Key Takeaway: Before you start building your dream home, you’ll need to consider what materials you plan to use. Some of the best materials to build a house include lumber, concrete, steel, stone and brick — but ultimately, you’ll need to decide which materials fit your budget, climate and aesthetic.
Among the many decisions you’ll make while building a house, one of the most difficult is selecting which materials will come together to create a home. Strength, durability, aesthetics and sustainability are all essential considerations. Your choice of materials plays a vital role in building a home that stands the test of time.
So, what are the best materials to build a house? Lumber, concrete, steel, stone and brick are all durable options that offer multiple uses. Beyond these options, you may also choose sustainable materials that are becoming increasingly popular.
Let’s look at these materials and how to pick the materials that best suit your needs.
Top 5 Best Materials to Build a House
Building a house is a complex process that requires careful planning and knowledge of the best materials. From lumber to brick, there are many options to weigh and factors to consider.
Here is a closer look at the top five materials contractors use in residential construction.
Have you ever thought about how much wood and lumber go into building a house? Lumber is the number one material used in almost any home — and for good reason. It’s extremely versatile, easy to source, durable and inexpensive when compared to other options. As for its uses, lumber is great for everything from structural to decor. Some common uses for lumber in homes include framing, wall sheathing, roof trusses, flooring, cabinets, siding and other internal and external finishes.
Pros of using lumber to build a house:
- Natural insulation properties
- Can be sustainably sourced
- Practical yet aesthetically pleasing
Cons of using lumber to build a house:
- Vulnerable to moisture
- Risk of settling and shrinking
- Can’t always guarantee sustainable sourcing
- Some strength limitations
Concrete is widely used in residential and commercial construction for its strength, durability and versatility. Many already know that concrete gets commonly used for building foundations and slabs, but did you know that there are plenty of other applications?
Home builders can utilize concrete in various ways to build exterior and interior walls, beams, columns, stairs and retaining walls. Concrete is also a popular choice for outdoor areas like patios and driveways. Lastly, concrete is becoming increasingly popular as a design accent, such as concrete countertops, floors, accent walls and more.
Pros of using concrete to build a house:
- Fire resistant
- Provides sound insulation
Cons of using concrete to build a house:
- Requires more time and labor
- Manufacturing harms the environment
- Challenging to modify
Another popular home-building material is steel. Thanks to its ability to carry heavy loads over wide spaces, builders use steel beams and columns for homes that desire a large open floor plan without the use of load-bearing walls or pillars. Home contractors might also use steel beams for roofing trusses or flooring systems.
Steel comes in many shapes, sizes and forms. While steel beams are often top of mind, contractors may also use steel stringers, treads and balusters for stairs and railings. While steel rebar is common for reinforcing a concrete foundation.
Pros of using steel to build a house:
- Strength and durability
- Customizable to meet design specifications
- Fire resistant
- Pest resistant
- Reusable and recyclable
- Mold resistant
Cons of using steel to build a house:
- Often requires specialized teams for construction
- Transfers heat easily
- Prone to corrosion if not protected properly
- Lacks sound insulation
- Modifying steel structures is complex and costly
Stone has been used in home construction for centuries and continues to be a popular choice due to its durability, natural beauty and timeless appeal. Thanks to its strength, stone is an excellent choice for building a home’s foundation as it creates a stable, load-bearing base that can withstand earthquakes and moisture.
Other than its use for foundations, it has various other purposes within homes and landscaping. Contractors can use many types of stone to construct exterior walls, retaining walls, outdoor steps and walkways, natural flooring, countertops, accent walls and fireplaces. Stonework, or masonry, is another popular use of stone.
Pros of using stone to build a house:
- Durability and longevity
- Natural beauty
- A natural insulator
- Provides sound insulation
- Fire resistant
Cons of using stone to build a house:
- Installation requires specialized teams
- May require regular maintenance and sealing
Brick houses aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. Brick is a versatile material and has a unique aesthetic many people gravitate towards. Bricks come in various colors and shapes, so they can fit almost anyone’s preferences. Brick is also highly customizable, as contractors can lay it in several ways to create visual interest.
While we might notice brick on mostly exterior walls, brick can be utilized in various ways like constructing accent walls, fireplaces, chimneys, archways, retaining walls, pathways and more.
Pros of using brick to build a house:
- Durability and longevity
- Withstands harsh weather conditions
- Requires minimal maintenance
- Highly customizable
- Aesthetically pleasing
- Fire resistant
- Made with widely-available natural materials
Cons of using brick to build a house:
- Installation requires specialty teams
- Results in longer construction timelines
- Difficult to alter for future renovations
7 Sustainable Building Materials for Home Building
Building homes can take up a lot of our earth’s natural resources. Thankfully, there are a few ways to use sustainable building materials in a home. From recycled steel to straw bales, here are some of the best materials that are recyclable, sustainably sourced or promote energy conservation.
1. Recycled Steel
Recycled steel, also known as scrap steel or secondary steel, is derived from recycled sources rather than being produced from raw materials. It involves collecting discarded steel items, such as old cars, appliances, industrial machinery or construction materials, and transforming them into usable steel through recycling methods.
Recycled steel can be made into new beams, columns, rebar and other steel fixtures that can replace anything that would otherwise be constructed with new steel.
2. Recycled Lumber
Recycled lumber, also known as reclaimed lumber or salvaged wood, is wood that is recycled from its original use and then repurposed as a new building material. The recycling process involves salvaging wood from abandoned structures, like old buildings and barns. The wood is then processed to ensure its structural integrity and reused in construction for structural purposes, flooring and other woodworking projects.
