Life Hacks

Types Of Building Materials

Mankind has been using the same types of building materials since antiquity. For a species that claims to adapt and make changes in order to survive, we certainly have resisted change to a lengthy degree.

In the build up to publishing this article it was sent to several bloggers for “Peer Review,” with the result that many of them laughed at the very idea of plastic being used as a building material.

But scientists have long complained about how plastic lasts forever, and how it takes so much money and effort to degrade it. That sounds like the perfect building material; in fact there are four ways via which plastic can be used to make buildings, and it is Africans and Asians that should be most excited about this. But first let us discuss the regular types of building materials, before discussing the alternatives.

Types Of Building Materials


Stone has been used in the building of human dwellings since pre historic times. Stone was the material of choice during the Ancient and Medieval Times, and it was used not only in Castles and Temples, but also in the small homes belonging to the common people.

Today stone is largely used to demonstrate sufficient means; it is only affordable to the rich, and only used for impressive structures which serve as a legacy to the builder.

Clay Bricks

Clay Bricks remain quite popular as a building material all over the world. Clay Bricks are some of the longest lasting building materials in the world; some types pass through fire in a process that is intended to hard and strengthen the product. Clay Bricks come in different types; there are hollow clay bricks, and there are solid clay bricks, among others.

Clay Bricks are some of the most common building materials in Europe and America; they are also popular in Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa.

Cinder Blocks (Cement Blocks)

One of the most popular types of building materials, Cinder Blocks are usually hollow rectangular units which are made of concrete or coal cinders, or a mixture of both. Cinder Blocks come in a variety of shapes and sizes; in most cases only a single type is used on a particular building project.

Cinder Blocks are very durable, and are very popular in areas with poor drainage. Cinder Blocks are very popular in West Africa, including Nigeria, Ghana, and Cote d Ivoire. Cinder Blocks are also popular in New Zealand and Canada where they are called Concrete Blocks, and also in very popular in China, India, Japan, South Korea, Indonesia and Singapore.


Wood is perhaps the oldest type of building material known to man; it may have only lost its place in history to the likes of stone and clay bricks because it is not as durable as they are, and so may not have survived to be recorded as much. Nevertheless, wood has played an important part in providing humans with dwellings throughout the timeline of human development.

Even now, many houses in every corner of the world are made of wood, or of a combination of wood and other material. Wooden buildings in Africa and Asia may be flimsy structures, but there are wooden mansions in North America.

Wood can be used to make very beautiful buildings; artisans can make finishings of surprising detail and beauty.

Alternative Building Materials

Paper As A Building Material

Paper has always played a vital role in the designing of the interiors of Japanese homes. It has been used in traditional homes to make doors, curtains and so on. Paper can be painted to make very beautiful designs, and to create a certain traditional appeal to buildings, hotels and so on.

Paper as a building material takes many forms. Have you ever heard of papercrete? It is a material obtained by adding shredded paper such as old newspapers, cardboard, exercise books, and so on, and then mixing it with water, and some organic binders. The material obtained is surprisingly hard, and can be used to hold other building materials together.

Other building materials that can be obtained from paper include:

Paper Pipes

Paper Pipes are more than just pipes; they are pillars. Paper Pipes are films of paper rolled up into pipes of varying amounts of thickness. Generally, people expect it to be flimsy and light because it is paper. They are then surprised to find out that these materials are used as pillars to hold up entire building structures that are several feet tall.

Paper Boards

Paper Boards come in different types; there are paper boards, corrugated paper boards, and solid bleached paper boards. These can be used to make the structure of the sides of the house. They are used in both the interior (partitioning of rooms) as well as the exterior of the houses.

Paper can also be used to make floorboards which are very resistant to wear and tear. Paper can also be used to make many other things.

Plastic As A Building Material

Even though plastic has been around for many years, its application as a building material is a novelty. As a matter of fact, due to its durability and longevity there is a lot of potential in plastic for building homes. Another major advantage of plastic is that it is not scarce; in fact there is more plastic on the planet than we know what to do with.

The scientific community has already spent so much money on the development of ways to degrade plastic, but it seems that humanity has been looking in the wrong direction. Plastic should not be destroyed; it should be used to make buildings to house the world’s population.

The following are applications of plastic in building construction. The last one is the most interesting.

Plastic Bottles

Plastic Bottles constitute the biggest part of plastic waste, which is perhaps the biggest environmental challenge the world faces today. Plastic bottles have already found use in building construction; they are used in place of traditional bricks or cinder blocks, and are gradually becoming more popular, especially in East Africa where the discovery was made.

The plastic bottles are first filled with sand, and the caps are screwed on. This process makes it a lot more solid. Blocks are then laid in top of each other using mortar obtained by mixing sand, cement, and water. When used to build a wall it almost resembles a honeycomb, and the structure is very solid.

Plastic Drums

Plastic Drums are very good for building floating platforms upon which floating houses are then built. This is of particular interest to communities that live in riverlands, or on marshes. The houses which are built on the platforms can be made of wood or any other material, and will not likely be affected by the water because the drums provide exceptional buoyancy and strength.

Plastic Blocks

It is interesting that despite all the billions spent researching plastic in Europe and America; the idea to make building blocks out of plastic actually came from Africa. A Kenyan woman by the name of Nzambi Matee discovered a way of making solid plastic blocks for the construction industry.

Her company Gjenge Makers transforms plastic waste into bricks that are five to seven times stronger than concrete blocks. Of course there are many such companies across the world.



There are many different types of building materials which the world has been familiar with for a long time, but the alternatives are quite exciting to see. Hopefully, more research can be done to discover more ways of using plastic; in its recycled form it could be a cheaper and more durable kind of roofing material than what most of the developing world has readily available.

What's your reaction?

In Love
Not Sure

You may also like

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published.

More in:Life Hacks