keeps them forests.


Yup, otherwise they are likely to become houses. And I don't mean the trees growing there.


And yet, during Corona, wood prices in Europe soared because local supplies were being bought up En masse by America.


As an electrician I can assure you that putting electrical in a block wall is a pain in the ass. You have to cut the brick for every box and your stuff can only run vertically unless you want to stop the brickies at some point and channel the bricks horizontally (which in seven years I have never had to do). The alternative is to surface mount everything, which we do in commercial settings but people don’t usually want to see all of that in their home. It’s not very cozy.


I have seen horizontal runs exactly once and it blew my mind.


Small side note for current events, the price of lumber has multiplied recently thanks to rona


Retail prices are still sticking some but wholesale price is rapidly going back to normal


This is primarily due to the impact on supply chain tho, not “there aren’t enough trees“ (I know you weren’t saying that, just clarifying for anyone that might be confused)


Thanks for saying this. I was reading his post and I was like either I have been lied to or they are being told lies in the USA. I'm from Hungary and the lumber prices are 6-7x as high as it used to be a year ago, and we are told that this is because Americans are buying it all because there's not enough there for the demand.


The wood is there, the labor isn't. I did hear some pine was having trouble with an invasive.


Plus wooden walls, if constructed correctly, are better for earthquakes


This. You can make concrete and masonry earthquake resistant, like the Roman aqueducts that are still standing after 1000 years in seismically active Italy, but it requires quite a bit of engineering, whereas wood is naturally nice and flexy




Please close that bracket. If you don't everything I read from now on will be inside your bracket until I come across an unpaired closing bracket. Things read inside a bracket use the quieter mental voice configuration. If you don't close it everything will be read like that in my mind.








Also early American architecture, and thus our architectural language moving forward, was based on various European fashions, as well as an intentional inspiration of roman aesthetics for our federal architecture. But the materials required for that kind of construction were not readily available. Wood was. So design started with residences being very germanic/english along the east coast, a bit more french further south, and spanish further west. But "important" buildings such as government buildings, business centers, and the homes of the wealthy incorporated "facades" in which the front faces of buildings would use (or in many cases attempt to emulate) the material building of those cultures while the rest would be basic wooden construction. This eventually translated into the large, elaborate, pillar and cap and moulding heavy front faces of the typical suburban American home. I had to take American Art and Architecture History in college and am still salty about the useless information on a topic I never cared about that I am apparently stuck with forever.


This is all well and good but how is the "soundprooficng"? I watch a show on TV here in the UK sometimes called... Brothers Rebuild, or some shite, where these creepy twins go into folks houses and plan out how to change the internal structure and whatnot and they inevitably knock through a bunch of walls which all look like plasterboard and the whole house is just weird flimsy (I know it actually isn't) looking timber framing and every wall looks like it is essentially plasterboard. Is this quite common in the American housing stock? ​ I live in a house from the 60's and every external and internal wall is solid brick.


Internal walls (other than load bearing ones maybe) in the more modern British houses are just woooden frames and plasterboard too unfortunately.


That's true yeah, my old flat (that was new build) was shite for it


I have a 2 story home, the outside has fiber cement siding, insulation in the outside walls, and new insulated windows. I get no noise from the outside. Not much noise between rooms honestly. And running wire in the interior is quite easy, between floors is a pain in the ass but manageable.


Plasterboard for old houses - 1950s and earlier. Sheetrock/drywall for anything modernish. I don't think framing has changed too much. 16" on center instead of 24" maybe. New construction probably sees less hardwood floors and millwork too I would guess.


The reason for the shift to framing and hung drywall is that—with appropriate gaps and fiberglass insulation—it is a superior solution to brick or block. Insulation and sound proofing is helped, not hindered, by the empty spaces between the drywall sheets.


That makes sense I suppose and is reliant on good building practices. I know a few friends in the UK that have plasterboard walls between rooms that have practically nothing between them so the soundproofing is awful.




