Concrete vs. Wood Frame

The Arizona Republic

        Your house may be stucco or siding or brick veneer on the outside, but that’s not what’s holding it up. 

        Behind whichever attractive cladding you’ve chosen to give your home’s exterior the look you like, there’s a sturdy structure that supports it. Chances are, that frame is made either from wood or concrete. 

        Wood is the most common framing material for U.S. homes. But in Arizona, more builders and homeowners are gravitating toward homes built with concrete blocks instead of wood because they help keep our homes cooler and resist our hungry termites better. 

        Of course, each kind of frame has its pros and cons. Traditional “stick-built” homes are builder favorites because they’re cheaper to construct than block homes. Wood is lightweight, so it’s pretty easy to work with, and because it’s so familiar, most construction workers know how. Plus, it’s available at any home improvement store or lumber yard.

        Wood also is a good insulator, so it can help keep your home warm on chilly nights. It’s also a renewable resource.

        But like any building material, wood isn’t perfect.

        For starters, termites love to destroy it. So wood has to be chemically treated to resist the pests. In addition, wood can expand and contract, or even warp and twist, in extreme weather. And it can develop problems with mold. 

        A concrete home can cost more to build than a wood home, but it could make up for that by staying cooler than a wood-framed house when it’s hot outside. 

        Concrete, because it is solid and is not a food source for termites, could cause you fewer worries over pests. Some insurance companies like that so much that they give discounts to homeowners whose houses are made from concrete block. 

        Concrete also is a good sound-proofing material; in fact, it can repel sound waves. And the homes are so sturdy that they can last for hundreds of years. 

        Still, concrete can be prone to settlement cracks and to efflorescence, those white marks that appear when concrete gets wet and then dries quickly. And building a masonry house can be more labor-intensive that putting up a frame home. 

        Whether your home is built from wood or concrete, the exterior walls are likely finished with brick, stone, siding or stucco, so it looks the same on the outside either way. 

        If you’re building a new home, talk to your contractor about which kind of building materials make sense for the climate in the part of Arizona where you live and for your family’s lifestyle. If you’re buying an older home, ask the seller what it’s made from, as you probably won’t be able to tell by looking at it. 

        A tip: Ask to see the unfinished garage or basement of a home you’re thinking about buying. The uncovered walls might reveal whether the home has a wood frame or was built with concrete blocks.

For more do-it-yourself tips, go to  Rosie Romero is an Arizona contractor who has been in the Arizona home building and remodeling industry for 35 years. He has a radio program from 8-11 a.m. Saturdays on KTAR-FM (92.3), from 10 a.m. to noon Saturdays on KNST-AM (790) in Tucson, and from 8 –11 a.m. Saturdays on KAZM-AM (780) in Northern Arizona.

Rosie and Romey Romero, Every Arizona Homeowners Best Friend
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