Property owners can choose from a variety of materials when they want to build a home. One of the options that is currently growing in popularity is cement. Concrete blocks can be a fast and effective way to create a sturdy structure that becomes a house.
Concrete block homes are a healthy choice because it has a lower volatile organic compound (VOC) emittance rating than wood structures. The presence of VOCs in a home can lead to headaches, nausea, sinus irritation, and damage to internal organs. Some even have a carcinogenic risk to consider. You’ll have fewer health issues with respiratory infections and immune system disorders with this structure compared to traditional building options.
Homeowners who have concerns about the safety and energy efficiency rates of their house should consider the advantages and disadvantages of concrete block homes. It is an excellent choice for anyone seeking a healthy and low-maintenance lifestyle.
List of the Advantages of Concrete Block Homes
1. It is an effective way to create a low-maintenance home in a high-moisture location.
Concrete block homes are quite common in areas that receive high levels of precipitation throughout the year. The material doesn’t attract mold or mildew like a wooden frame does when it remains wet for an extended time, which means there is a lower risk of experiencing structural damage over time.
This benefit also means that a concrete block home is resistant to the pests that can impact a structure that receives constant moisture exposure. You have fewer issues with termites and rodents coming through the walls because of the building material.
2. Concrete block homes can resist strong winds.
Homes made from concrete blocks are useful in areas that are prone to strong winds. It creates a natural resistance to the wind speeds that blow through during hurricanes or tropical storms. Some structures made with this material can withstand speeds of over 200 miles per hour. If the owners maintain the structure appropriately as the years go by, the structure has the potential to last for centuries without much effort.
You can add rebar and other reinforcement products to a concrete block to add to this benefit. Insulation can get mixed into the pre-molded blocks to fill its open cavities to reduce the need for interior improvements.
3. It provides a natural level of fire resistance.
If you have ever seen the aftermath of a devastating fire where a single home stands alone in the ashes of others, then there is an excellent chance it was built using concrete blocks. Although the wooden components of the structure, such as the roof, will ignite during a blaze, the walls will only receive a scorching. That’s because cement isn’t flammable by itself.
That’s why concrete blocks are sometimes the preferred building medium in regions that experience frequent wildfires. It can be a way to protect your real estate investment even if you live in high-risk areas. It offers an ASTM E119 fire rating of four hours when following best practices, which is double the coding requirement in many areas.
4. The material can lower a homeowner’s energy usage.
Concrete block homes are ideal for anyone who wants to lower their energy usage. It provides an excellent level of value in an environmentally friendly home. The insulation is strong enough that warm air from your HVAC system or the cold air from an air conditioner won’t easily escape the structure. Your heating and cooling bills can be up to 20% lower in some regions with this building design, especially if there is another layer of insulation present along the interior walls.
5. Concrete block homes are practically soundproof.
The design of a concrete block home creates a natural soundproofing layer that is perfect for urban environments or properties near military bases. If you have jets flying overhead or a commercial airport nearby, then this material can reduce the sound issues that you’ll encounter every day. About 75% of the outside environmental noise that exists outside gets blocked when using this material, and you can enhance those results by using double-pane windows.
That means it can also be a great option if you love to throw parties regularly. You can have a great time with all of your friends and family members without disturbing the neighbors if you have a concrete block home.
6. This material creates a healthy home choice for many people.
The average person in the United States spends 90% of their time indoors each day. Most of that is in their home. That means a healthy environment is vital to individual needs. Concrete block homes block allergens, radon, and other toxins that can be problematic when using other materials. When a moisture barrier gets added to this product, then it can prevent damp spots from forming that could allow mold spores to become part of the environment.
7. The walls of a concrete block home can be manufactured off-site.
You will find that there are two panel systems available when you choose concrete blocks as your building medium. You can opt for precast or tilt-up concrete in addition to the stacking method that gets commonly used today. If you choose a factory-built option, then the insulation, steel reinforcements, and other necessary additions are at high manufacturing standards that have coding guarantees. Then the walls get added by crane to the existing foundation so that it becomes connected to the rest of the structure.
8. If a disaster strikes, then a concrete block home is usually cheaper to rebuild.
Unless the masonry built into a concrete block home isn’t up to code, it is usually cheaper to rebuild after a disaster with this option. Many of your walls are still standing and in usable condition, which means the repairs can focus on the restoration of the roof, windows, and interior. Even if the material costs are similar, there are lower labor costs to manage with this advantage and that still makes it more affordable.
