A high ceiling sunroom in Houston, something that Cross Construction Services can help build for your house.

The Benefits of a Sunroom or Patio Room

Do you like spending time outdoors, but the hot Texas summers make it difficult to enjoy your patio as much as you would like? One easy solution is to enclose the space and transform it into a sunroom or enclosed patio room. If you do not have a patio on your home, adding a sunroom or patio room is also a great option.

How does converting a patio into a sunroom give you more use out of your space?

Have you ever had to head indoors while enjoying your morning coffee because it started raining? Maybe the mosquitoes came out and were biting you everywhere? Have you gotten too hot and sweaty, so you retreated inside? By converting your patio into a sunroom for your home, you can continue to enjoy the outdoors and never have to worry about these types of problems.

You could even add ceiling fans or extend the ducts from your central air conditioning as part of your sunroom home improvement project. These optional upgrades help keep you cool in the summer, so you can relax outdoors for as long as you want.

How will a sunroom add value and curb appeal to your home?

One of the benefits gained with sunroom additions is they increase the value of your home. The newly enclosed space provides extra living space. While this extra space can be used as a sunroom or patio, it could also be used for a dining room, game room, or other purposes.

Another benefit of adding a sunroom is it enhances the overall appearance of your home. While the enclosure may not be easily seen from the street, it does add to the curb appeal of the house. Should you ever decide to sell your home, having a sunroom is extremely effective at attracting potential buyers.

What other benefits do I gain with a sunroom?

Sunrooms offer even more great benefits besides getting to enjoy your outdoor space year-round, increasing the value of your home, and adding to its curb appeal, including:

  • Increases Privacy – If you have nosy neighbors, an enclosed patio room offers added privacy.
  • Increases Square Footage – The total square footage for your home is increased, thanks to enclosing your patio.
  • Added Health Benefits – You do not have to worry as much about seasonal allergies. Your immune system also benefits from more exposure to natural sunlight.
  • Keep Pests Away – Your friends and family can enjoy spending time outdoors eating, watching the big game, or just relaxing and never have to retreat indoors because mosquitoes and other pests get out of control.
  • Grow Fresh Fruits, Vegetables, and Herbs Year-Round – Since it is easier to control the climate in an enclosed sunroom, you can have access to fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs whenever you want.
  • Never Have to Worry About the Weather – You do not have to worry if it starts raining or is a bit windy or too hot or too cold with an enclosed patio room.

What options do I have when adding a patio room onto my home?

There are several different designs of patio rooms and sunrooms you can choose from, such as:

  • Screen Enclosures – This type of patio room is enclosed using screens to keep bugs and pests away. Screen enclosures provide access to fresh air whenever you want.
  • Three Season Enclosures – This type of enclosure combines a screen enclosure with windows. The windows can be installed and removed depending on the time of the year and weather like on rainy days or hot summer days.
  • Four Season Enclosures – If you want to enjoy your new patio room or sunroom year-round, then you need a four season enclosure. This type of enclosure uses thermal-resistant and insulated windows to maintain interior temperatures better.
  • Heated and Cooled Enclosures – You can also heat and cool a four season enclosure since the windows are insulated.

How to Convert a Patio into a Sunroom or Patio Room

A sunroom next to a swimming pool in Houston, something that Cross Construction Services can help build for your house.

If you have an existing patio that is already covered, then converting it is fairly easy. You just need to have exterior framing installed, along with a door if you want access to your backyard from the patio room.

If your existing patio is not covered, the project will involve adding a roof over the patio with the proper supports and framing. If you need to add a sunroom onto your home, the project will involve a few more steps like pouring the concrete foundation for the sunroom.

Whether you are looking to enclose your existing patio, a traditional addition, or a completely new design, you can count on Cross Construction Services. We offer flexible patio designs to suit the unique needs of you and your family.

For further information or to request a free estimate for an enclosed patio or sunroom, please feel free to call us at 713-254-1703 today!

Interior of a modern apartment furnished

Tips for Adding a Sunroom to Your Property

A sunroom is a great option for homeowners who want a sun-filled space that is not only beautiful but functional as well. These rooms can be used as your home oasis for relaxing or entertaining guests. If you’re looking to add square footage to your home, a year-round sunroom is definitely worth considering.

While sunrooms cost less than other kinds of home additions, this doesn’t mean that you should make this decision lightly.  Here’s what you need to know before adding a sunroom so that you can stay on track and design a room that will benefit you and your family for years to come.

Know Your Budget

Sunroom additions can cost anywhere from $8,000 to $80,000. With such a broad range, it’s important for you to know exactly how much you have available to spend. This way, you can make tailored decisions that won’t send you over your budget.

There are many factors that influence the cost of a sunroom, including:

  • Size
  • Materials used
  • Type of sunroom
  • Features
  • Exterior and interior conditions

In general, the size, complexity, and building materials will have the biggest impact on the total cost of the sunroom. Most four-season rooms are designed to seamlessly become part of the home. This means that they not only blend internally but externally as well. This requires the sunroom to be built with the same materials as your home, including footers, insulation, siding, trim, and more.

Carefully Plan Out the Space

Take some time to think about how you will use your new sunroom addition. Do you want for a breakfast nook where you can read a book, sip coffee, and watch the sun come up? Is it a space for entertaining friends and family members during get-togethers?

Defining the intended space and vision for the room will allow you to make more informed decisions when choosing a size, materials, and other details.

You’ll also want to think about how big of a sunroom you want. The bigger the room, the more outdoor space you lose. A larger room may also cut into your home’s indoor space in order to make the room as usable as possible.

Sunrooms are cheaper than most additions, but you’ll want to make sure that every square foot you’re paying for will be used.

Choose the Right Placement

Most sunrooms are meant to be transitional. This means that they don’t impact the flow of your existing space. When having a sunroom addition installed, placement is crucial. You’ll want to choose a spot around your home that gets plenty of sun. If you want to use your sunroom for resting and relaxing, consider the view as well.

Choosing the wrong placement for your sunroom could be disastrous! Imagine spending tens of thousands of dollars to be stuck looking at your neighbor’s fence or getting little to no sun.

It’s also important to consider placement in terms of internal access. What room will you have to walk through in order to get to the sunroom? Most people access their rooms through the kitchen or living room, but this isn’t a requirement.

Unsure about placement? Ask the contractor for some ideas!

Pick the Right Materials

Most sunrooms are designed to flawlessly blend into your existing home, including siding and roof shingle colors, but this doesn’t have to always be the case!

There are many different materials that can be used to build a sunroom, including wood, vinyl, and aluminum. Wood creates a beautiful natural look but requires routine maintenance. On the other hand, vinyl and aluminum are much easier to care for.

You’ll also get to choose door and window materials. These items are most commonly made from glass, but vinyl and acrylic are also available options.

For extra privacy, consider screens. There are also pet-friendly screens that are durable and will keep you and your furry family members comfortable and safe.

Choose a Reputable Contractor

Installation of a glass roof for the terrace

Choosing the right contractor to build your sunroom addition is a must. Ideally, you want to hire a company that has years of experience in building sunrooms so you can have the peace of mind you’ll be completely satisfied with the end product.

Whether you’re looking for a single screen or want to be able to enjoy a three- or four-season sunroom, you can count on Cross Construction Services. We have a team of skilled contractors that knows the ins and outs of designing and constructing beautiful sunrooms.

