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Why Are American Houses So Flimsy and Poorly Built?

American houses sometimes do have the appearance of having brick walls, however these are just stuck onto the outside of the plywood walls giving a false sense of quality and strength.

American houses sometimes do have the appearance of having brick walls, however these are just stuck onto the outside of the plywood walls giving a false sense of quality and strength.

What are Houses Made of? American vs. Other Areas

Cheap Construction

One striking aspect of houses in America is the flimsy quality of even the most expensive ones. Houses are built literally like a house of cards. Weak beams, plywood, flimsy insulation, flimsy siding, and roofing that either blows off in high winds or just rots away after a few years. It's really no wonder that come tornado or hurricane season, houses are literally ripped off of their foundations and tossed into the air.

European Standards Are Different

In contrast, houses and most buildings in Europe are much sturdier, being built with stone or cinder blocks or brick for the whole wall and inside walls. This is true for new houses and apartment blocks as well as old buildings. This is the reason we see buildings hundreds of years old still standing in good shape. In the United States, a 50-year-old house is considered old and is torn down to make room for another flimsy yet expensive structure.

Flimsy Plywood Walls

American houses sometimes do have the appearance of having brick walls; however, these are usually just stuck onto the outside of the plywood walls giving a false sense of quality and strength. It is understandable that using flimsy wood is cheaper than using stone or concrete, but this is not really evident by the prices of houses. I have seen multi-million dollar new houses in the States that are built using the same plywood, insulation, and shabby roofing material as cheaper houses. The fact that walls are paper thin and conversations can be heard two rooms away is nothing strange in American houses.

Cheap Building Materials

We also see quality problems in areas like rotting walls, water getting into insulation, termites, and leaking roofs. Houses built of plywood and low-quality beams will not last all that long. Using staple guns to hold plywood to beams is usually going to end up shabby. Contractors tend to use the cheapest materials and throw buildings up as fast as they can in order to maximize profits. For some reason, this shabby building tradition has become the norm in the U.S.

Origins of This Building Style

The origins of this building style can be drawn to the 1950s with the post-war boom period when Americans could suddenly afford to buy homes in sprawling new suburbs where almost pre-fabricated style identical-looking houses mushroomed virtually overnight. This is understandable given the economic boom coupled with the baby boom and rising incomes. However, US suburbs still tend to have a monotonous look to them, even in the nicer ones. Of course, this is mostly due to the fact that many suburbs are developed by one builder who only has so many styles of houses to build. But the fact remains that the building quality has not gone up since the 1950s, and in fact may have gone down in many cases due to the economy and the fact that Americans have come to expect that their houses look in a certain style.

American Preference for the New

Unfortunately, it is unlikely that many U.S. houses or other buildings will still be around say 500 years from now. The American mindset of bulldozing the old and building something new instead every few decades keeps us from having a sense of history, at least where architecture and physical structures are concerned.

All great civilizations have left structures for us to admire: Rome, Egypt, Greece, Byzantium, Incas, Aztec, etc. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem likely that American civilization will leave any impressive physical structures behind for posterity, as even skyscrapers are often leveled after a few decades to make way for new ones. This is also a part of being a consumer society that throws away the old to make way for the supposed goodness of the new—and at the same time discards vestiges of our past.

Unfortunately it is unlikely that many U.S. houses or buildings will still be around 500 years from now.

Unfortunately it is unlikely that many U.S. houses or buildings will still be around 500 years from now.

Questions & Answers

Question: Which type of material is used for toilet walls?

Answer: That depends on the builder.


nico on August 27, 2020:

if you think building with stone or cinderblocks will protect your property from being damaged or destroyed by hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, or earthquakes then I have some property in Narnia to sell you. I don't know where in the US you are but, no, 50 year old houses are not just torn down to make room for new ones. I have multiple friends and family that live in houses that are hundreds of years old.

