Types Of Building Materials Used In Construction

What Is Building Material?

Nearly 11,000 new buildings are constructed all over the world every single day. Various building materials are used for the construction of countless structures from pavements, buildings, skyscrapers to bridges, tunnels, and underwater structures. In this article, different types of building materials used in construction are discussed.

Types Of Building Materials:

1. Concrete:

Concrete is the most important and widely used building material. It is made of cement, fine and coarse aggregates, and water of suitable proportions. Chemical admixtures are also optionally used to accelerate or slow down the setting process of concrete.

The properties of concrete depend upon the quantity and mix ratio of concrete ingredients. The use of concrete has become predominant in constrution where strength and durability are prime factors.

Nowadays, most residential, commercial, and industrial buildings are constructed of concrete. There are different types of concrete used in construction such as plain cement concrete, reinforced cement concrete, prestressed concrete, etc.

Advantages Of Concrete:

i) Concrete is very strong, durable material.

ii) It has a high compressive strength.

iii) Concrete is versatile and can be cast into any shape.

iv) Great fire resistant.

v) Simple and monolithic construction.

vi) Low maintenance.

vii) Minimum weathering effect.

viii) Economical.

Disadvantages Of Concrete:

i) Concrete has low tensile strength hence should not be used as a tensioned member. However, this can be overcome by enforcing steel bars (rebars) along with concrete to provide additional strength and durability.

ii) Easy to crack.

iii) It demands strict quality control.

iii) Long curing time.

v) Brittle.


Concrete is suitably used in the construction of buildings, bridges, dams, towers, roads, etc.

Read25 Types Of Concrete Used In Construction.

2. Cement:

Cement is a binding agent for construction materials. Cement is produced by burning at high temperature in definite mixture of calcareous, siliceous, and aluminous raw materials and crushing the resulting clinkers to a fine powder.

Cement is the most costly ingredient in concrete and available in a variety of forms. When cement is mixed with water a chemical reaction starts and as result, the powder transforms into a paste that binds all the materials with it.

The properties of cement depend on the chemical composition, manufacturing process, and degree of fineness. There are almost 16 types of cement used in construction depending upon the type of structure.

The most common types of cement used are Ordinary Portland cement (OPC) and Portland Pozzolana Cement (PPC).

Advantages Of Cement:

i) Cement is a very strong binding material. There is no other competitive substitute for this material.

ii) It is high thermal mass.

iii) It increases the strength of concrete.

iv) Easy to mix.

Disadvantages Of Cement:

i) Low tensile strength.

ii) It forms cracks in concrete.

iii) It is Costly.


Cement is used in concrete for the construction of buildings, bridges, plastering work, dams, railway, roads, etc.

3. Fine aggregate:

Fine aggregates are the filler materials in concrete obtained from natural rocks and crushed gravels. The size of the fine aggregates is limited to 4.75 mm and below. The fine aggregates are usually inert materials that do not react with the other components of concrete. However, the silica content in the fine aggregates should be monitored to prevent the alkali-aggregate reaction which may form unwanted cracks in the structure.

The most commonly used fine aggregate was river sand which is now being replaced by Manufactured sand commonly known as M sand. The M sand is obtained by crushing the granite stone.

ReadHow To Check Quality Of Sand

4. Coarse Aggregate:

Coarse aggregates are another type of filler material of a size greater than 4.75 mm. The coarse aggregates are available in various sizes from 4.5 mm to 150 mm where 20 mm is the most commonly used size. The coarse aggregates are widely used in the production of concrete and in the construction of flexible pavements (Bitumen and asphalt pavements).

The most commonly used coarse aggregates are crushed stones from quarries and gravels. However, as the world moves towards sustainability, the old concrete obtained from demolished buildings is also being used as aggregates.

5. Admixture:

Admixture is an optional component of concrete that is added to modify certain properties of the concrete to improve its performance. The volume of admixtures added to the concrete mix depends upon the need and varies from site to site. The admixtures are of two types namely – Mineral admixtures and chemical admixtures.

Mineral admixtures are solid admixtures that can replace the cement in a concrete mix. The most common mineral admixtures are fly ash, Ground granulated Blast furnace slag (GGBS), silica fume, rice husk ash, and metakaolin.

