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MrPahoehoe | 18:47 Fri 21st Oct 2005 | People & Places
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A colleague of mine asked a fairly intriuging question today.

It seems, from a news coverage perspective, that many homes in the USA are made of wood, including the ones in areas particularly prone to hurricanes. Now in the UK all homes are build of brick and mortar, this is to do with the temperature and the fact that with our rainfall a wood house would possibly rot pretty quickly.

We just couldn't think of the reason why in these areas in the USA they don't build more with bricks n mortar. I appreciate that its hotter over there, the cost is obviously higher and a big tornado would make it fairly irrelevant. But, surely the amount of damage would be hugely reduced?


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When we went to LA we saw them building houses made of wood which we thought a bit odd as they were getting a lot of mud slides at the time which demolished the houses.

hi MrP,  maybe you have fallen for the everything America does is best attitude of the majority of Americans.  They do tend to think that everything outside the USA is irelevent so why would they copy a good idea like building in brick or concrete blocks or whatever. 

Don't forget that if you lived all your life somewhere all the houses are wood and they fall down everytime there is a storm you probably think that is way house should behave. 

Not forgetting that not too long ago, the majority of houses in Japan were made of paper.

Yes chessman but that was because of earthquakes:-

1. A wood paper house can be dismantled quick if required

2. If it falls on you it doesnt kill you.

maybe thats the answer qapmoc.

perhaps wooden houses are easier to repair than brick. if a brick house is damaged it becomes unstable an needs a major rebuild - wood may not.

perhaps they've worked out that the severity of their quakes will damage both types of house, but one will be less hassle to fix.

can any americans confirm or poopoo this??

Remember this is the equal worst year ever for hurricanes around the states, and still a month of the season to go; nobody was expecting it or building houses to prepare for it. People mostly build according to local styles and with local materials, and stone and brick aren't always available. Californians may bear quakes in mind, though, since they're not uncommon, and a collapsing wooden house will probably be safer than a collapsing brick one.

Bricks retain heat, so folks that live in the south (especially hurricane-prone areas like Florida, Texas, Louisiana, etc) opt for wood as it's easier to cool.  Wood houses are easier to remodel (as a lot of people do - they buy a small, "starter" house, and once they get settled and earn more money, they like to start knocking out walls and expanding).  Wood houses withstand earthquakes better.  Brick doesn't "give," so if your house settles at all over the years, you'll end up with cracked walls.  Bricks are far more expensive, and people are always thinking of the resale value of a house.  You may build a nice, attractive, expensive brick house in X neighborhood today, but suppose by the time you want to sell, the neighborhood has gone downhill and buyers are scarce?  You'll never make your money back.

joko, thanks explaining it to qapmoc, saves me a job.

brick houses cost alot to build and they are harder to cool. and besides did you see the brick houses on the gulf coast? it really wouldn't matter what you built your house out of.

Originally from California - in the central coast and my hometown is built on a fault line - The San Andreas Fault -! And the first time I saw a city with a majority of brick buildings was when I went to Denver, Colorado at the age of 21! Whether building houses out of wood is safer in Earthquake country, I can't really say, as most of our commercial buildings are made out of reinforced concrete!

What I can honestly say is that unlike in Britain, Americans just don't do "restoration" - we would rather knock the whole gosh darn thing down and start again from scratch. My English husband was shocked when I first took him home to California because of what he saw as houses made out of flimsy wood - no stronger than a shack! He was even more shocked when I told him that that shack would cost him $600,000 USD.

It's the American Way.

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