MartinRi on August 25, 2020:

Same reason everyone has to go to Home Depot every weekend to fix their house in the US. Everything from walls to roof is flimsy, cheap and flexible. I’m surprised people don’t break into houses through the siding, to bypass alarms on the main door. Just plastic and wood in the way. No sign on concrete anywhere except the basement floor.

jay reedy on May 10, 2020:

All too true. Everything in modern America is about quantity rather than quality and about generating more and more profit for fewer and fewer people, whether we are talking about housing, cars, health care, etc.

Mooor on December 24, 2019:

Alex DL, your comment is as excellent as the article above. It makes a lot of sense, I agree with everything you Say!

Adding that, this whole scam is actually planned and is done on purpose: a poor quality house is a source of revenue to corporations and to the government: Home Depot sells materials and tools needed to keep that house standing. Medical conditions caused by molds keep doctors and pharmaceuticals in business. Making room for mice and roaches behind that drywall makes Exterminators and chemical industry rich. Fights between neighbors on unbearable noise through paper-thin walls makes lawyers wealthy, and so on. All these are winners at expense of American consumers.

Mooore on December 24, 2019:

Great article. Thank you so much.

I couldn't agree more!

Living in this country for 30 years and still cannot change my view of American houses as being ra pile of RUBBISH (no offense) regardless of their price tags. Unfortunately Americans are not aware of this because this is how they found things are. Smelly rotten houses, sqweeling floors, ugly designs, the list is too big to fit here.

tl13 on December 09, 2019:

"Unfortunately it is unlikely that many US houses or other buildings will still be around say 500 years from now."

lol, try 50 years.

Si Lieng on October 27, 2019:

The US consumers usually don't care about the durability of products. That explained why China has successfully draining the US's energy and resources over years by dumping China trash through trading into the US.

JOSHUA GLENN on October 26, 2019:

Hey bud next time talk to engineers and architects before writing on a subject. Research the subject and subject area. Or at the top just note that this article is an unresearched, uninformed opinion post. A bit of Google-fu would save some face.

Sriram on October 15, 2019:

surprised to read this. owning a house in 'america' is dream for millions

Jeff Wright on August 30, 2019:

I could never consider buying a US house. If a fire breaks out in one the only thing left behind 9/10 times is the bath tubs and kitchen sink. on July 28, 2019:

At least it’s not LUNIK 9 now that’s a quality

SD on June 24, 2019:

Manny - I don’t think you can blame UK builders for your house being dirty, you need to clean it!

SD on June 24, 2019:

The last comment from Manny - definitely not written by a British person - it’s completely incorrect and doesn’t make any sense. We have much higher building standards here, everything is made of brick, houses last very well. I’m not sure how homelessness compares here to the states but there is no way it is the highest in the world and we do have free healthcare for all.

Also, a British person would write UK not U.K. and “god bless” is not a term used over here. Saying that America is the greatest country in the world sounds more like something an American would say.

Manny on June 16, 2019:

If you think American houses are of low quality, you should come to the U.K. All our houses are old, dirty, and very shabby. Unlike American houses held together by tacks, and nails, luck holds our houses together.they are fantastically old, claustrophobic and cramped, and if you've seen one you have seen them all. Very boring!

American houses, though made with wood rather than bricks are always maintained to such perfection. British houses are not. A new build in England after 5 years looks like an ancient dump, ready for demolition. Americans build beautiful homes, spacious, clean and maintainable, even the poor over there live in 5 bedroom mini mansions. Here in Britain you would be lucky to get a cardboard box to sleep in. The British government, unlike the good ol' US of A dont like poor people in houses, hence the reason Britain has the highest percentage of homeless families in the entire world.

Before you complain again, remember that America is where dreams come true, and your homes are every British person's envy. You got the best, don't understand why you are complaining, yes the materials in American home buildings are cheap, but at least your homes, streets, cities and towns aren't drab and shabby like ours.

Better still, you Americans house and take care of the poor, here in the U.K, you are pretty much on your own, local authorities ignore homeless poor families who want a house, they are looked down upon. We are the underclass.

Count yourself lucky you were born an American, and in the greatest country on earth. Many of us envy you. God bless!