Chemical admixtures are liquid admixtures that are added to the concrete mix to modify the property of the concrete. They include

i) Accelerators – To speed up the setting process.

ii) Retarders – To slow down the setting process.

iii) Plasticisers and Superplasticizers – To improve workability without adding water to the mix thereby reducing the water-cement ratio.

iv) Air entraining agent – To create artificial sir pockets inside the concrete.

v) Water reducing admixtures – To increase the mobility of the cement particles in the plastic mix, achieving same workability at lower water contents.

vi) Viscosity modifying agents – To improve the flowability of the concrete.

6. Mortar:

Mortar is one of the oldest construction materials made using binders and fine aggregates. The most common type of binder used in mortar is cement. However, lime can also be used as a binder. The mortar used in the brick masonry should always be weaker than the bricks. This is to ensure that the failure occurs in the mortar which can be easily repaired rather than the bricks.


They are used in masonry works, plastering, repair, and patching work.

7. Steel:

There are three types of steel used in construction.

i) Rebar steel.

ii) Structural steel.

iii) Chicken wire mesh.

a. Rebar Steel:

Rebar steel commonly known as steel reinforcement is one of the vital components of modern construction. Concrete is strong in compression but weak in tension. Steel is used in order to resist the tension that acts on the member due to bending or lateral loads.

Of all metals, steel is the most suitable reinforcement material because of the near same thermal coefficient of expansion. The thermal coefficient of concrete is 14.5 /˚C and that of steel is 12 /̊C. Due to this property of the steel, it is more compatible with concrete than other metals.

The most commonly used rebars are deformed steel bars namely Thermo Mechanically Treated bars (TMT bars) and High Yield Strength Deformed bars (HYSD) bars. These bars are circular in cross-section and have ribs protruding on the surface that improves the bonding between the concrete and steel.

Advantages Of Rebar Steel:

i) Steel has modulus of elasticity. Steel is subjected to stretch in tension without breaking and retrieve its shape after the elimination of load.

ii) Highly ductile material can withstand high impact load.

iii) High strength, durable and long lasting.

iv) Reduce thickness of concrete in RC structures.

v) Prevent cracks.

vi) Stainless steel rebars have longer life span than galvanized steel rebar by more than 5 times in different corrosive environments.

vii) Steel and concrete has equal coefficient of thermal expansion.

viii) Resistance to rough conditions is high during transporting and handling.

ix) Sustainable.

Disadvantages Of Rebar Steel:

i) Very costly building material.

ii) Melts in very high temperature.

iii) Heavy in weight.

iv) Corrosion and rust problem.

b. Structural Steel:

Structural steel is an alloy of iron made using carbon and manganese. It is the building block of steel structures like trusses, steel buildings, bridges, etc. The structural steel is pre-fabricated at factories and can be easily erected at the site making the construction process faster. Using steel for construction also reduces the dead weight of the structure.

Unlike rebars, structural steel is not circular in shape. It is available in I, H, C, T, L, S, W, pipe and box sections.

c. Chicken Wire Mesh:

Chicken wire mesh is used in the construction of Ferro concrete. Ferro concrete also called Ferrocement is a type of reinforced concrete structure made up of cement, fine aggregates, hexagonal or square chicken wire mesh, and water.

First, a tightly packed wire mesh is installed over which a rich cement mortar mix of ratios 1:2 or 1:3 is applied to both sides of the wire mesh. The diameter of the holes in the wire mesh is restricted to 1 mm.
It is mostly used in repair works, slabs, manhole cover, etc.

8. Bricks:

Bricks are rectangular blocks usually made from clay or mud and hardened by heating or chemical process. Bricks are set with mortar which acts as an adhesive to hold them in place and withstand the loads acting on it. Nowadays bricks are also available in different varieties made from concrete, fly ash, lime, calcium silicate, ceramics, etc. Out of them, concrete bricks are gaining popularity in modern construction.

Advantages Of Bricks:

i) Versatile, high compressive strength with extreme durability.

ii) Good thermal properties.

iii) Highly fire resistant.

iv) Economical.

v) Low maintenance cost.

vi) Reusable and recyclable.