Careful planning is key for any sunroom project. We work with clients to determine the best placement, design features, and materials to meet their needs. We also remain mindful of your budget so that you don’t spend a penny more than what you planned to spend.

We offer a variety of sunroom options, so, no matter your taste or budget, you can count on us to recommend the perfect addition for you. Cross Construction Services offers professional and competitively priced sunroom services. Our team can take on projects of all types and sizes.

Ready to discuss your sunroom project? Contact us today to schedule a free consultation!

Understanding the Different Types of Pavers for Your Driveway

Boxwood in the garage driveway

Pavers are flat surfaces that are typically made of concrete, natural stone, and brick.

Property owners install pavers to elevate the functionality and aesthetics of their driveway. The materials paving stones contain emit a sense of natural beauty that’s multi-dimensional. Every paver color, texture, and size brings something new and exciting to the table.

Additional outdoor spaces that commonly utilize paving stones include:

  • Walkways
  • Patios
  • Pool decks
  • Fire pits

You won’t have to deal with your paving stones’ beauty fading quickly, as popular paver materials are incredibly durable.

One of the most durable and economical paver materials is concrete. Let’s take a closer look at why concrete pavers remain a popular choice for driveways everywhere.

Concrete Pavers

The dry concrete mix that concrete pavers consist of includes cement, gravel, sand, and pigments. After the mixing process, molds can then be created. A vibration allows the cement mix to compress and form a shape before curing.

Concrete paver pricing depends mostly on the product’s style and size.

Installing Concrete Pavers

Concrete paver installation requires a clear building site. Clearing room to install concrete pavers consists of removing pre-existing paving, loose soil, or grass in the building area. The foundation of concrete pavers is a compact gravel base that’s followed by a layer of sand. Installing edging will create a border for your pavers and keep them secure.

Once the stage is set, pavers can be set in place. All pavers in your building site must fit tightly together. Motorized plate compacts do an excellent job securing the pavers into the sand base. The joints between pavers will contain a sand filling that’s then compacted again to ensure a proper fit.

Concrete Paver Driveways

Concrete is one most common paver driveway surfaces due to its economic nature and long-lasting durability. Standard concrete paver designs include molding the concrete into a brick shape.

Molding concrete into brick shapes is about more than looks. Concrete bricks contain more strength than plain concrete slabs. It’s not unusual for concrete paver driveways to last up to fifty years. One of the biggest advantages of concrete bricks is the fact that they’re less expensive than traditional bricks.

Concrete Pavers vs. Poured Concrete

Concrete pavers will give you far more styles, patterns, shapes, and colors than poured concrete will. The style flexibility of poured concrete mostly consists of some stamping and staining methods.

If you have to remove or replace individual concrete pavers, you’ll be able to get the job done. Repairs are a common reason why concrete pavers might call for removal or replacement.

Poured concrete slabs don’t offer the same room for repairs that concrete pavers do. Any repairs you perform on a concrete slab will be permanently visible.

The positive news is that concrete pavers require small amounts of regular maintenance.

Concrete Paver Maintenance

gloved hands of a manuel worker laying outdoor paving slabs on a prepared base.

Routine concrete paver maintenance mostly consists of sweeping and rinsing the concrete area with a hose. Occasionally, weeds will sprout up between individual concrete pavers. Do your best to remove weeds quickly whenever they appear.

Everyone that owns a driveway made with concrete pavers wants their driveway’s surface to remain smooth. One way to do this is to apply a sealer regularly. There are several concrete cleaners available on the market that help you fight surface staining. We recommend that you consult with your concrete paver manufacturer for recommendations on concrete cleaning products.

In summary, concrete paver driveways:

  • Are constructed using molded concrete mixed with aggregate
  • Contain strong and durable characteristics
  • Utilize a sealing process to retain their color
  • Can be dyed to mimic the appearance of other materials like brick
  • Offer a wide range of styles, colors, and patterns
  • Interlocking concrete pavers utilize small gaps for water drainage

While concrete pavers remain a reliable choice for homeowners, other paver materials like natural stone and brick exist as additional options for your driveway.

Stone Pavers

Stone pavers, otherwise known as natural stone pavers, contain some inherent disadvantages compared to concrete pavers. Regarding price, stone pavers are more expensive than concrete pavers.

If you have the budget to accommodate stone pavers for your driveway, you might still want to consider concrete pavers. Natural stone pavers aren’t as resistant to the pressures that high-traffic areas like driveways contain. This doesn’t necessarily mean that stone pavers are fragile. Limestone pavers are known for their durability and are frequently used for edging.

Natural stone pavers are more appropriate for outdoor additions like pool decks due to their absorbent properties.

There’s no doubt that stone pavers hold a distinct natural beauty. The organic textures and colors that natural stone pavers possess communicate a striking aesthetic.

Brick Pavers

It’s common for homeowners to utilize brick pavers to supply their driveway with an elegant appearance. While concrete pavers offer more durability, brick pavers can still manage the traffic that a driveway presents.

Regarding maintenance, brick pavers have a higher likelihood of experiencing cracks and breaks than concrete pavers. The main downside of brick paver durability is that their surfaces call for routine sealing to fight stains. Additional brick paver maintenance practices mirror what concrete pavers call for. Brick paver owners often use pressure washers to keep the building material’s looks up to speed.

One disadvantage with brick pavers is that they offer fewer design options than concrete pavers and cost more on average.

When you’re able to dish out some extra bucks and exhibit proper maintenance practices, brick pavers can supply your driveway with a classic look that should last over 25 years.

Professional Concrete Paver Installation in Houston, Texas

Concrete pavers provide the durability and styling options that your driveway needs. For expert concrete paver consulting and installation in the Houston, Texas area, contact Cross Construction Services.

Our 30-plus years of concrete construction for concrete driveways help you achieve the results that you desire. Cross Construction Services strives to provide our customers with concrete paver solutions that are straightforward and economical.

When you’re ready to initiate your project, contact Cross Construction Services at 713-254-1703. Your project will start with one of our contractors visiting your location and offering a free consultation regarding your plans.

Why Concrete Is the Right Choice for Your Patio’s Material

concrete patio stones

Property owners have plenty of choices when it comes to selecting a material for their patio. We’re here to unpack why concrete is the ideal patio material so you can make the most out of your property investment.

Let’s dive in.

Reason #1: Style Versatility

Patio materials like wood limit a homeowner’s ability to consider different styling options. Concrete patios offer a higher level of style versatility that allows you to acquire a final product that blends seamlessly with your overall space. If you were to select a patio material like wood, you’d find that it’s more difficult to be unique with your styling.

Choosing an adaptable material like concrete is going to make it easier for your patio to accommodate your backyard’s limitations through options like curves.

grunge wall

Color is a vital component of concrete patio designs. Methods like staining allow homeowners to install a wide variety of patio color options. Similar to color, pattern selections are going to play a central role in defining your patio. The refinement of coloring techniques and stamping tools has made patio varieties like poured-in-place concrete more dynamic than ever.1

The numerous styling options that concrete patios offer allow you to avoid owning a one-dimensional patio space. Instead, your patio will be uniquely yours.

You might be thinking that these concrete patio style perks come with a steep price tag. The positive news is that concrete is one of the more affordable options for a patio’s material. Next, we’re going to explain why this is the case.

Reason #2: Affordability

Two women sitting on sofa on outdoor backyard

Paving stones and wood are two common patio materials that are far more expensive than concrete patios. A typical wooden deck costs $33 per square foot, while concrete patios usually average $15 per square foot.2

While complementing your concrete patio’s design with additions like patterns comes at a cost, incorporating styling options on concrete patios is far more affordable than other materials like stone.