Alex DL on May 17, 2019:

Excellent article but you should have expanded to answer the question as to why is it like that? I was born in Europe and have lived in the US for 20 years. Still consider myself American even though I no longer reside permanently in the country. Answer to this and other questions is: America is not a country - it's a corporation. Aside from the basic things such as electricity, gas, phones, clothing, food and cars, which are much cheaper than those in any other developed (and others too) country, everything else is has a skyhigh price tag. Houses are no exception. Why not build cheap homes that cost practically nothing to build and then add up the cost of all the middlemen involved - developer, brokers, insurance, agents, inspectors, estimators, banks and so on and so on, and then charge the poor schmuck who dreams of a white picket fence an arm and a leg for a structure that costs $10K. On top of that America has vast lands and it's never been an issue like in Japan or Europe where high prices are commanded by the lack of enough space. This is America - a nice facade from afar and a very, very ugly affair up close. My 2900 sq.f. house in Europe, situated on a 7500 sq.f. piece of land, is built with nothing but concrete, steel and 15 inch bricks and cost about $150K. In the US that same house would start at around $5M...Cheers!

wlad on March 24, 2019:

Hi, I haven't used so bad materials to build dog house. America stopped in 1950. German technology is the best and I say this as a Polish man writing from USA. We have build house for 12 mln $ and as I said I havent used so bad materials for my dog house in Poland. I'm now civil engineer so I have quite knowledge about buildings.

This house for 12 mln$ could cost in Poland 1/10 of the price. We use plywood for formwork foundations and throw them out after.

Joe on January 14, 2019:

You missed out one mitigating factor: earthquakes. I'd much rather be in a flimsy house made of plywood in an earthquake than a stone one. Stones hurt when they fall on your head :)

Sofia on December 24, 2018:

I know little about American construction but a fair amount about Swiss (not all europe since it varies from country to country). It shocks me though how in Switzerland buildings are built so much sturdier. Constructed concrete with bars to help with earthquakes, huge construction pits are made and everything is calculated by the engineers so it can hold up any kind of storm and in America it seems like there are more hurricanes and so on but the main thing is the house is cheep, doesn’t matter if it falls apart after a storm. Just shocks me in a way and since starting my apprenticeship I’m not shocked anymore when I see many buildings wrecked in America because of storms.

Dolgoff on December 13, 2018:

Thank you.. we all know it's a rip off.. The homes are garbage... GOD Bless America.. We been gettin screwed for over 100 years in the usa.. A Bank wants the house to fail after 30 years... so a new home is built and a new loan.. Its about the bank and the builder and NOT the Buyer.. never has been, never will be...

Nothanks on November 27, 2018:

What you said here is not REMOTELY true. Not sure what you are peddling, but drywall and wood is used in the US and worldwide in certain areas FOR GOOD REASON. You cant hear conversations nextdoor. Nothing you said here is reality, at best its poorly constructed, cherrypicked partial truths in a handful of circumstances among the worst.

I guess youre just ignorant.

Boris on November 14, 2018:

Coming from a "third world country", Serbia where all houses (albeight like in any eastern european country ) are rather ugly and take long time to build, they are made of brick or blocks. They are generally durable, but most often inpracticable since all the cables, drainage is cemented and any post work is challenging to complete. My parent built a house 10 years ago and have floor heating which is nice, but if pipes burst, there is going to be lot of destruction and cost to replace them. I moved to the US and built a new home in 2017. While I agree that quality is not as comparable to full brick houses, it was built in 4-5 months and looks amazing. Interiors are nicer and more functionable. I could have built a brick home, yes, but it would cost so much more money and (like any full blodded american :) ) I prefer to invest that money than sink it all into my home. It will, afterall, hold its valie even after 30-40 years with decent maintenance. Home will last me a lifetime (should I choose to stay there, and money not used will buy me another house in 30 years. I do wish that some of the construction materials are better, but I also know that less than 3% off Serbians could afford such a nice house. Americans do have ways (capitalism) to make things cheaper yet functional, and comparing (even salaries in Western Europe) with the cost of the houses, I find that they are more expensive in Europe. Maybe I am biased, but at least in Serbia, 30year olds cannot afford a nice house with their income. I see many people here in their 30s who own homes. Yes, you need some loan for it, but not too bad. Am I thrilled with my newly built home, not all the way, but I still love it and everyone who has visited it. But I also don't want to spend much of my income on a house, because money can be deployed for more productive purposes elswhere, like buying rental properties and investingin the market, or even travel, cars and other things. I don't think that Americans cannot build better houses, they just cost more and maybe not in reciprocity to what you get for the money. My 2 cents. I just visited Greece and Italy a month ago and have not seen a nicer house than mine honestly.