Slight correction 6" (154mm) is not super insulation it's bare minimum if we're taking about classic super ichy fiberglass wool which is equivalent of about 1/3 of XPS or rockwool insulation. Now put in a 120mm XPS sheets or rockwool and were talking about insulation values worth noticing.


I believe I was told that it is also slightly less lethal during earthquakes and tsunamis (west coast Canada/USA).


Another factor people forget is that places like the middle east and India tend to use very low quality concrete for home building so it is not as durable as you think. Places like california that are earthquake prone also stand up better with wood and stucco than concrete which has no give and cracks.


One can easily make anti seismic concrete constructions with the proper knowledge on how to array steel reinforcement...


> also stand up better with wood and stucco than concrete which has no give and cracks. This is why we make highrise buildings and skyscrapers out of wood, the few concrete ones we tried pulverized with the first earthquake.... or not.


> Another factor people forget is that places like the middle east and India tend to use very low quality concrete for home building so it is not as durable as you think. source please


"plenty durable"... that's why you see them flying around every hurricane season. i get that this kind of construction has advantages but when you know you get hit by a hurricane once a year e.g in the south-eastern states why don't they build a house made of concrete like literally all of europe although not having any kind of hurricanes ever?


For hurricanes you need a minor modification (while building): [hurricane ties](https://www.albanycountyfasteners.com/All-Categories/Hurricane_Ties) Supposed to make a huge difference


Have you watched Extreme Home Makeover or a similar series? You can build a huge wooden house in a weekend if you want. Single story doesn't need to be strong and the material is cheap. So, you can build it out of wood cheaply and rebuild it every 30 years. Or build it once out of concrete and it will last longer (though hurricane will still do significant damage) but be more expensive. And the question if is the costs of repairing a damaged concrete house is cheaper than just building a new wooden one. It also matters than the climate is such that they don't need much insulation, which adds a lot of cost elsewhere.


You don't replace a wood house every 30 years lol. A wood house built in the 1990s would still be considered fairly new today.


Yeah my house was built in 1901 from wood and it's still standing!


Has it been hit by hurricanes?


Luckily no! I live in a snowbelt area though (we got 20inches this past Christmas) and get lots of snow and rain. We live near a ravine though, which helps prevent any flooding. Some houses nearby their yards become a lake after it rains.


Regarding insulation - do you mean in temperate zones that get neither particularly hot or cold? Because while there is a lot of tradition in insulating from cold, it seems like a lot of places "solve" heat by adding more A/C, instead of using A/C as a suplement to cool down houses with good insulation and natural cooling...


Cold climates focus more on insulation because its easy to cool a house from 100-70, but its difficult to warm a house from 0-70.


Trees my guy, lots of them. It was easier and cheaper to build outta wood then concrete. Houses that are made of stone are rare and in some areas even granted protection (for example my parents house can’t be torn down cause it got “historical value” being almost 100 years old now.


This is also why you don't buy a 100+ year old stone and wood house without knowing what you're getting into. They'll stay standing for a looong time, and the historical protection means you'll be on the hook for the potentially costly repairs as the foundation, mortar, corroding metalwork are also that old. With the housing frenzy, a lot of 150-200yr old houses have popped up on the market in my area, making me think some 1st time homebuyers are about to be taking on more than they realize.


In my home buying process, there was a part where historical considerations and that kind of thing all had to be disclosed. It was in pretty plain language, and easy to understand on first pass, so hopefully other states also provide that level of purchaser information


Extra fun with a historical tree. I have a giant Conjoined twin elm tree in my front yard. Thanks to Dutch elm disease there aren’t many in Ontario. They’re huge... so are their roots in my pipes. (Luckily insurance covered it)


I don't know if anyone's mentioned this, but - climactic conditions are WILDLY different in temperate and tropical countries. I kinda assumed that the reasons for not using wood in India are the humidity and heat being so conducive to fungus and termites 🤔 In South India at least, houses made of wood and thatch exist, but are semi-permanent, and require extensive and constant maintenance. People save up build permanent housing if they can afford it. Plus, we don't have anywhere near as much timber, and the huge populations we have concentrated in cities require multi-storey apartment housing. The population in the West is pretty spread out, so buildings of one or two storeys made of wood are common, even in cities.. Edit: it seems coastal/ humid Florida constructs housing using cinderblock, so that's kinda analogous, climate-wise


The US isn't all the same. In hurricane country it's concrete filled concrete blocks in exterior walls. On the earthquake coast, foundations are slabs with everything above them flexy wood. Most of the rest of the country has basements with concrete walls below ground.