If you’re striving to create a patio space that resembles more expensive materials like stones at a fraction of the cost, concrete stenciling, stamping, engraving, and texturing are excellent options.

When looking to reduce the initial cost of installing a patio, concrete is a solid option.

Reason #3: Easy to Maintain

The solid surfaces of concrete patios require far less maintenance than alternative materials like masonry units. When your patio consists of materials like individual masonry units, additional maintenance practices like dealing with weeds are bound to crop up.

If you’re wondering how weeds can enter a patio, materials like paving stones contain sand-filled joints between units that can foster invasive plant growth.2 The aforementioned solid surfaces of concrete patios serve to prevent weeds from entering the picture.

Materials like wood will force you to stain and reseal to avoid cracking and splitting, which can be a real bummer. On the other hand, concrete patios allow you to perform maintenance yourself without special tools or equipment.

General concrete patio maintenance practices include:3

  • Surface rinsing with a garden hose
  • Using liquid dish soap and a push broom
  • Rising again to wash the soap away
  • One annual sealing

If you place value on environmental consciousness, keep reading!

Reason #4: Environmental Friendliness

Green building is becoming increasingly essential as time goes on. It’s vital that we sustainably construct buildings and homes so future generations can benefit.

Concrete is one of the world’s most environmentally friendly materials, thanks to its sustainability. Limestone, one of the earth’s most abundant minerals, is the primary raw material for the cement in concrete. Other materials manufacturers use to create concrete are silica fume, sly ash, and additional recyclable materials.4

The sustainability that concrete patios provide translates into long-lasting results. You can trust that your concrete patio will stand its ground against heat, rust, and rotting. It’s not uncommon for a concrete patio to last double or even triple the amount of time of other patio materials.

If you’re wondering how concrete patios withstand natural elements like heat, reflectivity is a primary factor.4 Light-colored concrete is going to attract less heat and reflect higher levels of solar radiation.

Hiring a company to address your concrete patio needs will simplify the entire building process. We understand that you’re looking for a patio contractor that can turn your vision into a reality. Let’s talk about how Cross Construction Services can help you accomplish that goal.

Why You Should Choose Cross Construction Services

Our 30-plus years serving Houston, Texas, and the surrounding Houston area help you accomplish your concrete patio goals by using our straightforward and economical knowledgeable approach.

Concrete patios aren’t limited to fully outdoor spaces. If you’re looking for patio room contractors, you’ve come to the right place. We build screened-in patios so you can enjoy the outdoors with additional protection from natural elements.

Durable and easy to maintain, concrete patios are a reliable and affordable choice. Contact Cross Construction Services today at 713-254-1703 to start building your ideal concrete patio.

Sources:

  1. https://www.concretenetwork.com/concrete-patio/benefits.html
  2. https://www.portaggregates.com/choose-concrete-patio-surface/
  3. https://www.concretenetwork.com/concrete-patio/maintenance.htm
  4. https://www.concretenetwork.com/concrete/greenbuildinginformation/

10 Cutting-Edge Concrete Construction Techniques for Your Next Project

If you’re just starting a new construction project or reading this article, you’ll probably be using concrete at some point soon. Thankfully, concrete construction has come a long way from pouring cement into wooden forms: From self-healing formulations to entirely 3D-printed constructions, you may be surprised to discover just how far concrete has come!

While there’s nothing wrong with keeping things simple, your project may benefit from adopting one of the following methods and techniques. Not only are many of these methods extremely cost- and time-effective, but they’re also surprisingly easy to implement—so much so that they might be substantially easier and less expensive to use for your project than traditional concrete construction methods.

As you’ll see shortly, some of these cutting-edge techniques don’t even involve concrete directly; in some cases, the improvements are all in the design process. Read on to find out more!

1. Augmented Reality

Augmented reality marketing concept for architecture

Augmented reality has not only become beneficial for concrete construction, but it’s also now widely used throughout the construction industry as a whole. With augmented reality, prototyping and planning have become leaner, less expensive, and more flexible than ever before.

What exactly is augmented reality, and how can it benefit you and your project—let alone one specifically involving concrete?

Augmented reality is similar to virtual reality, but instead it “augments” your field of vision with virtual structures—namely, your construction project. This process is usually performed using a smartphone or some other “smart device,” where software simulates how your structure will look by placing it into your camera view. This way, you can “view” your project through your camera lens without any need for physical prototyping.

While augmented reality may seem fairly high tech, there’s a good chance you’ve done most of the work already: If you’ve been planning your project “on paper,” you’ve likely used computer-assisted design (CAD) software to do so. With many augmented reality programs working in tandem with most major CAD software distributions, you can automatically convert your existing project plans into an immersive, or at least semi-immersive, augmented reality experience using a smart device.

2. 3D Printing and Modeling

As with augmented reality, 3D printing and modeling allow you to convert your designs into tangible prototypes—and, in some cases, build your entire structure or modular components directly using concrete 3D printing.

While building-scale 3D printing is still in development, conventional 3D printing can still help you design, prototype, and build many components of your project. In its most accessible form, resin-based 3D printing can be used to print scaled-down prototypes of your designs, which may grant a helpful perspective beyond simply imagining the design or viewing it through software.

Now, if you have access to concrete 3D printing technology, then certainly take advantage of it: Construction companies have achieved overwhelmingly positive results by simply 3D printing their concrete structures rather than dealing with form molds, setting times, and other drawbacks usually associated with conventional concrete construction.

Plus, with many concrete 3D-printed structures showing similar—if not superior—performance to factory-formed structures, 3D printing is set to become more commonplace in construction soon.

3. Pre-Cast Foundations

corner of brick wall with clouds behind

We know what you might be thinking and, unfortunately, it’s not quite practical to form a concrete foundation in a factory and then transport it somewhere—at least, not all at once that is.

Here, a “pre-cast” foundation is built using some number of pre-cast modules. These modules can range in size from cinderblocks to larger, modular components. The latter has now become a favored concrete construction method. In any case, using modular components to build your foundation offers far greater flexibility than traditional poured-concrete construction methods.

The benefits aren’t just limited to flexibility in design: By using the right techniques and materials, precast foundations are far less prone to structural errors and easier to repair or insulate. Of course, assembling pre-cast modules is somewhat more involved than simply pouring the foundation—but at least you won’t have to deal with building forms and pouring messy cement!

4. Pre-Cast Flat-Panel Modules

Foundations aren’t the only major structures that can benefit from pre-cast modules: Floors, walls, and other large sections can, too. With many of these components now made in controlled factory settings, it’s now possible to achieve the flexibility of modular construction with the strength of concrete—all without the mess of pouring concrete at the job site.

Also known as “cross-wall construction,” using pre-cast flat-panel modules is quickly becoming a popular construction choice for concrete buildings. Manufacturing panels in a controlled setting not only lends new flexibility to concrete construction but makes it much easier for construction teams to adhere to specifications while significantly shortening project times.

5. 3D Volumetric Construction

3D volumetric construction combines the speed and flexibility of modular construction with the design capabilities of 3D printing and other forms of additive manufacturing. The result is completely pre-fabricated, 3D concrete modules, such as individual units in a concrete apartment building. Where pre-cast foundations and flat-panel modules still require major assembly at the job site, 3D volumetric construction reduces major onsite assembly to—quite literally—stacking blocks together.

