As an ancient saying goes, ‘The two experiences that test your mettle in life are conducting a wedding and building your home’. We’ll leave the former topic for a different day. As for building your home, it not only requires a lot of forethought and planning, but also needs you to stay focused on your goals as you wade through a wide array of choices. The materials you need to construct your home can be chosen based on various factors like material cost, lifecycle cost, location, climate, sustainability, energy efficiency, aesthetic value, and long-term maintenance.
Though this seems like a lot at first glance, picking what you want starts with knowing what you need. While cost is a determining factor in most decisions, do consider Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) before you get started. Some materials may not be expensive but will need replacement more frequently, increasing the overall money you spend on it. Others may be highly priced during your first buy but could be built to last. Let’s take you through your options:
In a country like India, bricks are the easiest to use as construction material. Not only are they easily available, they make a building stronger and hence increases property value. From being fire proof, as well as termite proof, they are also easy to make and the most convenient to work with. Wood is also easy to work with because of its various natural properties. However, one of the major disadvantages of this material is that it is extremely vulnerable to fire. A combination of wood, brick and cement would be the easiest to work with to build a house in India.
The walls of our home keep the world at bay. They protect us from the elements, support our roof and put a boundary to what we call ‘ours’. Because they need to be built to last for generations, it is very important to choose the right materials for your walls.
It is the glue that holds concrete and mortars together so take time to choose your cement quality with your architect / contractor. The cement you choose should ideally be low on free lime (reduces leaching) and less permeable to moisture and heat. Luckily, as a producer of approximately 151.2M tons of cement, it is easy to find high quality this basic building material abundantly in India. Some popular brands that hold through their promise to last a lifetime are JK Cement, Birla Cement, Ultratech cement, Ambuja Cements and ACC Limited. Being well known brands, these may be slightly on the expensive end but worth the investment.
Insulated Concrete Forms (ICF)
Used across Europe, ICFs are interlocking blocks or panels made with polyurethane foam filled with concrete. Described as walls ‘sandwiched’ between insulating materials, it is chosen for its thermal insulation and this works great for locations that have extreme climate variation. In a study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, insulated concrete buildings saved 20 percent over the energy consumed by wooden-framed buildings in locations with cold climates.
Autoclaved aerated concrete (ACC)
ACC is light weight as it has in-built air pockets that provide excellent insulation, fire resistance and can be easily be cut and shaped.
Hot, humid and wet climate in a tropical country like India is highly conducive for the growth of mould, especially in bathrooms and basements. Besides, leakages in walls can also result in insect attacks, rust and decay. Insulated concrete walls treated with anti-mould paint works best. Most popular paint companies like Asian Paints and Delux offer this in their palette.
Concrete emerges again as a material of choice for protection against moisture. Additional steel with waterproof applications (corrosion resisting coat) and exterior fibre cement tend to keep moisture at bay. In this beautiful white bathroom, designed by Italian design house, Architettura & Servizi, the concrete protects the bathroom against build up of moisture.
Bricks were used in ancient Roman structures and even in the Great Wall of China so if chosen right, it can endure but it has its fair share of disadvantages too. Similarly, stone, which has been around since, well, the Stone Age, passes the test of endurance but has its tension and stress limitations. Most modern structures, use reinforced or precast concrete with a steel framework support that makes it an excellent all-in-one solution.
Cement in India ranges between Rs. 200- 250 a bag if you choose from top brands. We recommend you don’t pinch the pennies here as this will determine the quality of your final structure. Like we mentioned earlier, look at price relatively as a one-time investment or on-going cost. Wood and brick walls may need replacement in a shorter duration actually costing you more in the long run while steel enforced walls can be built to last for generations.
Take long-term energy conservation into your costing too. Insulated, moisture-resistant walls can reduce your dependency on external energy sources. Using recyclable materials too can go a long way in saving costs. Adding edible plants to your green walls can allow you to take pleasure from growing your own food while saving on money, the eco-friendly way.
Now that you are armed with the knowledge about various building materials, consult an architect who can guide you further on how to mix and match them to convert your house into your dream home. To find out more on building materials and how to build a budget-friendly house, read Build Your House Really Cheap.