I live in hurricane country (coast of South Carolina) and only a small percentage of homes here are cinder block or even brick. The VAST majority are wood framed and either wood or vinyl sided. Especially with newer (post 80’s) construction.


Yup. Gulf Coast here. All wood baby


South Florida here and nearly every home is CBS. Cheap apartment buildings are about the only wood framed buildings around.


Same here in central east coast Florida, majority concrete block. Termites make wood construction here less than desirable.


Hey neighbor! Cape Canaveral checking in


We got termites too. They're some odd kind that doesn't eat our houses though


I live in hurricane country too (Florida) and 99.99% of all single family home construction is concrete block. I do think part of that is pest prevention as well.


Termites aren't an issue is most of Canada. I never really thought about that aspect of wood construction.


If you want to go further, the framework of taller building are metal, which is flexible. Stone gives very little, wether poured or not.


New Orleans, all wood.


There have been attempts. Edison created a [company](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edison_Portland_Cement_Company) that would pour an entire concrete house, it didn't catch on and neither the company nor idea survived. Some of the houses are still in use though. More recently you can order precast concrete walls to any design you want. My house was built in 1850 is wood and still in great shape. Availability and cost of materials makes wood the choice in the US, but if you are willing to pay there are alternatives.


I found it fascinating traveling through Nepal and India where many homes are made from available materials which can be a function of altitude. Going on the Annapurna circuit, at the beginning it's concrete and bricks. Around 2000m it changes to timber then at 4000m it's almost exclusively stones. In the lowlands, south of the Himalayas you see mud thatched walls and grasses. Here in Australia, Sandstone was popular in the south where it's more common and works well in the climate. In Queensland, raised timber homes were the style. As people become wealthier, resources can be pulled from farther afield but the local styles are still influenced by historical abundances.


Cheaper, lighter, more available, Americans move more often, taxation on wood is cheaper than cement in many states, wood houses do better in tornados and earthquakes, and a lot was tradition, speed and self-construction.


> Americans move more often ? Do americans destroy their old houses when they move?


No but we're a very selfish society and don't give a fuck how our shitty construction practices affect the next occupant and the environment.




I'm confused what this means as well


In what way wood house does better during tornado?


It flies better than a concrete one.




It hurts less when it comes crashing down


It's less rigid, so it can take some swaying and uneven forces better than a very rigid structure


This is true more for earthquakes than tornados.


Uhm, concrete building won't fall apart from high speed winds whatsoever unlike wooden or light frame buildings. Whenever you see brick or concrete building being torn apart in typhoon or any other natural disaster, it has that do with external factors (oftentimes water related). If US tornado plains towns used concrete and bricks, they would end up with needing roof and some structural repairs not rebuilding entire towns.


That's what they recommend, though I guess governors in those stats also recommend no vaccines and probably rely on Jesus moving the Tornados, so maybe their engineers aren't the best either.


Probably more to do with h capitalism than sound and beneficial civil engineering or your engineers are wolves in disguise lol


It's more so based on cost to the consumer, basically yes it's everything to do with capitalism. Wood is a lot cheaper to rebuild, so much more so that it's more profitable for insurance companies to charge monthly to protect your home, and then pay (some of) the cost to rebuild it, knowing that it will break again, meaning their customer still has to buy insurance so their house can be rebuilt when it (inevitably) breaks again. It contributes to the same problem of trapping the lower class (because there practically isn't a middle anymore) in living paycheck to paycheck, because we can afford to pay insurance once a month but not a single large purchase, which would actually be cheaper in the long run. Sorry for getting a bit rant happy.