not greg on October 24, 2018:

Greg, there's a reason European houses are build like a tank. its because despite what you might think Europe can have some really nasty weather, i come from the west coast of Norway and we have category 2 - 4 hurricanes every few decades however all you will ever read about following a hurricane is that some steel panel storage building had its roof ripped off or that the power went out. never that a whole town got torn to shreds, its because Norwegian houses are built with sturdier timbers, dual pane windows, and are weighted down with a proper stone roof.

the same cheep construction methods that allow for your toothpick and superglue mansion is the same construction methods that make tornado and hurricanes so deadly in the US, your houses A way to light and so get trashed by hurricanes. B leak heat like there's no tomorrow because you in many cases only have single pane slide windows, and C have walls that are way to thin so that even if your house isn't lifted of its foundation you will get yourself killed anyway because some random road-sign or something came crashing through your walls.

out of all the first world countries you would think the one with a place literally called tornado ally, and who's coast gets trashed by multiple hurricanes on a regular basis would be the one to build the sturdiest houses, but no instead you set up these glorified garden sheds and then get surprised when a hurricane reduces your house to tinder and kills half your town.

america needs to change its construction habits because it cant possibly keep rebuilding the entire south east of itself every few years.

Dutch person on October 09, 2018:

I live in an old city, it was already big in the 12th century. We have many houses that are located near the harbour and there are no cables outside the house have good isolated windows and are not that squeeky. I have been in older farms and they weren't that squeeky.

Honest Abe on September 04, 2018:

Boy, Greg is misinformed, stuck to his own beliefs, and kind of a jackass. I live in the US, and there hasn't been a decent house built here in decades. Your house is big, whoopti do, it is till likely a piece of junk that looks like every other house in your hood. You overpaid for a substandard hunk of crap, and are obviously defensive over it.

Joe on November 23, 2017:

Looks like Greg was triggered. Someone's insecure about living in a glorified shed.

Daniel on October 26, 2017:

Greg - You are right on some things but “out of the wall” plumbing and wiring is an exception and you can only find things like that in very old unrenovated houses. I’ve never had an oportinity to visit someone who lives in a house like that. Maybe someone’s poor grandmother who lives in some remote village. Lots of NYC apartments and even houses are cramped by your standards and some houses in Europe are very big - generally (if we are comparing new houses) US houses are bigger but have more of a “tent quality build”. Another thing - if you sell your house you can probably buy a small appartment in London or Manhattan - and that brings you to another variable which dictates your and everybody elses possibility to live in a big house (if development level of a comparing country or region is roughly simlilar) - population density.

Julton on October 19, 2017:

Europe have different climate than most states in USA. I live in Norway, my house is built with timber walls and all wood. On top of that its 115 years old, tons of charm and not a single spot with mold or damage. All i have to do is to to paint the outside walls every 15 years.

Our winters last up to 6 months and goes between +5C to minus 25C with god knows how much snow.

Greg on October 18, 2017:

Europe probably has some 500 year old horse drawn buggy's too. Is that would we should be using on our daily commute? Times change and so should our dwellings. Sorry Europe, your houses are pathetic compared to ours. I have a home theatre bigger than many houses in Europe.