Of course, like pre-cast foundations and flat panels, 3D volumetric construction requires off-site facilities for producing the modules. While utilizing such facilities may come with additional overhead, the increased flexibility, control over design, and adherence to specifications are often worth any additional investment.

6. Self-Healing Concrete

Self-healing concrete is finally starting to take shape in the construction world. While concrete has been around since ancient Rome, even the most modern formulations are still prone to cracking and degrading over time. As a result, regular concrete repair remains a crucial part of concrete maintenance—but maybe not for much longer!

By mixing beneficial colonies of bacteria directly into the concrete, self-healing concrete becomes capable of automatically filling cracks, gaps, and other damage as they form. While this technology is still relatively new, it’s already delivering promising results and could potentially reduce—if not eliminate—many routine concrete repair tasks in the near future.

7. Raised-Access Flooring

Concrete has also become a preferred material for raised-access flooring, where concrete panels are suspended above the ground using specially-made hardware. With this extra space, it’s possible to run HVAC, electrical wiring, and other utilities below the floor—or, in other words, completely out of sight. Plus, with concrete as the primary material, raised-access flooring is both durable and inexpensive.

In addition to providing extra space for utilities, raised-access flooring can also help improve the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of the utilities themselves. For example, raised-access flooring allows underfloor air distribution, an efficient and low-energy alternative to many conventional HVAC systems.

8. Insulating Concrete Formwork (ICF)

Insulating concrete formwork (ICF) uses hollow polystyrene “bricks” to rapidly construct forms for foundations, walls, and other concrete structures. After stacking, the bricks are filled with pre-mixed concrete, resulting in a thick wall with an insulative exterior.

Speed and flexibility are the primary benefits of using ICF in a construction project. Since the polystyrene forms are small and lightweight, they’re quick and easy to stack into almost any arrangement with only a few people. In most cases, a small team of builders can assemble and pour entire foundations or exterior walls in a single day!

While concrete already has good insulative properties, the extra insulation provided by the polystyrene forms makes for a “one-step” construction solution. Since the form itself becomes part of the structure, rather than being removed after setting, construction teams no longer have to spend valuable time building and setting up temporary forms. Plus, drywall and exterior siding can be directly affixed to the polystyrene.

9. Thin-Joint Masonry

Men hands while constructing beams of building

A modern approach to traditional masonry techniques, thin-joint masonry utilizes small, thin layers of mortar to secure concrete blocks and bricks. Where traditional methods of mortaring would use thick layers, setting times could quickly become an issue—especially where large amounts were required. With thin-joint masonry, setting times are massively reduced, with the side effect of cost- and time-savings from using less mortar.

The results of thin-joint masonry also lend to a more modern aesthetic, where blocks or bricks will have only a fine seam between them.

10. Kinetic Footfall Energy Capture

While it’s still an emerging technology, kinetic footfall energy capture is already showing promise as a viable form of alternative energy for buildings with high foot traffic. By embedding kinetic sensors into concrete floors, kinetic footfall energy captures and stores the energy from footsteps. This captured energy, combined with that from other passive energy sources, can help supplement the building’s energy needs.

Finding the Right Construction Team

No matter the type of concrete construction you use, hiring the right construction team is one of the best ways to guarantee great results. For more information on our concrete construction services, call our team at 713-254-1703.

Historic Building Materials and Methods

While many of today’s building materials and methods may seem new, their origins are often older than we think: From Roman concrete to ancient Egyptian plywood, human history is rich with fascinating examples of innovative building materials and construction techniques, many of which continue to inspire modern advancements in materials science and engineering.

Curiously, despite being markedly simpler than most modern building materials, many historic building materials are extremely durable—sometimes more so than their modern counterparts. In many cases, historic buildings have withstood the test of time to last centuries to millennia.

Before we can consider the materials themselves, however, we’ll first need to understand why— and where—certain materials came to be.

Building Local: Regional Influences on Construction Techniques

old wooden construction with fence

Despite their ancient origins, many modern building materials—at least as we know them—are still a far cry from anything our ancestors knew. Before the 20th century, most people were limited to what was either on hand or available nearby. This limitation partially influenced many of the regional building styles and preferences still employed today, such as the timber construction common throughout heavily forested North America.

While European settlers were not strangers to using timber for construction, North American colonies gave them unprecedented access to swarths of old-growth timber—certainly more than they ever had in Western Europe. As a result, timber was the most viable building material not only for homes and buildings but also for furniture, ships, and other things.

Other parts of the world yield their specific regional building materials, and a quick look at the surrounding landscape is often enough to see why a certain region might prefer a certain material: In towns along the dry, rocky coast of the Mediterranean, for example, the vast majority of buildings use the surrounding stone and clay as building materials rather than the few trees suitable for lumber.

Early humans were even more limited, especially in the thousands of years predating the construction of permanent shelters. In most regions throughout the world, early humans were largely nomadic and took shelter either in natural features such as caves or, in later years, portable shelters usually made from animal hide and branches.

Though modern society no longer faces these limitations, their influence remains: Even in North America, for example, more homes are built from wood than anywhere else in the world.

Building Materials and Methods Throughout Time

gray concrete stairs

Building materials have undergone dramatic evolutions throughout human history: Where our earliest ancestors were once limited to natural materials such as tree branches and animal hides, their descendants would go on to make gradual improvements over successive generations.

However, these improvements often came slowly, with many materials being used the same way for several generations, if not longer. Most of the building materials we know today—at least in the forms we know them—weren’t available until the 19th and 20th centuries!

As a result, many of the building materials and methods we’ll explore are much “closer to nature” than those we’re used to today. However, the materials themselves—along with the building methods that made them practical—are more fascinating than many might think.

Wood: Sticks to Lumber

Plentiful, easy to work with, and extremely durable, wood has been used for shelter, tools, and fuel since the dawn of man—and it continues to get plenty of use to this day.

Despite its prevalence throughout human history, however, wood has undergone some of the greatest evolution of any other building material. Where our earliest ancestors might have used tree branches and sticks to fashion simple shelters, we now benefit from a wide variety of wood-based construction materials, including milled lumber, plywood, and countless methods for joinery and carpentry.

Some of the earliest permanent—or, more accurately, semi-permanent—wood shelters were those constructed throughout forested regions around the dawn of civilization. While once largely nomadic, humans started to build these permanent settlements with the onset of agriculture and trade, often using wood as a primary construction material.

Many of these early wood structures resembled the tipis and log cabins we continue to associate with natural or traditional building materials. Viking longhouses, for example, utilized timber framing filled with a mixture of mud and moss for insulation—though they certainly weren’t the first.

Timber framing is largely responsible for the spread of wood construction throughout the world, providing structures with then-newfound levels of versatility and strength. Some of the earliest timber frame structures date to the Neolithic era, with most examples utilizing some sort of insulative “filling” between the frames, such as mud.

With the right carpentry, timber also presented several other advantages. Many traditional Japanese buildings, for example, utilized timber framing connected with complex joinery. By factoring in the grain of the wood and its changes between the seasons, Japanese carpenters were able to build frames that automatically adjusted with seasonal changes. Combined with natural earthquake resistance, many traditional Japanese wood structures have been standing for centuries.

Earth: Mud and Cob

In regions where wood wasn’t widely available, mud, clay, and cob—a durable mixture of clay and straw—were the most viable alternatives. However, these materials weren’t just alternatives to wood; in many respects, they were superior.