Reading this like, how expensive is concrete?? You seen the price of wood?


I'm mostly speaking historically, but the price of concrete has a lot to do with transporting it.


Yes. Big lumber is manipulating enginiers to make the cement industry disappear.


I'm not American luckily, safe in my igloo


Haven't you heard of the tale of The Three Little Pigs?


I seriously doubt a concrete building would have an issue with a tornado apart from the windows being blown out. If it does, anything wooden and its occupants are already tiny tiny splinters.


It's not the wind but the debris that is a problem for masonry buildings in a tornado. Wood frames are more easily repaired and replaced than cinder blocks or bricks.


I'm having problems imagining what could possibly damage a concrete building that wouldn't outright obliterate a wooden one.


Tornado wind can put wood right through concrete like it's butter. Google some pics, I've persoanally seen giant wood spikes made of siding that have gone right through half foot thick concrete.


Live in SE Asia. Even after the severe typhoon that struck here, damage was minimal, only a bunch of windows were broken in most cases. Our concrete house was struck by something, made the whole house shake from the impact. All it left was a gash of 10cm wide and 3 cm deep. If the house had been wood it'd have gone right through. Would has major advantages. Cheap and quick to build. Durability or being hurricane proof is NOT one of them.


I saw a documentary that pretty conclusively showed that brick buildings were best in high winds. Far exceeding the abilities of wood. They must have been onto something, because I think there was even a book about it. It's a fairly short watch but you should be able to find it on Netflix or Amazon. It was called "The Three Little Pigs"


Do you mean the three little pigs ?


> It was called "The Tree Bears" Hahahaha! Way to murder a punch line! Thanks for the spot. I blame my phone and my own stupidity. I will edit and also learn how to spell "Three"


Lol I wasn't sure if it was a cultural thing and only the UK uses pigs lol If there is a post about porridge and the perfect temperature you'll be laughing!


What does having a wood house have to do with moving often


People have diffrent demands of their house and if you move and want to alter your house a wood frame construction is much easier to alter than somthing solid like cinder block or brick.


>wood houses do better in tornados Not at all. If you research wind resistant housing you'll find concrete wins hands down. Not only for being more likely to survive the wind but also much more resistant to puncture by high speed objects thrown by the wind.


But then I can hear my upstairs neighbor having sex. Not a problem with concrete


Because no ones having sex at home in India and the Middle East Edit: this was just a terrible attempt at a joke, I apologize.


Not sure if you have ever lived in cement houses and buildings but sound does not travel through cement walls. I can't hear them do it nor can I hear them walk in their apartment when it's made of cement


I have (in India) but I was just making a joke about not having sex because of living with parents. Real mood killer :) Of course it was fun back in school and college days to sneak someone in


You're probably talking about bricks bound with cement or concrete (which needs cement).


Yea that's what I'm talking about. I have never lived in places made of merely cement and not bricks and concrete. That's what OP meant too. When we say cement we mean bricks re-enforced with concrete.


> Because no ones having sex at home in India Why do it in the sheets when you can do it in the streets ?


No, that's pooping.


Then you are thinking of California.


They sheets in the streets.


Explain the population growth then…


Wait, that's supposed to be a negative?


100% wood houses don't do better than concrete houses in tornados, it's a fact and common sense. There is a famous story about it called the 3 little pigs ffs. ​ Is reddit getting dumber?!


You make it sound like Reddit as a collective ever was intelligent to begin with


> Is reddit getting dumber?! Today I saw a guy claim octopuses are so smart that some of them can solve a Rubik's cube and can get close to the human world record. It was a serious post and had a bunch of upvotes. He ended up deleting it when people called him out though.




> wood houses do better in tornados What? That is not even remotely true.




Idk what kind of concrete/brick house you've lived in but a big plus is that in summer it stays cool inside, in the winter it keeps warm really nicely. This isn't true for a building made out of only concrete slabs but normal houses are not made of of concrete slabs usually, only apartment buildings. So, no stone/brick houses don't bake you in the summer, quite the opposite. As for concrete, it's really easy to install some insulation, too...