The steel reinforcing rods that get used with concrete block homes work well in regions that suffer from earthquakes. A wet mixture of sand, cement, and small rounded gravel can get poured into the base to stabilize the reinforcements for a small cost. When it cures, then it hardens to give the structure an incredible amount of strength.
9. There are two different block options from which to choose with this material.
Concrete blocks can come with a smooth surface or one that is rougher so that it looks closer to brick or stone. Each one provides the same structural benefits, so this advantage is more about the personal appeal you have to either one. It is slightly easier to apply a facing to a smooth finish, but there are selections that work with both styles. Although you’ll still have the same color and tone concerns when using this material, the textural option can add some value to homes in regions where this building material tends to be popular.
List of the Disadvantages of Concrete Block Homes
1. The cost of building a home with concrete blocks is much higher.
The price of concrete fluctuates constantly and has regional variations to consider, but it is almost always more expensive to use this material than wood framing or other traditional options. It is an issue that can put the price of this design out of reach for some potential homeowners today. Although you will eventually recover the initial investment with the lower energy costs that come with this option, it may not be a suitable choice for everyone.
The cost of using concrete blocks instead of wood framing and drywall can be up to three times higher in some regions.
2. Concrete block homes don’t always have curb appeal.
The average home built using concrete blocks tends to look gray and plain. You must add a layer of cement or stucco to the structure so that it can be painted if you want the property to look better. That means another expense gets added to the final cost of the structure. You also have the option to add facing to give the house more curb appeal.
If you only use the cement from the concrete blocks to finalize the look, then the appearance may not offer the curb appeal necessary to create a sale later on if you need to move.
3. Some of the blocks may need to get cut to reach essential systems.
If an issue develops with the plumbing or wiring in a home built with concrete blocks, then some of them may need to get cut so that professionals can reach the problem. You’ll want to ensure that there is an adequate drainage system in place to avoid any significant flooding issues if one of your pipes leaks or breaks. You’ll also want to consider running your utilities through specific access points that get put into the structure during its construction to lessen the impact of this potential disadvantage.
4. Concrete blocks can be susceptible to water seepage over time.
If your property is in an area with a high water table, then using concrete blocks for your structure can lead to seepage damage over time. Cement may be strong and resilient, but it is also a porous material. Water is patient, and it will eventually find a way through your wall to compromise the house. You’ll want to apply a high-quality waterproofing sealant to the blocks before stacking them to form a wall or foundation.
Some areas may want to use waterproof paint on top of the sealant to maximize the resistance benefits of each sealant. Appropriate drainage around the home must also get installed to avoid flooding issues.
5. This material may not be suitable for some regional preferences.
Concrete block homes aren’t always the preferred option to use in some communities. That means this product may not always be readily accepted in some parts of the world. You won’t get too many exotic designs with this building material since it is a pre-molded block. That means the productivity of some construction crews may be limited if you insist on this material since they might not have experience working with it.
You may also need to use reinforcing steel to improve the strength of the foundation or wall that you use, which could be problematic for some builders to acquire. That’s why you’ll find the highest levels of acceptance tend to be in areas where high winds are common.
6. The environmental benefits are easily compromised by windows and doors.
The thermal mass created by a concrete block house provides numerous environmental advantages. You must purchase doors and windows that have excellent weather stripping to achieve this benefit. Builders must also void the space between the block and window to stop air that can act as a conduit for sound or temperature changes that happen from outside of the structure.
Many of the homes built in the United States during the golden age of the 1950s used concrete blocks as the primary structure. Then brick was built along the outside as a secondary structure to save money. Then furring strips got nailed to the blocks to allow for plaster or drywall to finish the interior.
Concrete block homes make sense when you want to take an eco-friendly approach to your living arrangements. Although the construction costs are higher when using this material, most homeowners can recover the difference in this material when compared to wooden frames over the lifetime of the property.
The primary issue that homeowners face with concrete blocks is their gray appearance. You’ll want to add a facing, stucco, or a ready-made option to improve the color tones of the structure to enhance the property’s curb appeal.
When evaluating the advantages and disadvantages of concrete block homes, you’ll want to balance its cost against the efficiency of the structure. With the right levels of care, it can be a structure that future generations can enjoy.
Natalie Regoli, Esq. is the author of this post and the editor-in-chief of our blog. She received her B.A. in Economics from the University of Washington and her Masters in Law from The University of Texas School of Law. In addition to being a seasoned writer, Natalie has almost two decades of experience as a lawyer and banker. If you would like to reach out to contact Natalie, then go here to send her a message.