Where timber-framed structures were often difficult to insulate and ran the risk of catching fire, mud- and clay-based buildings were naturally insulative and fire-resistant. Plus, the material was much easier to get; those in clay-rich regions had all the material they needed—literally!—under their feet.

These benefits made clay and mud some of the most popular building materials in both the ancient world and recent history. One of the most striking examples is the city of Shibam Hadramawt in Yemen, where multi-story mudbrick “skyscrapers” have stood for centuries.

Stone and Masonry

In addition to wood and mud, stones were another important construction material. However, stone was more than just a building material for early humans: For a long time, it was also an essential tool.

Before the development of metal-tipped tools and weapons, sharpened stones were used for various tasks. Flint, for example, became ideal for knives and arrows due to the naturally razor-sharp shards it formed when chipped. Similarly, larger stones could be chipped and sharpened to prepare axes and other sharp objects.

These stone tools were largely responsible for allowing humans to build structures out of wood and mud. With axes, for example, it was possible to fell trees and cut them to size. These capabilities only increased with the advent of metal tools, which also helped make stones themselves into a suitable building material.

Stone structures are among the most historically impressive in the world—and some of the longest-lasting. From the limestone Acropolis of Ancient Greece to the towering Great Pyramids of Giza, stone is responsible for some of history’s most significant structures.

Concrete

Pantheon's large circular dome unique in Roman architecture

Combining the flexibility of mud and clay with the strength and durability of stone, concrete may seem like a relatively new invention—even though its origins are rooted over two thousand years ago.

The Ancient Romans were among the most notable early users of concrete. Discovering that the addition of volcanic ash helped concrete set underwater, the Romans used concrete for a wide variety of construction projects: From aqueducts to Rome’s Colosseum, concrete was largely responsible for many of Ancient Rome’s most significant buildings.

Among the most impressive Roman concrete structures is the Pantheon. Complete in 128 CE, the Pantheon remains the largest unreinforced concrete dome in the world—even after almost two thousand years! This impressive longevity has made Roman concrete the inspiration for many modern blends of concrete, with the particular formula for Roman concrete having been largely lost to history.

Today, concrete continues to benefit structures with its durability, strength, and flexibility. Where structures previously required intricate construction techniques to achieve dramatic and novel shapes, concrete can be cast and molded into nearly any form. As a result, concrete remains as popular as it was in Ancient Rome, with the vast majority of new construction using it for everything from foundations to superstructures.

Building Materials Today: Which Is Best?

While many historic building materials and methods are certainly impressive, we’ve come a long way since the times of our ancestors. However, while many modern materials are vastly different from their historic predecessors, concrete has remained one of the most cost-effective construction materials throughout its multi-millennia lifespan

While you might not be building the next Pantheon, concrete can still provide your driveways and patios with the same durability. For more information on our concrete construction services, contact our team at 713-254-1703.

The Future of Construction

From changing demand to technology, to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, the construction industry is changing. Companies are facing longer project completion and even cancellation of projects, and there’s the concern over the health of employees and subcontractors.

According to PwC’s COVID-19 CFO Pulse Survey released in June 2020, 81% of Chief Financial Operators were considering cost reductions, and 56% were planning to defer/cancel investments.1 The current crisis has struck the engineering and construction industry harder than other economic downturns.

Here is a look at what the future of construction might look like amid current trends, the pandemic, and the economic crisis.

Cleaner Jobsites

Asian male and female engineers wearing mask protect with helmet

Worker health and safety have become even more important. Companies are implementing policies such as staggered shifts to practice social distancing, routine disinfection of jobsites (including tools and machinery), and even employee temperature checks. Many employers are requiring the use of masks and gloves. Others have even been producing their own sanitizing soap.

Cleanliness is and will continue to be a top priority. Construction companies are following the guidelines of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and recommendations for construction work by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). These health and safety measures are necessary for compliance purposes and to ensure employees feel safe returning to work.

In particular are standards regarding:

  • Personal protective equipment (PPE), including respirators, masks, and face coverings
  • Handwashing procedures/installation of hand sanitizing stations
  • Workplace cleaning, disinfection, and sanitizing
  • Hazard communication
  • Social distancing
  • Jobsite pre-access health questionnaires
  • Temperature checks

Remote Communication

Social distancing doesn’t only mean staying six feet apart. Many contractors are permitting telework, using video conferencing platforms for virtual meetings focused on construction management and project updates.

In the past, picking materials often required travel, especially on the part of the customer. Identifying and verifying materials can now be accomplished virtually. Virtual Design Construction (VDC) simplifies the pre-construction material selection process and helps reduce the amount of waste. Also, potential issues can be found in advance to save time and cost.

While physical project completion must be done in-person, many personnel can work remotely in construction jobs, including:

  • Architects
  • Engineers
  • Project managers
  • Safety managers
  • Account managers
  • Directors
  • Analysts
  • Dispatchers3
  • And more

Employee Recruitment

Recruitment strategies vary depending on the market and project type. Some employees may hire within select local markets to find talent that fully understands the needs of contractors in the region. Interviews have traditionally taken place in-person, but virtual interviews may become more commonplace to minimize contact. The hiring process could increasingly involve orientations and briefings on company safety guidelines, crisis response plans, and various response protocols within the workplace or on the jobsite.

Longer Project Times

Major safety measures, donning/sanitizing PPE, and staggered work shifts are expected to prolong project completion times. Some construction companies may allow only one trade on a site at a time. New guidelines may drastically alter construction schedules, and it may not be possible to fast-track a project. Contractors will need to consider these time constraints, as will subcontractors, architects, owners, and other members of the project team and supply chain.

Demand for New Project Types

The coronavirus outbreak is changing the demand for different types of construction projects. For example, it’s less likely contractors will see as much retail, entertainment, and hospitality construction. However, healthcare construction and manufacturing projects are more likely to be in demand.

It is also uncertain how a decrease in travel will impact road and bridge construction, amid declines in states’ Department of Transportation revenue and possible shifts in Congressional funding toward COVID-19 support for struggling businesses and unemployed individuals.

Rising Material Costs

Project suspensions, increased delivery times, and other factors are driving up material costs. Some reasons for rising costs include damage to stored materials during suspension periods, uncertainty as to the availability of contractors for restarting projects, and costs incurred for a supplier holding materials during a suspension period. Various other costs may apply beyond the initial contract.

A rise in demand for eco-friendly materials may impact costs as well. Examples include using salvaged or reclaimed wood instead of cutting down new trees, environmentally sustainable materials for flooring, low Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) paints, recycled drywall, and recycled glass or paper composite materials for countertops. Demand vs. cost in this area may impact construction in the months and years to come.

Technology

Construction Worker Planning Contractor Developer

Technologies proving beneficial during the COVID-19 pandemic and for the future of construction include:

  • Offsite Construction: With modular construction, homes and other structures don’t need to be built from scratch. Pre-fabricated materials and 3D printing are making modular construction practical and affordable.
  • Augmented Reality (AR): No longer just for gaming and consumer gadgets, AR is being used in construction. Imagine project updates and safety warnings, temperature, and pressure data delivered via a worker’s helmet or goggles.
  • Artificial Intelligence: Machine learning can help analyze millions of scenarios to make predictions, improve scheduling, and streamline the entire process. Artificial intelligence can also identify high-risk worker behaviors and analyze photos of at-risk materials.
  • Digital Connectivity: Construction managers can receive important information without having to travel, thereby making decisions faster. Employees also receive faster responses. Digital forms can be used to communicate information.
  • Building Analytics: The Internet of Things (IoT) has prevailed everywhere and suits the construction industry, as sensors can be installed to manage everything from heating and cooling to security, to energy usage. Various building systems can be tested, installed, and implemented with the available data.
  • Drones: Remotely controlled drones have become mainstream and make it possible to safely inspect and analyze parts of the jobsite without sending people into the field. This helps reduce hazards and the number of individuals on the jobsite.