Greg on October 18, 2017:

Really? Tiny old houses in Europe built with "added later" wiring and pluming? Houses built to fit the lifestyle of the average 18th century family is superior because they are stone? Horrible amount of ignorance in this article. We average twice the size of house, awesome. We have wiring and plumbing INSIDE our walls, awesome. And when our culture changes we can AFFORD to bulldoze and build to fit our new ways, because we are not clinging to our past like Europe, which once led the world, and now leads in tourism to show people how we once lived long ago. Couldn't pay me to go live in the past like Europe, and unlike you, I have been there and couldn't stand the crampy sqweeky creepy single pane window having, funky stair, exposed wiring, funny smelling junk they have over there.

Jon on September 09, 2017:

I always wonder the same thing It make no sense. And these house are well overprice. Almost every year in the Alley they get ripped apart and kill people and no one ever say why don't we start using concrete and steal.

ed on August 31, 2017:

americans live in sheds. remember the Three Little Pigs

Anne on August 06, 2017:

Dying in a tornado isn't really a normal thing unless you live in a trailer park or an apartment that doesn't have a basement. Almost all Americans who own a home have a basement which would be more than sufficient of protecting people from dying of a tornado. I live in tornado valley and never had an issue or met anyone who has died or had a family died in a tornado.

Ann on August 06, 2017:

Live in Missouri. I have a large and sprawling typical American house plywood and all. It's been through almost 30 tornado seasons, had a tree land on it, been through record breaking winters and summers and braces the storms every year but my house has lived to tell the tale lol. I don't really think it's necessary to change these houses despite being "cheaply" made if the house gets the job done. There are plenty of neighborhood surrounding me with houses dating back to the 50s and 60s when suburbia was really just became a thing and these types of houses first became popular. Those houses are nearly 70 years old and still look great. I like homes in suburban America... look beautiful on the outside, are huge, and relatively cheap. Would much rather live im one of those, than a brick box in the U.K.

Lucida Sans on July 05, 2017:

I honestly do not understand why these people choose such shitty materials to build their homes. Here in Puerto Rico most of our houses are made of Cinder blocks, which makes buildings be very durable [we have buildings over 100 years old made of such material which are still standing]. When I first moved to Ohio I remember feeling like I was walking over floors that would break, the fact that the floors were simply made of wood planks really made me feel uncomfortable and couldn't play DDR with my floor mat because neighbours would complain about the stepping.

I don't get it xD

Randy on April 10, 2017:

Where I live on the West Coast of the U.S.. A brick building falls down even in small seismic event such as an earth quake which are common, unless properly reinforced with steel. Also the weather here is 70 degrees Fahrenheit plus or minus ten degrees! I don't get snow, hurricane or tornado. A wooden house with proper size beams, minimal insulation, and a cement foundation is reasonable enough for the environment but you wouldn't want to pay a million dollars for it unless you really like this weathet.

Chad on January 05, 2017:

Two points. You refer to houses and buildings being around 500 years from now. Only the most extravagant, lush, expensive houses and buildings ever survive anywhere near that long. The average person cannot afford to build something like that and never will be able to. That being said, you are correct, modern American housing is utter crap. No matter whether you are driving through an every day neighborhood or the richest around, houses being built use the shoddiest materials and are built to the bare minimum that regulations require. Entire exteriors of houses sheathed in particle board and then covered over with particle board siding. Beams in the houses made of particle board as well. Walls as thin as you can imagine. These mcmansions are basically crap. They will serve the Builder well through their life and then be worthless or fall down.

The other point I would make is that you are correct on the large developments that happened in the nineteen-fifties, and all of them being pretty standard cookie-cutter houses. The difference though, is that those houses we're still built pretty damn well and most are still in pretty darn good condition. Totally different than the houses being built in the last 20 or so years, where everybody is out to get a buck, and everybody is out to buy a house that is way too freaking large for them.

Damascus ari on January 03, 2017:

Yeah. I absolutely hate US houses, because they are cold and wet in winter, creaking, hot and stuffy in summer, misearble to live in, with something like 0 sound insulation, and you can probably punch a wall clean through with your fist. Even in expensive houses...

