Why are houses in America built of wood?

New / Eng Mr PIP
Apr 10 28 Comments

Why all residential buildings in US are build of wood and not out of brick or concrete like in Europe? Brick and concrete last for centuries without any maintenance. They can withstand water, insects and fire. With wood, minor flood from busted pipe causes tens of thousands worth of damage. Bay Area residents pay $2 million for 50 years old wood shacks in Cupertino. Many of these houses have roting wood studs and will need major structural repairs in the next 20-30 years. Wooden house is a depreciating asset. I understand brick is hard to make earthquake resistant, but reinforced concrete is more earthquake proof than wood. And cost of construction is not much higher vs wood.

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TOP 28 Comments
  • Microsoft UseDeFeet
    Easier to work with. Any idiot with a saw can renovate a wood framed house. Concrete? Gtfo.
    Apr 10 0
  • Amazon crumb
    Lots of brick on the east coast. West coast is wood because brick is a death trap in a big earthquake. Wood flexes and can withstand the shaking much better.

    Brick on the west coast has to be reinforced with rebar to give it the ability to flex in an earthquake and that's expensive.
    Apr 10 0
  • Microsoft und3rpaid
    Cost + can withstand an earthquake much better from what I heard.

    Also, most of the time you’re paying the big $$$ for the land, not the construction (unless it’s some luxury home where both weigh more equally)
    Apr 10 1
    • Amazon crumb
      You actually end up paying more for the construction as well. The high cost of land results in a high cost of living for the construction workers as well, so their wages are also much higher in the Bay area.
      Apr 10
  • Qualcomm dynasty001
    Plenty of wood and a thriving logging, timber businessess. Thats how they got started and have stuck to it ever since. Now most places the wood is reinforced with concrete
    Apr 10 3
    • New / Eng Mr PIP
      OP
      Wood reinforced with concrete? Never heard of it. Usually only foundation is concrete. In some new apartment buildings first floor is concrete, the rest of the structure is wood.
      Apr 10
    • Qualcomm dynasty001
      No no. I meant walla are reinforced with concrete. What they do is first buid a concerete slab/support structure for each wall. I have seen the concrete to have iron rods in them. Then front and back they put the wood panels.
      Apr 10
    • Amazon crumb
      It makes sense to use concrete with rebar for the load bearing frame and support columns, and then basically hang walls and floors from that. That approach can produce a 40 story building that can withstand a magnitude 9 earthquake, tornado, or category 5 hurricane. In high-rises the walls and floors are made from fire resistant material rather than wood not for strength reasons but because fire trucks can't pump water much above the 9th floor or so, and fire can climb vertically up a building very quickly.

      You really don't need that much engineering for a single family home, you're fine with wooden beams provided that the joints are done to code. Your biggest fear would be that the roof beam somehow detaches from the roof slab as it rebounds, leading to a cave in, or separates from the A frame, leading to a structural collapse.

      In that respect it's not what the beams are made of that matters so much as how well they are joined together. So long as the beams are joined to code it should handle anything short of perhaps a particularly powerful tornado that lingers directly over the structure.
      Apr 10
  • Nvidia monolith
    I like this thread, got to learn something new.
    Apr 10 0
  • Gen!x / Eng
    ixptl12

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    ixptl12more
    Less than a fraction of 1% of the US homes are in earthquake-prone regions.

    But sure, continue to assume San Francisco is the entire US.
    Apr 10 2
  • OpenTable Meliodas
    All residential buildings aren’t build of wood.

    In hurricane areas they are often built of concrete.

    Brick is generally avoided in earthquake areas.

    You can’t extrapolate the Bay Area to the entire US.

    As for why we don’t do things like in Europe, it generally comes down to us having cheaper access to more resources and being a wealthier society.

    Also, brick is a facade material, it hasn’t been used as a building material for centuries. You’d need to look to old East Coast homes to find it.
    Apr 10 0
  • Amazon day1
    The West coast is highly prone to earthquakes and that's why we have houses made up of wood mostly. They are designed to stand against earthquakes. I guess in east coast they are made up of brick and concrete.
    Apr 15 1
    • Tableau krxi15
      Stop bullshitting. Is Chicago prone to earthquakes as well, is Texas, is Florida, is Louisiana? Well they have wooden houses as well.
      Apr 15
  • Tableau krxi15
    To protect the drunk ones from punching the walls and hurting their knuckles.
    Apr 10 0
  • Twitter iLCforFun
    In St. Louis and NY they are built of bricks. Same with a lot of other east coast cities.
    Apr 10 0
  • Facebook public2
    Wood is cheaper, better, and far more desirable. OP hasn't heard of tuck pointing for brick. Most brick houses are wood frame as well. For nicer houses the frame is steel and wood.
    Apr 10 0
  • Google / Eng 🍑☁️
    Brick is not structural. It has to be reinforced with something. What are brick houses typically framed with in America? Still wood.
    Apr 10 2
    • New / Eng Mr PIP
      OP
      That's not true. Brick wall can be the main load-bearing structure. That's how buildings been built for centuries.
      Apr 11
    • Google / Eng 🍑☁️
      That's not how any modern buildings are built with brick.
      Apr 11
  • Microsoft onzE42
    I think wood also provides better insulation for cold/hot weather than concrete.
    Apr 10 1
    • New / Eng Mr PIP
      OP
      All houses nowerdays have separate layer of thermal insulation material. Wood frame houses are usually filled with fiber glass insulation between wood studs
      Apr 10
  • LinkedIn stuffy🐷
    Lots of wood houses in SF need to be retrofitted to resist earthquake. Wood is pretty much inferior to concrete in every aspect.

    The reason is cost. Wood is much cheaper and it has an established supply chain. Wood might last 100 years while concrete 300 years but that difference is pretty meaningless to an average person.
    Apr 10 1
    • Amazon crumb
      Inferior to CONCRETE, absolutely. Particularly since what you mean by "concrete" includes rebar in the pour. It's that rebar that makes it strong enough for even a high-rise to withstand an earthquake (or a hurricane causing the building to sway violently).

      But the question was about BRICK. A brick home isn't a concrete structure, it's a brick structure, and while it CAN be reinforced with rebar, it's usually not.

      Big difference between brick and concrete. In terms of withstanding an earthquake, poured concrete with rebar is better than wood which is better than brick or concrete cinder block without rebar.

      Concrete is also very ugly so you don't see very many poured concrete homes. They look like military pill boxes.
      Apr 10
  • Salesforce prodarcht
    West coast doesn’t really produce brick. Just the cost of shipping brick to ur job site is not economical. Concrete and wood is plenty. And like others said. Brick is bad for earthquake prone region like in the Bay Area.
    Apr 12 0
  • Google 1234-/:;(
    Helps the building survive earthquakes in bay area. Much of the east coast is brick so im not sure what you are talking about. Its cheaper to renovate and change wood than concrete and brick. If you want to renovate you have to knock down the whole structure which is standard to do in china but not the US
    Apr 10 0
  • Google SergeyBlin
    Cause its cheap
    Apr 10 0