Building Materials

Basic Building Materials

Building a house used to be so simple - all you needed was a bit of mud and thatch.  If you lived in the far north, then you could use ice to build your home.  Houses like this still exist in some parts of the world, because the materials needed are so accessible and fairly straightforward.

 However, as the centuries went by, people have discovered more ways to build  customised homes.  It is not enough just to have a house.  The house needs to be built to last for a very long time and able to withstand the usual weather conditions that its location is subject to.  These days, you not only have a vast selection in the choice of materials, but you can also choose the quality.  In the case of wood, for example, you can choose the sawn timber depth or the kind of lumber you would like to use. 

Building materials are classified according to its source, so they are either natural or synthetic.  Materials that are either unprocessed or minimally processed by the industry are classified as natural building materials.  Glass and lumber are examples of this.  A material is classified as synthetic if they are made in an industrial setting, such as plastics. 

Mud and clay buildings

This building material is not as uncommonly used now as you might think.  Using this type of material for your home has many benefits, which is the reason why it was so popular during ancient times.  Clay is very good at keeping temperature levels consistent.  Houses built with this material are warm in cold weather and cool in the summer months.  Walls made of earth change temperature slowly, which means it may take more resources to cool or heat a house.  However, when it does eventually heat up or cool down, the temperature will last longer.  

Building with Bricks

Bricks have been used to build homes for thousands of years and had evolved from the use of mud and clay.  It certainly retains the properties of mud and clay that were mentioned previously.  These are made from mixtures of mud or clay, then are sun-dried or baked in an oven to make them hard and to strengthen.  The size of bricks is usually not larger for a single person to handle, but various sizes are now available for those who prefer a certain size of brick.  This material is often used for smaller structures rather than commercial buildings.

Wood

When trees are cut and pressed, they turn into lumber and timber such as planks, boards and other similar materials.  It is widely used in construction and is used in most climates with nearly any type of structure.  The quality of wood depends on the tree, so some trees are better for building even if they are of the same kind.  Quality of the wood is also affected by growing conditions.   Unfortunately, this type of material is subject to termites.

Wood has been historically used to build log cabins and houses.  The invention of mechanised saws resulted in lumber being mass-produced.  This helped in building structures faster and more uniform in shape. 

Metal or Steel

Metal is predominantly used for structural framework of skyscrapers or larger buildings.  It is also sometimes used as an external surface covering.  The kind of metal commonly used for structuring is steel, which is an iron-based alloy.  It is strong, flexible and lasts a very long time when refined well.  Metal will have issues with longevity if it is faced with corrosion.

Other types of metal used are titanium, chrome, gold and silver.  For structuring purposes, titanium can be used, but is unfortunately much more expensive than steel.  Chrome, gold and silver are only used for decoration as they are too malleable.

Concrete (for building walls)

This material is made from a combination of aggregate (like gravel or sand) and a binder (such as cement).  When the aggregates and binders are mixed with water then dried, this hardens and turns into a material much like stone. 

Concrete in itself is not very durable.  Steel bars are used to strengthen it further, which turns it into reinforced concrete.  Air bubble must also be avoided when using this material as it will weaken the structure, so a vibrator is used for this purpose. 

This material has become the building material of choice because of its formability, longevity and ease of transport.

Glass (for windows)

Glass is a commonly used building material for windows.  This enables the structure to let natural light in and at the same time, leave the weather outside.  Glass is made from mixtures of silicates and sand, which had been heated in a kiln.  To make it bullet-proof or coloured, additives are added to the mixture.

This material is unfortunately very brittle and delicate, but is still popular in lieu of the aesthetic value it brings to a structure. 

Thatch (for building insulation)

Thatch is made of grass and is easily harvested.  It is one of the oldest building materials ever known because of its good insulation.  It once became popular in Europe for roofing, but has eventually been cast aside in favour of materials that are easily accessible.  Insulation aside, having a thatched roof looks lovely, but you may have to face the fact of regular upkeep.  Materials that are much more durable and require less maintenance had been favoured over thatch as a building material.

Rock (hard buildings)

The longest-lasting building material known in history is rock.  The fact that it is also readily available is also a good factor.  The best examples of stone structures are the Pyramids of Egypt and their Aztec versions. 

The quality of your structure will depend greatly on the type of rock you will use, as some may not have the right attributes to make the structure durable.  The major drawback in using rock, however, is its weight and awkward shapes. 

Dry-stone walls are made by stacking stones on top of each other and mortar (usually cement) is used to hold the stones together.  Granite and slate are the most popular types of stones used for building structures. 



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