Some additional comments from someone who's lived in buildings with concrete walls my entire life. Breaking a concrete wall is just not going to happen. You won't need to fix any damage because you won't actually be able to do damage to it unless you're actually trying. With power tools. Insulation is put on the outside of the building, there's no reason to put any on the interior walls since the entire building will be room temperature on the inside. Additionally, you can drill holes to hang televisions or whatever just fine. Just need the right drill.


Personally I'd prefer to just have both. I.e. a brick or concrete wall with cavity insulation and then just another layer of plasterboard (with a gap to the actual wall of course) on the inside. Makes mounting stuff and routing cables out of sight and such a whole lot easier.


a lot of places i think end up like this now tbh where brick and mortar constructs are common.


Call this brick veneer in Australia


>Breaking a concrete wall is just not going to happen. Right?! Reading these comments is bizzare, just like reading about how a car went through a house in the US is bizzare.


I lived in a modern concrete house and honestly I wouldn't be afraid of a truck driving into it. There was no way it was getting past exterior walls. Would be like driving into a bridge.


Exactly, it's like trying to justify the wrong solutions. I've lived both Europe, Middle-East and stayed in US/Canada. It baffles me the quality and easyiness of breaking a house. I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll blow your house in... is what I see all over.


What I'm learning from this thread is that the number of people who hang televisions up is astronomically higher than I was aware of.


I actually haven't hung mine up, i just figured someone was going to say that it'd be hard to drill holes in it. The only holes i've made in the wall are for a really big mirror and some coat hangers.


Good on you. I find it funny, because on the one hand, the fact that it's been brought up multiple times in this thread is understandable. But on the other, the idea that anyone would choose what to build their house out of based on how easy it is to hang up a TV is laughable.


Even with power tools, it can be mighty difficult to damage it. We have one concrete wall, and I had to rent a massive heavy duty drill to put up some frames. My regular Makita wasn't powerful enough. All other walls are brick, much easier


Agreed. As someone who grew up in the most northern part of Germany and who now lives in SoCal, I’d absolutely prefer living in a brick house again. Insulation is a million times better, sound travels less.


And it doesn't feel like the whole house shakes every time you close a door. (Also, German doors are awesome, typically solid core and with weather-stripping around the edges to keep sound from travelling room-to-room -- a far cry from the cheap hollow doors used on budget construction projects in the States).


> And it doesn't feel like the whole house shakes every time you close a door. What?


Agreed. I think I'm being gaslighted with all the answers talking about the great insulating properties of wood houses, when my experience has been the compete opposite. Houses in Spain have great thermal properties (I know very little about the details, just my experience as a user). I think it's not only the thermo effect, but the massive thermal inertia of brick walls. During the night, when temperature is at its lowest, windows are open and the walls get "set" to the lowest temperature. During the day, everything is closed and even though it's really hot outside (+40) the house remains nicer and cool all day. I have tried this in the US to no avail. And I cannot be the only one because all over the north east where I live (not the hottest by any stretch), every single house has AC. So maybe the thermal properties are not that great.


You're on the right track with the "thermal inertia" comment - the technical term for this in building is thermal mass. Wood framing with insulation provides good thermal resistance but low thermal mass. This means they can be effective insulators but they don't moderate temperature in any meaningful way. This means the AC doesn't have to work as hard to cool the building but without it the building will eventually heat up especially if it isn't very air tight. Stone or concrete buildings have much poorer insulation (about 1/2 as effective) for 150mm (6") thick concrete compared to 90mm (4") timber with timber cladding. The catch is the thickness makes a difference - I have seen buildings around the Mediterranean with walls twice as thick as the example above. The catch is that the concrete or stone walls have a high thermal mass so they hold a lot of heat and take time to gain or lose it. This means that they act as temperature moderators heating up during the day and cooling down at night but with a large enough surface area to volume ratio they don't change temperature much. Provided you don't let the whole thing heat up you get a very even temperature. The disadvantage of a building with a high thermal mass is that it takes a lot to heat up a stone building that has been allowed to cool down or to cool one that has been heated up which is why you'll find people used to these buildings are very disciplined about keeping the building closed up during the day in hot climates or over winter


Thanks a million! You turned my feelings into science. The best. >which is why you'll find people used to these buildings are very disciplined about keeping the building closed up during the day in hot climates or over winter aka My parents


You don't have to deal with winter. That's the difference.


