When April Showers Bring More Than Just May Flowers: Reinforced Concrete vs. Wood House Frames

In areas that experience storms, flooding, tornadoes, fires, and even earthquakes, reinforced concrete is highly resistant to damage and protects a home from experiencing the problems common with wood house frames.

reinforced concrete house frames

””The real value of a home’s construction comes into play during this time of year, when many areas of the country experience damage-threatening storms and earthquakes. According to the Portland Cement Association (PCA) and the Insulating Concrete Form Association (ICFA), reinforced concrete offers some compelling benefits to home construction. This type of concrete can reinforced by steel bars, or rebar, as well as a variety of fiber reinforcements made from glass, polymers, plastics, or graphite, which all have their own impact on the strength and agility of a structure’s foundation. The main advantages of reinforced concrete house frames, when compared to more traditional wood-framed homes, include energy efficiency as well as disaster-resistance and protection in the face of many environmental conditions.

Energy Efficiency

A study based on 58 single-family homes located in Canada and the United States showed that homes built with reinforced concrete use 32% less energy to cool and 44% less energy to heat than homes built with wood frames. Homes with reinforced concrete framing also have significantly higher R-values, which are measures of the insulating values or thermal resistance of building materials. While wood frames range from R-9 to R-15, concrete frames offer insulating values as high as R-40, making them more resistant to extreme temperature changes.

Protection and Resistance

In addition to its energy-saving benefits, reinforced concrete prevents cold drafts, wind-driven rain, and humidity from entering the home. Reinforced concrete house frames have more balanced air temperatures, and its barrier reduces up to 75% of air infiltration compared to wood-framed homes. With the high thermal mass of concrete, the inside of the home is buffered from cold outside temperatures. With insulated concrete forms (ICFs), its foam insulation lessens temperature fluctuations and eliminates cold spots that can occur at gaps or studs. This also virtually eliminates the threat of water seepage or structural shifts common with wood frames in the face of Mother Nature.

Tornados and Hurricanes

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends reinforced concrete over wood-built homes in areas that are tornado or hurricane prone. Unlike wood-framed homes, tests have shown that reinforced concrete house frames can withstand wind speeds up to 250 miles per hour, which would easily level a wood-framed home. For example, after the disaster of Hurricane Katrina, most builders turned to reinforced concrete to withstand potential future storms.

Fires and Earthquakes

Even insurance companies recognize that reinforced concrete is safer than other construction materials when it comes to fire. The plastic foam used in ICFs is treated with flame retardants for protection. In fire-wall tests, reinforced concrete walls withstood high temperatures up to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit for four hours. Under these intense temperatures, a wood-built home would collapse in under an hour.

Perhaps the most prominently-used application of reinforced concrete is in the construction of earthquake-resistant structures. The composition of concrete with steel or high-performance fiber reinforcements creates a strength and stiffness that resists the compression forces created by earthquakes. Homes and other low-rise buildings can achieve optimum earthquake-resistance when wall frames are well-anchored to the structure’s foundation, making these structures the safest to inhabit in areas where earthquakes run rampant.

As a disaster-resistant material, reinforced concrete is a much smarter and cost-efficient choice over wood when it comes to home construction. It’s strength, durability, and resiliency makes reinforced concrete a natural protector of a structure’s integrity when faced with all kinds of natural disasters. As a leading manufacturer and supplier of ready-mix concrete in Arkansas, Razorback Concrete supports the use of reinforced concrete in home construction. To learn more about constructing reinforced concrete house frames, contact the experts at Razorback Concrete.

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