Disadvantages Of Bricks:

i) Low tensile strength, cannot be used in earthquake prone areas.

ii) Absorbs moisture and water easily whcih causes fluorescence.

iii) Time consuming construction.


Bricks are uses in masonry walls, paths, driveways, fireplace etc.

9. Stone:

Stone is also one of the oldest types of building materials used since ancient times. Stone masonry is made using natural stones and mortar. The most common types of stones are sandstone, granite, marble, limestone, and laterite. Stone masonry is mostly followed in areas that have locally available stones.

Stone masonry gives a superior appearance to the building and is mostly not plastered to manifest the beauty of the stones. The major drawback is that naturally occurring stones are of different sizes and shapes which may be difficult to use in the masonry construction.

Advantages Of Stone:

i) Stone is very much strong and durable.

ii) Weather resistant,

iii) Resistant to chemical attack.

iv) Improves aesthetic appearance.

v) Endless design due to various colors and textures.

vi) Low maintenance.

Disadvantages Of Stone:

i) Stone walls are thick, reduce floor space.

ii) Stone has low tensile strength and less earthquake resistance.

iii) Not lightweight.

iv) Requires dressing.

v) Not easy to work with it. Requires skilled workers.

vi) Time consuming construction.

vii) Costly.

viii) Difficult to repair.


Stone is used for building foundations, floors, retaining walls, arches, walls and columns.

10. Timber:

Timber is one of the oldest type of building materials whose use is now limited to making doors, windows, closets, cabinets, shelves, concert halls, wooden sleepers and interior decoration. The most commonly used timber from oak, ash, poplar, pine, fir, cypress, walnut, redwood or even plywood. Timber improves the beauty of the building.

Advantages Of Timber:

i) Timber is strong and versatile building material.

ii) Easy to work with.

iii) Excellent insulator.

iv) Reusable and potentially recyclable.

v) Biodegradable

vi) Lightweight.

Disadvantages Of Timber:

i) It is very expensive to use as a building material.

ii) Shrinkage and swelling problem.

iii) It is not durable.

iv) Timber is not fire resistant.

v) Vulnerable to weather and termites.

vi) Timber is not strong enough.

vii) Discolouration.


Timber structure, floors, walls, roofing frames, door, windows, furniture, interior decoration, etc.

11. Bamboo:

Bamboo is amongst the oldest and traditional construction materials used since ancient times. Bamboo is recognized as wood but technically it is a species of grass. With the improvement of technology, the use of bamboo in modern construction has been reduced.

Advantages Of Bamboo:

i) Bamboo is extremely strong and natural fiber having high tensile and compressive strength.

ii) Bamboo is lightweight and highly flexible.

iii) Due to great shock absorbing capacity it is very useful in seismic areas.

iv) Bamboo is a cheaper material compared to other building materials.

v) It is environment friendly.

vi) It can be reused a few times for construction and reconstruction.

vii) Bamboo do not rot due to moisture or water.

Disadvantages Of Bamboo:

i) Bamboo needs to be properly treated before using it to fight insect and fungus attack.

ii) Bamboo is highly flamable.

iii) They should not be used in permanent contact with soil because of rotting.

iv) Difficult to create durable joints in large bamboo structure.

v) Lack of design guidance and codification.

vi) Shrinks when loses its water content.


i) Bamboo structures, bamboo houses.

ii) Bamboo roofing,

iii) Bamboo wall.

iv) Bamboo in foundation (There are limitations).

v) Bamboo as an alternative to steel reinforcement.

BAMBOO structure
bamboo structure
bamboo as building material
bamboo scaffolding

12. Glass:

Glass is widely used in modern buildings not only because of its architectural appeal but also because of its ability to allow sunlight, recyclable value, and insulation properties. Glasses are available in various forms. The most commonly used glasses are plain – transparent and tinted glasses.

Advantages Of Glass:

Glass is stable, long-lasting, efficient, recyclable building material.

Disadvantages Of Glass:

i) Extremely brittle.

ii) Production is energy-intensive

iii) Uses non- renewable minerals.


