Five Building Materials Commonly Used in Construction
Jul 02, 2020
The construction industry uses a variety of building materials for different aspects of a home build. Architects consult with structural engineers on the load-bearing capabilities of the materials with which they design, and the most common materials are concrete, steel, wood, masonry, and stone. Each has different strength, weight, and durability, which makes it right for various uses. There are national standards and testing methods that govern the use of building materials in the construction industry, so that they can be relied on for providing structural integrity. Architects also choose materials based on cost and aesthetics.
Building materials are usually categorized into two sources: natural and manmade. Materials such as stone and wood are natural, and concrete, masonry, and steel are manmade. But both must be prepared or treated before they’re used in building. Here is a list of building materials that are commonly used in construction.
Steel is a metal alloy of iron and carbon and often other alloying material in its composition to make it stronger and more fracture-resistant than iron. Stainless steels resist corrosion and oxidation because of the additional chromium in their make-up. Because it is so strong compared to its weight and size, structural engineers use it for the structural framework of tall modern buildings and large industrial facilities. Some of its qualities include:
- Steel has high strength-to-weight and strength-to-size ratios.
- It’s high-cost relative to other metals. Structural engineers can consult on choosing the most cost-effective sizes to use in a house to support the actual load on the building.
- Steel is less time-consuming to install than concrete.
- It can be installed in any environment.
- Steel can be susceptible to corrosion if improperly installed or maintained
Chrome, gold, and silver are generally used for finishes or decoration because they lack the tensile strength of steel.
Concrete is a composite material made of fine and coarse aggregate (think gravel, crushed stone, recycled concrete, and geosynthetic aggregates) bound together by a liquid binder such as cement that hardens or cures over time. Portland cement is the most common type of cement, and is a fine powder, produced by heating limestone and clay materials in a kiln and adding gypsum. So Portland cement concrete consists of the mineral aggregate, bound with Portland cement and water. After mixing, the cement hardens or cures into the stone-like material we think of as concrete.
- Strength varies depending on the mix. Suppliers to the concrete industry usually provide the materials used for their concrete and test the concrete mix for its strength.
- Concrete can be poured into a form to take virtually any shape and harden into a material similar to stone.
- It takes at least seven days to cure, so engineers and architects must factor in that hardening time when they devise building schedules for concrete construction.
- Its versatility, cost, and strength make it the ideal material for a house foundation. Since it can carry a heavy load and withstand the forces from the surrounding environment, a concrete home foundation is common.
- To increase the tensile strength of concrete, engineers often plan for it to be reinforced with steel rods or bars (rebar).
Among the oldest, or perhaps the oldest, of building materials, wood has been used for thousands of years and has properties that make it an ideal building material—even in the days of engineered and synthetic materials.