The Most Common Building Materials Used in Construction
Cross Construction Services specializes in the design-build process and using concrete for driveways, patios, pergolas, and parking lots. Concrete is just one of many different materials used in construction. Many residential and commercial clients benefit from concrete driveway construction, but there are other materials, including wood, metal, and brick, with their own unique benefits. Here is a look at the most common building materials and what makes each appealing.
Wood offers the benefits of being natural and sustainable. When trees or fibrous plants are cut and used for construction, they can be regrown. Wood is still one of the most desirable modern building materials, though it’s been used for thousands of years.
In fact, wood can be used for just about any type of structure, in most climates. It is also:
- Flexible even under heavy loads
- Strong, even with bending and vertical compression
- Available with different qualities, depending on tree species
Wood has even been used as logs in unprocessed form, cut to length and notched or latched to keep them in position. With tools and mass production, lumber can be tailored to practically any type of job.
Steel is an alloy, mainly composed of iron, that is strong and flexible. If properly refined and treated, it can resist corrosion and last for a very long time. Metal suits a diverse range of construction applications. It may be used for external surfaces or as supporting structural elements for skyscrapers.
There are different types of metal used. Aluminum alloys are less dense and more resistant to corrosion. Tin is an alternative that can save on costs. Titanium, more expensive than steel, can accommodate structural applications. Gold, silver, and chrome are more commonly used to produce decorative elements found in custom construction projects. However, they lack the hardness and strength required for structural use.
Bricks have been used since the 1700s. Compared to wood, they are more flame-retardant, which is why bricks were often preferred for construction in the 1800s and 1900s. They’re also relatively inexpensive to produce, which also contributed to the popularity of brick construction in cities.
Different materials can be used to produce brick. Clay bricks are manufactured by molding soft mud or extruding clay through a die and using a wire-cutting process to cut them to size. In the late 20th century, clay bricks were replaced by cinder blocks made of concrete. Sandcrete block is lower in cost, although not as strong and durable, but it is more often used in developing countries.
Glass has been around for thousands of years and was used for making vessels and other objects in Mesopotamia. In Europe, glass windows have been manufactured since as early as the 14th century. In general, glass is brittle and not suited to provide structural support.
However, it is often used to create decorative windows with various design features. Glass is ideal for letting in natural light and keeping out the elements. In larger installations, glass can be the primary material for an exterior wall or façade. Sometimes it encompasses the entire facade of a building. Glass can be integrated into large roof structures as well.
Plastic is highly adaptable and, thus, varies in hardness, resiliency, and heat tolerance. Lightweight and uniform in composition, plastics can be used in various applications, from panels or sheets to cables, coverings, and pipes, to films and fibers. Plastic decking is used to replace lumber but can be manufactured with very similar aesthetics while being more resistant to the elements.
Whether made from raw or recycled materials, plastic can be molded or extruded into various forms. There’s a high degree of variability in what plastic is. It can be produced from synthetic or semi-synthetic organic products. Common types of plastic include polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polyvinyl chloride (PVC), and polystyrene (PS). The ability to recycle plastic from other forms, including discarded waste, make it a desirable material for sustainable construction.
Precast building components can be produced by using a hydrated cement paste that binds to wood or other natural fibers. Materials in organic wood compounds such as carbohydrates or glycosides can impede setting but there are various ways to measure the hydration characteristics of a cement-aggregate mix. Assessment of mechanical properties and microstructural elements is necessary before using the mix in any project.
Cement hydration is the most important property of a cement mixture. Studies have shown that considering the time and temperature of the hydration reaction best helps to gauge viability. Cement composites may not be best for home driveway construction, but below we’ll discuss a material that we know is.
Made of cement used as a binder and an aggregate, concrete is a hard stone-like material that can be strengthened with steel rods or bars. The concrete-setting process has been refined and often involves using a vibrator to eliminate air bubbles that can weaken the material. Concrete is preferred for its:
- Durability: Concrete can last for many decades and is resistant to erosion, weathering, and abuse. It also requires little maintenance, while repairs are often few and far between. Also, it tolerates year-round temperature swings.
- Safety: Concrete does not burn, attract mold or mildew, rot, or emit volatile organic compounds. It doesn’t introduce airborne pollutants, while high structural integrity and protection against severe weather and earthquakes are desirable properties.
- Economy: Concrete contributes to energy efficiency when used as a building material. Its thermal mass enables it to capture thermal energy, while reflectivity contributes to efficiency too. Therefore, a residential concrete driveway isn’t the only application this building material option can be used for.
- Sustainability: Producing little waste, concrete can be made in any quantity needed and is recyclable. Portland limestone cement, a common form of concrete, can reduce CO2 emissions. Concrete can also contribute to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification.
Call Cross Construction Services for Long-Lasting Driveway Installation
A leader in custom construction services in Houston, our company has six local offices, so you can easily find home driveway construction contractors near you. We specialize in both design and construction, allowing timely cost-saving service and ensuring a single point of contact. An established contractor, we provide concrete driveway installation, repair, and leveling services. Contact us today to help make your vision a reality, starting with a free, no-obligation estimate.