The wood houses are very good for the cold, that much is truth. The KW/m2 they reach is astounding. Most/all passive houses in Germany are wood


Having been to Spain, no your houses are not well insulated, when compared to Germany or Netherlands.


Do you know what you're talking about? You seem to know a lot about wood houses, but don't really know anything about brick/concrete houses. Electricity in stone houses is run through PVC tubing. You can always reach the distribution box in each room and easily swap out/ add wires. Adding more places for sockets is something you should never need to do anyway. Brick/concrete houses have a void for insulation. It also keeps heat in/out better than wood (hence why wood houses almost need AC) Adding extensions to stone houses isn't all that difficult either, it's done very often. Stone walls don't simply get damaged. Yes it is easier to rebuild a wood wall, but that's not really an advantage as it's even easier to not rebuild a stone wall. If you really need to rebuild a stone wall because of structural damage (eg someone drove a lorry though it) it's not really a question of wood vs stone, but a question of a new house vs a new wall ​ Don't get me wrong, wood is an amazing building material. As wood houses last about as long as the wood needs to grow they are pretty eco friendly (when proper care is taken insulating and used in a moderate climate and without AC), but the reason wood is such a prevalent building material in the US/Canada is because it's cheap, there are way more workers skilled in building wood houses (making it cheap) and because the US is pretty open so sound proofing isn't that big a deal.


Wood is fine for making furniture, ships, and even shoes. Why is everyone so weird about using it to build houses?


This is bullshit. Outside walls are double with An empty space in between. That is where we insulate/isolate if we decide to. A proper brick wall is less flexible in the sense that IT is more work to remove IT. A brick/cement house is always stronger but more expensive.


The plumbing and electric is so difficult to make by making lines in bricks and what not. Though my city (not in USA) has neither heavy winds nor heavy floods or even minor floods that much, i want to try concrete structure as framing and then everything else wooden. And thought why USA houses arent atleast frame structures or concrete structures


Originally during the period the US was being colonised it would have been build speed and easy availability of the material. Nothing is going to be faster than building a wooden building if the land is forested to begin with


I'd also argue that wood construction would have been the norm for most early colonists that came from Western Europe, New England and the Mid Atlantic is reasonably close to the European climate with similar tree species so construction techniques wouldn't need much if any modification.


So now that we have concrete easily available to us, would it not make better financial sense to make a new home with concrete rather than wood?


Don't you watch HGTV? We like to tear down walls with sledgehammers, move walls, put up walls and then maybe tear them down again if we feel like it. It's what we do, we like the flexibility of wood construction.


Concrete isn't very bendy, so it's hard to make narrow beams of it the same way we do with wood. So you end up having to have solid walls of concrete, which is still more expensive than stick-framed wood houses that are mostly hollow. However, with the recent lumber shortage, concrete was cost-competitive for a while.


In the direct sunlight of the desert, concrete is more expensive to cool and insulated wood and stucco homes are much cheaper.


I would have thought so yes. Coming from the UK it's brick that I am used to seeing. You would think that the wood exterior has to be replaced rather often, more maintenance than brick or concrete.


Not really. If you just paint it about once every decade and make sure plants don’t grow up against the wall, wood buildings can last almost indefinitely. Check out this [wood church](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Borgund_Stave_Church) in Norway that’s almost a _thousand_ years old.


House exteriors are lined with siding (typically vinyl or stucco), you can't expose the wood frame directly to the elements. The siding does have to be replaced fairly often, but brick/concrete siding is fairly popular.