Contact Cross Construction Services

Drone inspection. Operator inspecting construction building turbine power plant

A leader in construction management in the Houston area, Cross Construction Services handles all aspects of the process, including planning and design, construction, and project delivery. We coordinate all construction activities with the appropriate entities, including owners and architects/engineers. Our expertise is executed in conjunction with the latest COVID-19 guidelines and knowledge of trends shaping the future of the industry.

For help with residential and commercial concrete driveway construction and pavement services, a free estimate, and to get started, call us today at 713-254-1703.

Sources:

  1. https://www.pwc.com/gx/en/issues/crisis-solutions/covid-19/global-cfo-pulse.html
  2. https://www.simplyhired.com/search?q=remote+construction+manager&pn=3&job=h0iK8nhjusbB7f7mzWWYdcuweHwQJxhQACb5dVkI-pG1SI1x4wosWA

Construction Materials and Methods: The Fundamentals

Concrete Building

Property owners and contractors have more construction materials to choose from than ever before. Instead of being limited to construction materials from a certain part of the world (such as wood in North America), global shipping has allowed anyone to build with nearly any material from around the globe. This flexibility has only improved with the development of man-made materials, such as concrete and engineered wood.

However, some materials used in construction are better-suited for certain applications than others—but just what are the most common construction and building materials, and which ones are best-suited for which projects? Read on to find out.

Why Choosing the Right Material Is Important

Choosing the right material is, arguably, the most important part of any construction project. Just as you wouldn’t use wood to build a 50-story skyscraper, you probably wouldn’t use steel plating to pave your driveway.

In most cases, however, a construction project could be built equally well using different materials. For example, while you’re not going to pave your driveway with steel, you’ll probably be choosing between concrete and asphalt—two common paving materials.

The material you choose will ultimately impact almost every factor of the project, mainly budget, durability/longevity, aesthetics, and, above all, practicality. The goal should be to strike a reasonable balance between these factors to get the best value for your money.

For example, you may have the choice to build a house using either wood framing or cinder blocks. Both are good building materials in their own right, but using wood would be preferable in places where, say, lumber is inexpensive and there aren’t many termites. Similarly, cement and cinder blocks would be preferable in places with high humidity and frequent termite infestations (read: many parts of Texas!).

Which materials are best for which projects? The answers may surprise you. Some materials have special properties that make them suited for projects they aren’t always used for.

Common Construction materials

While anything can technically be construction material, the ones we’ve compiled for this section are the most common. In addition to discussing the material itself, we’ll also discuss some of its associated building methods and applications.

Wood

Wood is one of the oldest and most abundant construction materials in the world, with over 93 percent of new homes in the United States being built from wood every year. In areas like the United States and North America, wood is the preferred construction material due to its high availability and resultingly low cost.

Wood also has benefits beyond just availability and price: Wood is also incredibly durable, capable of withstanding high compression forces and, with the right construction, high winds and earthquakes. Many contractors and carpenters also prefer wood due to its pliability and ease to work with.

While the exact properties of wood vary with the type (e.g., pine, oak, etc.) and the cut used, most wood used for construction in the United States is either pine or oak, the former being the most prevalent. In addition to framing buildings, wood is also used for most interior work, as well as roofing, decks, siding, fencing, and decorative elements. Needless to say, wood is an extremely versatile building material!

Manufactured Wood

Wood Home Construction

Sometimes known as “engineered wood,” manufactured wood is a broad category of wood-based products that serve as alternatives to natural wood. Some common examples include plywood and particleboard. By using recycled wood materials, manufactured wood is typically less expensive per unit of area than natural wood.

Manufactured wood presents benefits beyond cost-savings, however; since engineers have full control over its “design,” many manufactured wood products have higher strength and rot-resistance than natural wood. Combined with cost-savings, these benefits have made manufactured wood another preferred material in most home construction projects.

Some manufactured wood products also use veneers to replicate natural wood while maintaining the strength and durability of an engineered product. Such products have become preferred over natural wood but can sometimes cost more as a result.

Steel

Steel is the preferred construction material for many commercial and large-scale construction projects, making up most of America’s skyscrapers, bridges, and other superstructures. Without steel, skyscrapers would have never been possible—or, at least, they wouldn’t have been easy!

While its exact properties depend mostly on carbon and metal content, steel is usually known for having both high compression and tensile strength. These properties make it ideal for large structures or those expected to hold a lot of weight; as a result, it’s the preferred construction material for many commercial projects.

However, steel often finds its way into many residential projects as well. While it’s uncommon to build a private residence out of steel alone, many utilize steel supports and beams to stabilize major load-bearing parts of the house. Steel is even more widely used in the design of many modern homes, where it (literally) supports open concepts and other “daring” architectural feats.

Except for stainless steel, steel can – and does – rust. However, placed internally to a structure and/or treated with certain paints and coatings, steel can last for decades and withstand most elements and natural forces (e.g. hurricanes, earthquakes, etc.).

Drywall

No matter what material you build a house or building out of, there’s one material you’ll always use: drywall. Since its development as an alternative to plaster-on-wood walls in the early 20th century, drywall has quickly become the preferred wall-finishing solution for most construction projects. Whether it’s a ranch house or a high rise, most buildings built in the last century—and into the foreseeable future—utilize drywall.

A major benefit of drywall is its fire-resistance, a property owed to gypsum. Since many new homes are wood- and timber-framed, drywall’s fire-resistance has become an essential safeguard against housefires.

Other benefits of using drywall include easy priming, painting, and finishing, as well as easy cutting, fitting, and fastening. Compared to conventional wall-finishing methods such as plaster, drywall is incredibly easy and versatile to use.

Bricks and Stone

Bricks, stone, and other forms of masonry are probably the oldest and most reliable construction materials in the world. Used correctly, masonry can withstand fire, water, structural damage, and age—a trait proudly displayed by still-standing Roman aqueducts and other surviving examples of ancient architecture.

While you may not be building an aqueduct (or even a pyramid), masonry is still used for many construction projects. However, due to some of the labor and costs involved, many new buildings have begun to use cheaper, easier-to-work-with materials such as wood and metal. As a result, many new masonry projects have become limited to patios, walkways, driveways, and landscaping projects.

However, basic masonry still finds use in some concrete homes, which we’ll cover in the section further below. Many new homes are also finished with brick facades which, while not load-bearing, provide a beautiful old-world aesthetic to any new building project.

Glass

Glass is everywhere in modern construction; where it was once solely for individual windows, glass is now used for walls, railings, and even floors and ceilings. Thanks to modern engineering, glass can take on nearly any shape and size while maintaining high strength and durability.

Some modern glass also has insulative properties, making it suitable for large windows in cold climates. These properties have allowed large buildings and homes with all-glass facades in cold climates to maintain an acceptable level of energy efficiency.

Concrete

While concrete may seem like a modern material, its roots extend back to the ancient Romans. Just like with their masonry structures, most original buildings made from Roman concrete have been standing for over a thousand years!