3. Laminated Wood
Laminated wood, or mass timber, is a material made from bonding together multiple layers of wood boards and veneer. Using these smaller pieces of lumber and bonding them together will maximize their structural integrity, so they can be used for various purposes, such as framing. The use of laminated wood can reduce waste and unethical deforestation practices.
The resulting product is a strong, functional material that contractors can use for various structural applications in home construction by creating beams, columns and trusses.
Bamboo is another sustainable alternative to lumber in a home thanks to it’s strength-to-weight ratio and its fast renewability. Unlike typical lumber, bamboo can mature in three to five years.
Although much lighter than lumber, bamboo can withstand heavy loads, so contractors can use it for structural elements to replace beams and trusses. Bamboo is also becoming a popular flooring material, as it is an eco-friendly alternative to hardwood.
5. Straw Bales
Straw bales are an environmentally friendly alternative to man-made insulation, due to their trapped air pockets. These pockets act as thermal barriers which provide insulation and regulate temperatures in the house by reducing heat transfer through the walls.
Since straw is quickly renewable and doesn’t contain any harmful chemicals or synthetic materials, it’s a great alternative for a contractor that’s looking for an energy-efficient, non-toxic alternative to current-day insulation materials.
6. Low Emissivity Windows
Low emissivity (Low-E) windows have a thin film on the glass that reduces heat transfer while improving energy efficiency within homes and other buildings. Low-E windows can minimize the amount of heat transferred through windows while allowing natural light to pass through.
When windows reduce heat transfer, homeowners have less of a need to run their air conditioning units during the summer months and can effectively reduce their carbon footprint.
7. Precast Concrete
Concrete is already a popular and necessary building material, but it can result in excess waste when it’s poured onsite. Alternatively, contractors can use precast concrete elements, such as walls, slabs, beams, columns and other structural elements, then assemble them onsite.
Since casting concrete in a controlled environment can effectively reduce construction waste, it’s proven to be a more efficient and eco-friendly alternative to pouring concrete at the construction site.
How To Pick Out Building Materials
When you’re building a house, there are plenty of factors to consider. Especially regarding materials, you have to account for everything from budget to climate to design preferences.
When faced with all these questions, it can be hard to decide without feeling overwhelmed. Keep reading for a breakdown of how to pick out your materials below.
Review Your Budget
Building a house is an expensive process, and when you’re thinking about your materials, you want to ensure you’re getting the right price for everything you need. When reviewing your materials budget, obtain quotes from multiple suppliers or manufacturers to compare prices and availability of materials.
Do this during the pre-construction phase because the last thing you want to do is discover that your favorite materials you’ve picked out are out of budget.
Consider the Climate
Certain climates may not allow for certain materials. For example, an environment with high humidity levels may not be suitable for natural hardwood floors, as they can warp over time. If you’re unsure what materials are best for the climate, you can rely on local home-building authorities to steer you in the right direction.
Double-Check for Durability
Houses have the potential to last multiple lifetimes with few repairs when built with the right materials. All of the above materials we’ve listed are durable, and with proper insulation and care, can last for years to come.
Think About the Installation
Certain materials need specialized subcontractor teams to come in for installation. Waiting for other teams to come to the worksite could extend your timeline and cost you more, so make sure to budget (both timewise and moneywise) before committing to specialty materials like stone and brick.
Weigh Your Sustainable Options
Is sustainability important to you? If so, there are plenty of options available to make a home more sustainable. However, it’s important to note that many of these sustainable options aren’t always easy to source and may cost more. If sustainability is a top priority, make sure to budget for it.
Don’t Forget About Aesthetic
Everyone wants a house that fits their design preferences, so when you’re assessing the materials to build the house, don’t just stick to inexpensive materials that will last. Consider your new home must-haves and what makes a house a home. Is it a stone fireplace? Or exposed brick? Or a large wooden wrap-around porch? Don’t forget to consider these essential design elements when planning materials.
Home Building Materials FAQ
Building a house and picking out materials can come with a lot of questions. Here are a few of the most common questions about house materials.
What is the Longest-Lasting House Building Material?
Steel is a strong and resilient material often used in structural components of buildings. Steel-framed structures can withstand environmental forces, including earthquakes and high winds. Steel buildings can have a long lifespan with proper maintenance and protection against corrosion.
What are Some of the Most Affordable Materials for Building a House?
Even if you’re building an extravagant house, chances are, you’re still working within a budget. So let’s look at some great options that happen to be affordable materials for a house. Affordable house-building materials include:
- Concrete blocks
- Structural insulated panels
- Vinyl siding
- Asphalt shingles
When thinking about affordability, it’s also important to consider availability. If lumber seems like an affordable option, but isn’t widely available in your state, it could cost more to ship it than it would to swap it out for a different option.
What is the Strongest Wood to Build a House With?
When it comes to the strength of wood for building a house, several species are known for their high-strength properties. Douglas fir, southern yellow pine and oak species are strong and suitable for building a house. When using natural wood, it’s essential to consider what is readily available near you.
Build With the Best Materials and Equipment
After deciding on the best materials to build a house, you‘ll also need the best equipment. If you’re looking for reliable and convenient construction equipment rentals, BigRentz has your back. With only a few clicks, you can reserve the necessary equipment to build a house. We’ll even deliver it to your job site. Browse and rent all your equipment with BigRentz today!