In contrast, I live in (an admittably upper-class) apartment in Warsaw, which has all brick thick walls, and lo and behold, it's nice and toasty in winter and reasonably ok in summer (no a/c). Sound is wonderfully muffled and you can speak out loud knowing your neighbors will not overhear a single word said. Punching the wall is liable to put you in a world of hurt. The windows are of a modern design (pretty much everywhere at this point), and water pressure is a non-issue.

Fires are a non-issue too; even in older (like 50 year old) apartment blocks, if one apartment catches fire, that's... it. Cables are free to burn as much as they like (not that they do), because the wall ain't catching fire.

Houses are pretty similar in all these terms.

Nick on December 06, 2015:

The US builds a lot of amazing structures.

Just a random list I found. Obviously the US isn't as old as Europe, so generally everything is less than 100 years old. There are many, many examples of excellent construction quality and architecture. You also can't compare cathedrals and other massive monuments that took 200 years of practically slave labor in 1300's Europe to build. It doesn't even make sense to compare that. No one builds stuff like that anymore, even europeans.

Nick on December 06, 2015:

It's not a reasonable or fair comparison to focus on the cheaply made houses in the US. It's also not fair to compare houses in Europe that for the same size, could very easily cost TWICE as much to build.

I just put a roof on my house in Sweden. It was the cheapest steel roof I could buy and before the 50% tax reduction in labor costs, it was $25,000 not even including the garage (200m^2 of roof on the house). My parents house by contrast, with 325m^2 of roof cost $7,500 to replace and that company did it in two days, not two $$&#@ weeks. Will the $25k roof last longer? Yeah, duh. 30 years before the paint peels off? If you're lucky. But for 15 years, will the shingled roof be any worse? No. And my house in Sweden (that all my friends and colleagues were saying was soooo good in comparison to "American" construction quality) is built so cheaply. Flimsy construction methods, and when my house was built, the electrical and plumbing standards were about 20 years behind the US. Grounded outlets?! NOPE! Not required in Sweden until 1994. Ha! Fire safety? Nope. All particle board walls, no drywall. Almost all houses have this. And they were saying how good this house is.

My new roof is of the same quality and style as the roof on my parent's barn (sized for truck, truck camper, two more cars and lots of equipment). Guess which was cheaper to build? The ENTIRE barn or the smaller roof on my house? Yeah, the barn in the US. Basically, if you compare construction costs, they paid for a roof and got an entire barn for free. It's even insulated with three garage doors. It's astonishingly unbelievable the difference in construction costs. I shopped around with contractors and it was the cheapest I could get. One company wanted $42,000 for a dang steel roof. And you know what, that barn will be there for many, many years. It's all steel and pressure treated lumber. What's going to happen to it? It has seen hurricane force winds, hail, huge amounts of snow, etc. And their house is all steel I-beam construction with cinderblock and brick construction. It's solid. Tornadoes have literally passed nearby and nothing happened. Directly overhead, no house can stand 500 kph wind.

If you compare a modest but nice $200k house in the US that's the same size as a $200k house in Europe, the house in the US will be WAY better. No comparison! You can't even built a house for that much in Europe. Comparing identical construction materials, things can be a fraction of the cost in the US.

It's like everything in the US. Yeah, there's lots of cheap crap. Duh. But if you compare for the same price, more likely than not, it will be the same or better in the US.

yup on August 06, 2015:

Yes that is correct, americans love crap; crappy food, crappy houses and cars and they definitely didn't read story about three piglets, otherwise they would build it in brick. I can't imagine having mortgage that I have to pay for the rest of my life for the house that will collapse before I die, but that's typical in america, I had friend that said he has to repair wall because insulation fell off and is freezing, imagine that happening in an UK house.. they're built like Windsor Castle.

aprig on July 26, 2015:

Wood is ok. I built several. In Romania. Where people really don't get the enormous benefits. I used 6x25 cm posts and beams and I packed them in 22 mm osb outside and 15 mm inside. No electric or plumbing in the structure. Another 2 inches spacing inside allowing room for all installations. 2 inches insulation outside and thick stucco. In structure insulation rockwool . Stands up to 1600 Celsius. Structure chemically treated. The houses will survive us for sure.

