Alternatives to Lumber and Plywood in Home Construction
April 1993 (74 pages)
April 1, 1993
The diminished supply and unstable price of lumber is compelling designers, builders, and developers to explore alternative materials for residential construction. This report reviews basic information about several innovative materials and technologies that may offer structural and functional advantages to the building industry. Over 90 percent of new single-family homes are framed with lumber and use plywood for structural sheathing. Their uses account for approximately 85 percent of the lumber used in new homes. The report discusses several commercially available alternative materials or building systems that may be used in framing and sheathing, including: engineered wood products; laminated fiberboard that can be used for sheathing walls; light-gauge structural steel components for floors, walls and roof systems; foam core structure sandwich panels for walls and roofs; and a variety of concrete and concrete block systems, many of which include insulation material. Using text, charts, photographs and drawings, the report illustrates the development, characteristics, and uses of each material; weights its advantages and disadvantages in relation to lumber and plywood; supplies relevant information on installation requirements; and provides an estimated range of costs. Although most alternative materials currently are more expensive than lumber and plywood, they can offer advantages such as increased thermal efficiency, fire resistance, durability, and speed of construction.