Today, concrete is used for an extremely wide variety of construction projects: Many homes are built from concrete blocks, foundations are poured and laid with concrete, and many homeowners are embracing concrete driveways as a preferred alternative to asphalt and gravel. In any application, concrete is inexpensive, offers high flexibility in shape and form, and shares similar durability to stone and other types masonry.

Beautiful Home Front

Concrete properties also make it possible to embed objects inside of it, such as steel rods for reinforcement. This ability has made concrete (particularly reinforced concrete) a viable construction material for large projects such as skyscrapers and bridges.

The Most Versatile Construction Material?

While every construction material has its unique applications, few materials match the versatility and cost-effectiveness of concrete. With concrete, it’s possible to build a house, pave a driveway, and landscape using the same material. Plus, with its ability to take on most forms and finishes, concrete looks good in the process.

If you’re interested in learning more about concrete construction and how you can incorporate it into your property, call our concrete driveway construction team at 713-254-1703.

The Top 8 Popular Materials Used for Backyard Patios

Whether you are renovating or installing a new backyard patio, there are several different types of materials you could use. You need to decide which materials will help you achieve the desired results. Some of the more popular materials include:

1. Concrete

Concrete is the top choice of material for backyard patios. It is versatile and can be used for just about any size patio you desire. It is also a great choice if you are installing an in-ground or above-ground pool.

There are several different designs available with concrete due to its flexibility, such as:

  • Traditional: This design is your standard concrete patio that is gray in color and smooth. You can have it poured as a single piece or in multiple sections for larger patios. This design also works well if you are using brick or stone for walkways and accents around the patio.
  • Modern: This design utilizes various industrial materials like steel bars for added support and other modern elements for a high-quality patio.
  • Rustic: This design features using earth tones and rustic architectural elements to give a ranch-like, country feel.
  • Old World: This concrete patio design has that worn look, using various stone finishes and warm colors to give it a dated look and feel.
  • Tropical: If you want a beach-themed patio design, this tropical design is for you. The design incorporates turquoise hues and sandy themes to give it a beach and ocean-side feel.

Concrete patios are some of the easiest to maintain. You simply wet them down, brush off any dirt and debris, and rinse them. Concrete is sealed after it is installed, and this sealant lasts several years before it has to be reapplied.

Patio Chairs

2. Bricks

Bricks are another popular choice for patios. Bricks work well for ground-level designs. However, installing a brick patio does take a little more effort and detailed work to ensure each brick is properly spaced and level. You must also ensure the underlying ground has been compacted and prepared correctly to avoid individual bricks from sinking into the ground later.

Another key consideration with bricks is they will require more maintenance than concrete. The infill around the bricks often has to be refreshed annually to keep weeds from growing in between the bricks.

3. Gravel

Gravel is a good choice when you want a nice outdoor space to relax and unwind. Gravel does offer some flexibility since you can use it in multiple spaces in your backyard to enhance landscaping.

You will need to make sure any grass is removed and there is a barrier placed onto the ground to prevent grass and weeds from growing. You also need to make sure there is a deep layer of gravel, as well as a barrier around the patio to prevent the gravel from overflowing into the yard when it rains.

4. Wood

If you want an elevated backyard patio, then wood could be the right choice. There are different types of wood to choose from, ranging from light- to dark-colored woods. You could even opt for bamboo, which is a very eco-friendly wood.

You will need to make sure that wood support posts are properly secured into the ground with concrete. You do not want the support posts touching any dirt, as moisture in the dirt could cause wood rot to occur much faster.

Another concern with wood is you will need to paint or seal the patio annually to get the maximum life out of the wood. Unlike concrete patios that can last a lifetime, wood patios will need to be replaced a few times.

5. Vinyl

Vinyl has become a popular alternative to wood. It is easy to maintain and comes in a variety of colors, including wood grains. Vinyl support posts are also available, so you don’t have to worry about your supports rotting—although you will need to pour concrete around each post and into the base of each post for a secure patio that can withstand windy conditions.

6. Tile Overlays

Another option that is great if you rent or lease your home and have a pre-existing concrete patio, is to use tile overlays to give your patio a new look and feel. Patio tiles lock together and sit on top of the concrete. When your lease is up and you move out, you can remove the tiles and take them with you.

7. Pavers

Pavers come in a variety of sizes and shapes. You can find pavers made of slate, flagstone, concrete, clay, etc. Just like brick patios, pavers have to be individually laid, spaced, and leveled. The underlying ground also must be compacted and prepared correctly to avoid sinking pavers.

The infill around the pavers will need regular maintenance to avoid problems with moss and weeds. Additionally, you will need to make sure the pavers are thick enough to avoid cracking and breaking.

8. Granite/Concrete Mix

The use of granite mixed in with concrete is growing in popularity. Granite is broken up and ground into varying sizes before it is mixed in with the concrete. Adding granite to the concrete mix makes it possible to add some color to the patio while still achieving a sturdy, durable, and long-lasting backyard patio.

Choosing the Right Backyard Patio Material for You

Man Pulling Out Concrete

To help you decide which patio material is best, there are several key considerations and questions you need to answer:

  • What is your budget? Several of these patio materials can quickly add up in costs. Concrete is one of the lowest-costing materials you can choose that is easy on bare feet, but gravel tends to be the least expensive.
  • How durable is the material? Durability has to do with how long the patio will last. If you want a long-lasting patio, then concrete would be the perfect choice.
  • How much maintenance is needed? Another important question is the amount of maintenance you must do or hire someone to do. Maintenance is an additional cost you need to remember to include. Concrete has an incredibly low maintenance cost.
  • What design or style of patio do you want? The overall design and style can influence what material or materials you end up selecting. Concrete is a versatile material with a variety of styles, designs, and themes.
  • Do you want a backyard covered patio? If you also want a covered patio, you must consider how the cover will be installed. There are covers that are an extension of your home. You could opt for a pergola or another style of stand-alone cover as well.
  • How labor-intensive is the installation? Some patio materials are very labor-intensive—like bricks and pavers. On the other hand, concrete is less labor-intensive—once the ground is prepared—since it is poured.
  • Are there any benefits of one material over another? For example, concrete offers several benefits as it is available in different styles and designs, is inexpensive, is durable, lasts a long time, and is easy to maintain.

DIY or Hire a Contractor?

Home Patio with Jacuzzi

Once you decide on the type of backyard patio design, style, and material you want to use, your last consideration is whether you want to renovate or install the patio as a DIY project or hire a contractor. While certain aspects of the patio project could certainly be DIY, for others you will want to hire a contractor.

Most patio materials require a certain amount of prep work like removing the grass, compacting the ground, ensuring it slopes away from the home, and so on. Another benefit of hiring a contractor is that you’ll know the work will be completed based on current building codes.

You also won’t have to worry about having a home inspection and the patio certified later. Not to mention, your contactor also will help obtain any necessary building permits. Most importantly, you know your patio project will actually be completed and not be one of those DIY projects that gets started but never finished.

To learn more about our backyard patio designs and styles, backyard covered patios, patio concrete restoration services, and other residential concrete and construction services, please feel free to contact Cross Construction Services in Houston at 713-254-1703 today!

How Building Materials Change Over Time

Concrete isn’t a new building material, but it has certainly gotten stronger and more versatile over time. A variety of other building materials has been around since ancient times, while concrete-like materials used as early as 6500 BC have been found in Syria and Jordan.1 Concrete was used frequently by the Roman Empire, but it wasn’t anything like the aggregates of stone, sand, and water used to make Portland Cement you’ll find in a modern concrete driveway.