Not true. Just maintain the paint and keep plants away from the wood and it’s going to be fine pretty much indefinty. Source: me having grown up in a hundred year old wood building in perfect condition. Also, check out this almost a _thousand_ year old [wooden church](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Borgund_Stave_Church) in Norway.


Nah man, if kept painted and cared for the siding on a house will last indefinitely.


Wood houses can last a long time if properly taken care of. And they’re a lot cheaper to build. And the US has tons of wood.


So why are the houses so expensive then? Asking for a non-US friend.


Because they're built on high demand land, which is hard to come by in some parts.


They aren't really... the land is expensive.


Our houses are hilariously cheap outside of a major city center. The cheapest country in the world's price per square foot of house is Turkey at $69/ft\^2. If you look at the prices across the states, Ohio's average is a whopping $85. Indiana is $84. You can reasonably find a 3200ft\^2 house (300m\^2) on a full acre of land in a city of 150k+ people for $200k all day, in good condition, normally. Right now, since the pandemic, prices are really high, but that'll come back down. Near Atlanta (a pretty major city), a friend bought a house for $120k that was a 1200ft\^2 house with a basement on 3/4 acre. On the other end of things, you can try to buy a house in one of the big cities in California or in NYC and pay a million dollars for a 700ft\^2 house on nearly no land.


I'm in the Bay Area. 1m is cheap in the city. You might even get a full house with that. Or you can spend 600k for a 1/8th share of a house. Fkn aholes.


Land and labor are the expensive part. A sort of tongue-in-cheek saying I always liked is "you're not paying for the parts, you're paying for the other guy's mortgage" or something like that.


It's not about the house. It's because landlords and corporations own everything in the US. We have more empty houses than homeless families, and that split has been growing wider as the income gap grows wider as well.


Speed of construction. You may be familiar with the concept of barn raising from movies where a whole community comes together and builds a barn for one of their members. Using wood such a building or at least the load bearing structure, roof and sides can be built in 1-2 days with relatively ridimentary tools. Once that is accomplished the inside can be completed without fear of bad weather. Being able to construct something fast also makes it cheaper. Which became particularly important with the rise of suburban developments. If you try to create individual houses for a large part of the population it needs to be cheap enough in construction that said large part can afford it. And there need to be enough of these houses on the market that there isn't going to be a "bidding war" for them. That however only works if you have an environment that can supply that much wood (not the middle east) and will leave wood buildings standing. Wood is great but does have it's limits in very strong storms and also doesn't like to be wet a lot (India)


Timber is actually the most common construction material for domestic projects throughout most of Europe as well, so it definitely isn't just America using it. To consider a few of the reasons: It is much easier to work with on site. It is much cheaper to produce. It is more environmentally friendly to produce. It is easier to insulate (important where a house will be using heating or air conditioning) - insulation can be fitted between the studs, in a concrete structure you need to frame out with timber inside of the concrete structure to house this). It is easier to run services between timber joists and studs. It is slightly more flexible, so better supports small movements of the structure. There are also a lot of the same benefits over brickwork/blockwork too - while a lot of European houses appear to be masonry on the outside, this is actually just a ~100mm thick leaf around the outside of a timber structure. The important thing is that designed properly a timber structure can be hugely strong. Where you see American houses being blown away? A big part of that will be poor local building codes, bad design or substandard construction where mistakes have been made or corners cut to get the houses built quickly and cheaply - in a lot of cases better timber structures would have survived, as would some other construction types like concrete, but they also cost a lot more to make, so somebody along the way made the decision to take the gamble on the cheaper structure instead... The same also goes for noise transmission between apartment accomodation - correctly insulate and isolate your properties and you can be completely cut off from your neighbours. Cheap out on the construction with substandard insulation, no mechanical isolation, and provide easy routes for sound transmission through badly designed, interlinked air conditioning and other services, and you will hear every time your neighbours cough or fart - I am separated from my neighbours by timber, and it takes them screaming at the top of their lungs before they disturb me.