Glasses are used in making doors, windows, floors, non-load bearing walls, skylights, and translucent bricks. and improving the appearance of the façade of the building.

13. Tiles:

Tiles are factory manufactured plates of minimum thickness that can be used to cover the surface of walls, floors, ceilings, parking, walkways, etc., They are made using ceramics, porcelain, and even recycled plastic.

The most alluring properties of the tiles are that they come in various colors, various surface finishes – matte, glossy, normal, glazed and they can be customized to any shape. Tiles can be arranged to form interesting patterns that are otherwise not possible in conventional flooring materials.

Some of the conventional flooring materials are timber, marbles, granites, and mosaics. They are not only costly but also don’t provide a wide set of options. Tiles can be used on the floor and also on the walls which is difficult to implement in the conventional materials.

Advantages Of Tiles:

i) Ceramic tiles are durable, can last 10 to 20 years if maintained properly.

ii) Water resistant.

iii) Easy to clean.

iv) Non-allergenic

v) Many design options.

vi) Easy to repair.

Disadvantages Of Tiles:

i) Hard surface.

ii) Slippery surface.

iii) Cold material.

iv) Heavy in weight.

v) Fragile.

vi) Easily dirtied.


Tiles can be used in the following areas:

i) Flooring: They provide an elegant finish to the interiors of the building.

ii) Bathroom: They provide sufficient damp proofing to the bathroom when used as wall tiles and floor tiles

iii) Kitchen

iv) Parking

v) Walkways

v) Terrace

Read How To Calculate Number Of Tiles Required In A Room

14. Foam:

Foam is an artificial type of building material made of synthetic chemicals made of polyurethane and used as a packing material to improve the thermal insulation properties of a building. They can also be sprayed to inhibit the filtration of air and water into a surface. They are mostly used in exterior walls, attics, basements, and crawl spaces.

15. Bitumen:

Bitumen is a non-crystalline viscous material obtained from petroleum. It is used in the construction of flexible pavements in both roads and airfield pavements.

Advantages Of Bitumen:

i) Bitumen is economical,

ii) Easy to construct,

iii) Easy to repair,

iv) Easily recyclable.

v) They also have good adhesive and rheological properties that provide sufficient friction to prevent skidding of the vehicles.

Disadvantages Of Bitumen:

i) This building material has low tensile strength and less durable.

ii) They absorb heat rather than reflecting (Bitumen roofing)

iii) Environment pollution.


This type of building material is used in Roofing, Road construction.

16. Fibres:

Fibres are some unconventional types of building materials used in construction. Various types of fibres like steel fibres, Polypropylene fibres, glass fibres, asbestos fibres, carbon fibres and organic fibres are widely used to reduce permeability, bleeding and the formation of minor cracks. Fibres can be added to the concrete to improve flexural rigidity, durability and thermal resistance.

Advantages Of Fibres:

The advantages of fibres when used in concrete are given below

i) It increases durability, flexural rigidity, impact strength and tensile strength of concrete.

ii) Improves thermal resistance.

iii) Improves mix cohesion and pumpability over long distance.

iv) Increases freez thaw resistance.

v) Increases the resistance to plastic shrinkage during curing of concrete.

vi) Reduces cracks.

vii) Reduces bleeding and segregation.

Disadvantages Of Fibres:

The major drawbacks of fibres in concrete are

i) Affects workability, requires high water-cement ratio when used in concrete.

ii) Costly.


These types of building materials are used in Dams, spillways, basins, Pavements in airports and highways, Bridge decks, Thin shelled structures, Foundation, In refractories, Industrial floors, and Machine foundations.

Miscellaneous Types:

There are some other types of building materials used in construction are as follows:

1. Earth: Earth or mud can be used to build small unimportant and temporary structures.

2. Ice: Ice is the building block of igloos.

3. Straws – Thatch: Thatched roofs are still common in tropical regions of the world.

4. Fabric: Fabric is used in the construction of temporary tents.

5. Paver block: Paver blocks are used in gardens, parking, and in the construction of sidewalks. The most recent trend in the paver blocks is manufacturing them using waste plastic materials.

ReadTypes Of Slabs Used In Construction.

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