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What building materials to use: Wood or Brick?

When it comes to choosing the right sort of building material for your house renovation or building project, what is the best material to go for? Brick and wood are practical choices as building materials for homes. They also come in a massive variety of colours, finishes, treatments and styles. Brick and wood are natural to look at and very durable and they insulate well too. You can build a house from all bricks, one from wood panelling or a mixture of both. What factors should affect your decision though when deciding what building material to use?

The location of the building project

Brick and wood can be used for both city and country dwellings. Bricks work particularly well in cold climates as they retain natural heat and stay warm for a longer time than wood. This is particularly true for properties that are exposed to sunlight for a protracted period of time. Buildings constructed from bricks also protect very well against storms and is a reliable option where storms are a genuine threat. Wood as a building material is convenient in the more remote settings such as in the vales where erosion and silt accumulation can cause damage to brick walls and where wood is widely available. Wood is also relatively light compared to brick and is far more flexible.

Purpose of building with brick and wood

Bricks retain an excellent property value, it insulates well and properties constructed from bricks are easily sold on. Bricks are frequently guaranteed to last for one or two lifetimes. Although, brick is marginally more expensive than wood, it is still the best overall building material for properties in the United Kingdom. Because of the bricks solid construction, they may slow down the process of basic renovations or additions should you wish to change the structure of the property, whereas wood is cheaper, quicker and easier to work with, just not as permanent.

Wood is a sensible building material for semi permanent houses and cottages. It is biodegradable and quite affordable. Wood homes tend to be easier to renovate, alter and build than those made from brick. As long as the wood is very thick and treated against rot, logs can last up to one hundred years or more. Buildings made from wood do pose a significant problem though, they burn very quickly!

The great fire of London wouldn't have happened if bricks were used

The City of London was medieval in its street plan, an overcrowded rabbit warren of narrow, winding, cobbled alleys. It had experienced several major fires before 1666. Building with wood and roofing with thatch had been prohibited for hundreds of years, but these cheap materials continued to be used. The only major stone built area was the wealthy centre of the City itself, where the mansions of the merchants and brokers stood on spacious lots, surrounded by an inner ring of overcrowded poorer parishes whose every inch of building space was used to accommodate the rapidly growing population. As a result, the fire managed to spred very quickly as the wooden fuel was in abundance.

Advantages of bricks

Bricks have several advantages in addition to those mentioned above. Bricks are fireproof, termite resistant and very energy efficient. This may even reduce your household expenses through the years while providing a safe place to live. Brick is also a very stable building material too. It requires little or no maintenance at all. Good quality bricks that have been carefully fired and hardened will not chip or wear for several decades, if ever.

Advantages of wood

Wood also insulates well and is safe. Its flexibility, variety and natural properties make it easy to work with. As such, engineering solutions and architectural plans are often achieved well with wood. This is particularly true for unusual or evolving home designs. Wood is healthy and relaxing. Some woods are thought to release terpenes, a substance that soothes the mind and body. This is known as the forest bath effect and is attributed to eucalyptus by the Australian Department of Agriculture and Food. Wood is also a natural air conditioner and absorbs humidity.

Disadvantages of bricks

There is only one disadvantage to bricks and this really boils down to the quality of the brick and its manufacturing process. Poorly made bricks such as clinkers and older recycled bricks might be pitted, irregularly shaped, worn or prone to chipping. In damp or humid climates, poorly made porous brick may invite mould. Inferior bricks can suffer damage as water and ice expand and contract in its pores. Bricks can also be damaged by vines. There is no worry of getting inferior bricks from ET Clay Products, we have been a leading force in the brick industry for many years for the simple reason that we offer high quality and value to our customers.

Disadvantages of wood

Wood is extremely vulnerable to natural disasters such as fire, infestations of termites and decomposition through rot. Wood is often treated against these problems, and thick logs are resistant to burning, but insuring and protecting wood can be difficult and very labour intensive. Treating wood that is exposed to the elements is something that must be done regularly and cannot be missed, or the property could fall into disrepair rapidly. The value of a home may well be compromised by using wood materials, particularly in stormy areas. In dry areas that suffer from bush or wild fires, a wooden construction is unlikely to stand the test of time. In a violent storm, with high winds, wood can be torn or ripped away far more easily than a brick built property and wood is also susceptible to cracking when soaked.

Upkeep of bricks

Brick are very easy to clean, and a simple wash or spray with a pressure washer is all they need from time to time. In fact, good quality brick require little or no upkeep. Bricks are resistant to damage, though some finishes might fade. In case of accidents, small pieces can be conveniently changed or replaced.

Upkeep of wood

Wood requires regular treatment, refinishing or replacement. Even if it was well constructed, installed and finished to begin with, this work will still need to be carried out at least annually. Cracks should be filled as they appear or before rain or snow finds its way in. In short, wood can be a rather high maintenance building material compared to bricks.

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