>Timber is actually the most common construction material for domestic projects throughout most of Europe as well Do you have a source for this? From my experience, new houses being built in Europe are almost always brick/concrete some other stone type. Sure structural support for roofs is usually timber, but I find this hard to believe. Could be wrong though


I can certainly say that in eastern europe 99% of the new houses are concrete/brick.


I feel like a lot of these answers are really missing the deeper underlying reasons. I don't have an answer myself but looking at the responses up till now I see the following fallacies: 1. using wood to build a house is great, apparently batter and cheaper than concrete! Ok then why isn't the rest of the world building with wood, especially the parts of the earth where forests are abundant? 2. Its great that wood works for you in the US but why does it not work in India or Middle East? Is it the climate, availability of wood (I guess that is the real reason for the Middle East), tradition, flora, fauna, regulation... Lets make it even more general, which circumstances favour a wood construction over a concrete construction if any (especially those that go beyond tradition and regulation which are both artificial constraints)?


Too add to this, with current wood prices, I'd like to know the difference in price of a wood house and a block house. Also, everyone keeps mentioning concrete and bricks. Brick homes and poured concrete (walls) are not common in places like Europe. Cinder block or porous concrete blocks are the material of choice. Bricks are small and slow to work with. Most houses that look like brick only have faux brick cladding on the exterior. Porous concrete blocks are extremely easy to work with. You can cut them with a hand saw, electricity/water/heating is easy to incorporate into them and there is virtually no fire hazard, they are easy to repair, they can be combined with drywall, and are easy to insulate with styrofoam (and offer some insulation themselves).


They haven't had to build anything that lasts because the USA is about 5 minutes old compared to the rest of the world. London used to be mainly wooden too. Then we learnt, this was in the 1600s. A full 110 years before the founding of the USA... oh and also it's CHEAP (the great American mantra)


And every other modern nation is like 15 min old in the grand scheme of things… If you want to get all meta, fine. Just remember that you’re a fucking speck of dust just like the rest of us.


Ah yes. London learned about fire 300 years ago. Long before modern woodworking, construction, or fire prevention methods. **CLEARLY** using the much more expensive, labor intensive, less customizable, and harder to source option is the way to go because people who didn't even know the concept of the germ figured out the end all be all of construction.




I'd be curious to know the difference between a house that has higher upkeep (because wood) and lower hearing costs vs a house with lower upkeep (concrete) and higher beating costs. Maybe r/theydidthemath could help?


Concrete is great until something goes wrong, then when it does, it can be a real pain (and costly) to repair.


Based on my knowledge of living in a wood-framed house, and heating the inside when it's -30C outside, concrete is not worth it by a long shot. The basement concrete in my house has been identified as the #1 waste of heating energy in the house by a paid energy analysis. Framing and insulating my basement would cost about $15k [likely much more with current wood prices], and pay for itself in about 5 years.


But this is a basement though. A basement doesn't have insulation and has "excellent" thermal conductivity to the ground. Not a great 1 to 1 comparison


Concrete is not much more durable. Concrete ~~crumbles~~ degrades after decades, in which case the entire building may need to torn down and replaced. There is a [wood church in Norway](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Borgund_Stave_Church) that’s is nearly a thousand years old.


There is a concrete building in Rome that is over 2000 years old, you might have heard of it, the colloseum. And there are tons of other 2000 year old buildings, that have been through a lot. That's a 1000 more than your 1000, just saying one example is not really a good argument


Your argument is not a good argument either because it reeks of survivorship bias. Roman concrete was atypically durable.


Sure, but it’s not the same type of concrete we use today. > Modern concrete uses a paste of Portland cement and water to hold together small rocks. It degrades within decades, especially in harsh marine environments. Instead of Portland cement, the Roman concrete used a mix of volcanic ash and lime to bind rock fragments. [Nature magazine ](https://www.nature.com/articles/nature.2017.22231) Maybe that will change in the future, but my statement holds for currently existing modern concrete buildings.


there are thousands of concrete types. Portland cement is usually used for a reason, mainly cost and because houses are typically built to live 125 years. It is literally a design decision. FYI, most wood houses are built to survive 75 years. After those timeframes, extensive renovations are needed.