Oh... in USA they have 2 by 4 that had that dimension theoretically. The real thing that you will gonna get regardless the price will be 1 3/4 by 3 3/4.

That is why they have codes that prevents roof overhangs to pass 510 mm. They kinda know what's gonna happen.

Anyway, if anybody thinks of building something really good nobody will pay for that cause they won't value it right. It is like they war born with that fan hanging out of the ceiling so nobody can live without it.

alex on June 13, 2014:

i come from a what murikans consider a "third world country" called Romania, we make the fondation of the house from reinforced concrete with rebards, then we make the structural base out of reinforced concrete with thick iron rebars. the exterior walls are made out of thick bricks, so please americans, learn to build or get out of debt so your people stop dieing in tornadoes!

Daniel on September 09, 2013:

Nils, I wouldn't say that plywood is made from compressed leftovers. That makes it sound like it is some sort of restructured sawdust, which it is not. In plywood production, sheets of wood are "scraped off" from a whole, rotating log, and several of these layers then pressured on top of each other. I'm no expert in what kind of benefits and drawbacks the resulting plywood has, but it definitely isn't a waste by-product of wood processing.

Here in Western, Southwestern Europe, there are some wood houses that have survived the generations, but they are generally not built in this kind of panel style, but boarded. Also very often, the ground floor actually has stone walls, with only the upper floors being pure wood construction.

I have always wondered about the prevalence of plywood or OSB construction in North American houses, especially in areas that often have to deal with a lot harsher weather than we are used to where I live. A relative of mine has recently bought a new house in Los Angeles for close to a million dollars, and it is also a plywood construction. It would be unthinkable here to pay that kind of money for a plywood house. The overwhelming majority of houses are concrete, brick, or ICF. Not only for stability but also the obvious isolation benefits. However, I will also say that this hasn't really changed much about the fact that we, too, tend to rather tear down houses to build new ones after a few decades. Outside of town centers with iconic, usually protected architecture, and maybe far out in the countryside, it is relatively rare to see houses from before the 1960s, definitely the 1950s, even though their construction would have allowed them to stand for much longer. I think a major reason is that the majority of people are wary of moving into a house that is 50 years old or older, because of the stark differences in design. Central heating, modern plumbing, and bigger rooms with more windows are things most people want, and it's hard to impossible to convert old houses to that.

And I am pretty sure that stone and concrete being too heavy is nonsense. If the ground is not stable, wooden houses will have as much, if not more, structural problems than concrete or stone houses. Or how would you explain the definitely immensely heavy steel and concrete skyscrapers of Manhatten? They seem pretty sturdy to me, yet they are built, of all places, on an island, which definitely isn't the most stable ground you can find.

frantisek78 (author) on July 04, 2012:

Thanks for your comments Nils! Yes, I agree that building with quality wood would be no problem. The real problem is the plywood used in the US which is basically cardboard.

Nils on July 03, 2012:

I have had this suspicion some time. But I have to say plywood is really not wood, but the compressed leftovers of a sawmill. It is also a huge difference between good wood, and bad wood.

Coming from Norway, a country where wood have been the only way for thousands of years. Im afraid that what's common knowledge here, is not common on the other side of the ocean.

Some generations ago, it was still usuall to buy houses, pick them down and rebuild them. Our summer-house have been rebuildt several times. The living room might be the thimber base from a typical medieval house. This house is set on a small island far out sea. This have been the home of my ancestors for generations. It have never suffered any rot, and survived countless hurricanes.

Houses should be buildt by wood that is carefully picked out by professional thimbermen. Concrete and stone is too heavy, if not buildt on rock the ground will move, and the whole construction will be ruined. A good house should be buildt by wood. If your stupid and leave your window open during a hurricane. The home should be able to survive the flight.

I really think plywood houses is illegal over here. The bad wood is sold to the paper-industry. Oh and, I know we also sell a lot of bad wood to IKEA. It gets grinded up, compressed into plywood and sold as furniture to stupid people.