Building materials have drastically changed over time. Some have evolved from types used for thousands of years, while others are newer and promise to reshape the future of construction.

Early Materials

In Neolithic times, bone, grasses, hide, and animal fibers were used. Natural building materials were dominant. It was common to use mammoth ribs, tree bark, logs, clay, and lime plaster to shape and assemble using simple tools. The first structures were likely similar to huts and tents. In ancient times, as tools and techniques advanced, available materials ranged from what could be found in nature to materials that seem more familiar today.

dolmen della chianca in bisceglie town apulia, Italy

  • Stone: Even when a lack of metal tools limited the types of available materials, builders could erect stone structures. Dry stone walls don’t even have mortar to bind the stones together. Still, stones can be used to construct buildings, bridges, and sculptures. Early examples can be found in Scotland and Ireland.
  • Mud: Mud bricks, first used in the late Neolithic period, were improved by the ancient Egyptians around 3000 BC. Mud was mixed with straw to form an adobe-like material heated into bricks. This process evolved into the use of mortar, which was used over the casing stones of the Great Pyramid of Giza, allowing stonemasons to carve and set them to tight tolerances.
  • Wood: One of the first building materials, wood remains popular and is a renewable resource. Prehistoric shelters and fortifications often consisted of wood, and wooden logs likely served as the first bridges. Today, lumber is used to frame homes and other structures, and various types of wood are used for interior/exterior building materials and furnishings.
  • Bronze: During the Bronze Age, bronze and copper were used to make more durable tools. Bronze could be shaped; it could also be recast if damaged. This eventually led to the use of iron, which is similar in hardness. Steel was created by adding carbon to iron—a process that was in place after 300 BC.

Evolution of Building Materials

Abandoned Wooden House

Building materials have not only evolved with trends, but also with demands for durability, size, and control over interior environments. The energy available to support construction has also influenced the kinds of building materials used.

Timber and brick have been used throughout many time periods. In Ancient Rome, timber roofs were used, and ancient Chinese temples were built with wooden timber frames, long before sealcoating was used to protect concrete surfaces. Traditional timber framing became less popular during the Industrial Revolution, as steel could be mass-produced, but wood has regained popularity as an eco-friendlier material with more options for custom machining, integration, styling, and fireproofing.

Mud bricks were used throughout ancient times. Lime mortar was used in Ancient Greece, and stone bricks were used in China (parts of the Great Wall consist of stone bricks). Brick was popular during the Renaissance and increased in production during the eighteenth century. The production process changed little over time. Although now mass-produced rather than handmade, brick remains a popular architectural material today.

Other building materials that have evolved over time include:

  • Glass: Used in everything from windows and home furnishings to the walls of skyscrapers, glass has been manufactured since the seventeenth century. Early forms of glass were available in ancient Egypt, Rome, and during the Middle Ages. Once it could be mass-produced, glass became more commonly used in structures and not just as a luxury.
  • Insulation: Asbestos was the first form of insulation and was used well into the 20th century. The first modern advance in insulation happened in the 1930s with the accidental invention of fiberglass insulation. It was popular in the 1940s, while cellulose was common from the 1950s to the 1970s. Polyurethane spray foam became popular in home construction in the 1980s while, today, there are many different types of insulation to choose from.
  • Flooring: In early history, stone was the dominant building material. It is still used today, as is wood. Older homes often have linoleum or vinyl flooring, although this is widely considered outdated. Vinyl produced decades ago may contain asbestos and dioxins, which are unhealthy. Hardwood flooring is commonplace; bamboo is often used as an alternative to vinyl and is extremely durable and sustainable.

Industrial Revolution

Skyscraper Construction

During the Industrial Revolution, new technologies emerged that led to construction advancements. The development of machinery and tools for cutting, grinding, boring, and other processes allowed for more building flexibility. Steam engines, explosives, and transportation options like canals and railways expanded building potential as well.

Once steel could be mass-produced, I-beams and reinforced concrete were possible. This also led to the widespread use of plumbing to provide ordinary homes with fresh water and a systematic means to collect sewage (modern pipes are usually made of corrosion-resistant plastic composites). The creation and refining of building codes have led to improvements in material quality and fire safety.

In the 20th century, heavy equipment, elevators, cranes, and prefabrication expanded construction capabilities and the way various materials could be used. Eventually, computer-aided design allowed for more precise material development, production, and selection. In the late 20th century, sustainability became a higher priority in the construction industry, with resource conservation, environmental protection, and reduced energy consumption being top goals.

Future of Building Materials

We’re now in an age of computer-enabled smart appliances, lighting, security, and more, but modern building materials are also shaping the home construction industry. Numerous types of materials are in development that will continue to revolutionize construction.

One of these is solar panels. Increased efficiency and reduced costs have made solar panels more popular. By May 2019, more than two million solar systems had been installed in the United States, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.2 They save on energy costs and come with perks such as federal and local tax incentives and the option to sell power back to the grid.

House Rooftop with Solar Panel

Numerous advanced materials are now raising the potential for changes unlike anything seen in the past. These futuristic developments include:

  • Self-healing concrete: Bacteria in the mixture produce calcite when exposed to water, which can essentially heal cracks, reducing maintenance and greenhouse gases associated with repair and replacement processes.
  • Light-generating concrete: Tiny glass balls embedded in the material reflect light to potentially create signage, underground lighting, and warning signs. It is non-flammable and may have artistic uses as well.
  • 3D Graphene: A carbon that is 3D-printed and 200 times stronger than steel, despite being just 5% as dense, it has potential uses in vehicles and supertall skyscrapers.
  • Laminated timber: This is a water-resistant, high-strength prefabricated timber that is strong enough for building skyscrapers, while significantly reducing carbon emissions.
  • Modular bamboo: Fast-growing and low-cost, modular bamboo can be made into different shapes. It is earthquake-resistant and can be reinforced with steel bars.
  • Transparent aluminum: This is a corrosion-resistant ceramic alloy that can resist radiation and oxidation, with potential uses for windows and marine and space vehicle domes.
  • Translucent wood: Stripped of its color, this wood offers good insulating properties and strength. It may be a viable replacement for window glass and could be used as solar panel cells.
  • Wool brick: Stronger than conventional brick, this material is fused with wool and seaweed polymer, reducing greenhouse gases. It also resists cold-air intrusion.

Concrete Molding

These materials and others promise to make buildings stronger, safer, and more efficient than ever before. Building materials continue to not only evolve but take new forms. Yet one thing’s for sure: Concrete isn’t going out of style. Concrete driveways, patios, and sidewalks must be maintained, and Cross Construction Services is here to help.

Let Us Install and Repair Your Concrete Driveway

Our concrete professionals can install, maintain, and replace your concrete driveway or patio, as well as provide complete design/build services. If you have a concrete driveway in Houston, we install 3,000 psi concrete, apply polyurethane sealants or polymer-based cement resurfacers, and fix stained, cracked, or crumbled concrete. We provide service to residential and commercial customers via six locations in the Houston area. To learn more or receive a free estimate, call 713-254-1703.

Sources:

  1. https://www.nachi.org/history-of-concrete.htm#ixzz31V47Zuuj
  2. https://www.seia.org/news/united-states-surpasses-2-million-solar-installations