8 reasons why construction materials are more important than you might think

Written by By Katie Van Syckle, CNN

Ready-made houses are a step ahead of the pack when it comes to their destruction-defying abilities. They don’t just survive hurricanes, earthquakes and other natural disasters, they thrive.

According to Benita Hukbar, director of the Home Builders Association of Rhode Island, the industry is rife with misconceptions about what it takes to make a truly houseproof, or sturdy, dwelling.

1 / 11 – Homeness

“In today’s country we live in, there is no need to build houses as concrete boxes with a strong foundation,” Hukbar says. “The story is very different on coastlines and along water. There we are looking at houses that are surrounded by salt water, which requires three to four times the strength of fresh water, in a sense.

“When compared to raising children, rescuing a pet or most everyday tasks, the strong foundation of a home is a safe foundation.”

3. Soft enough?

First, Hukbar says, everyone should have an awareness of their property’s shake rating.

The US Geological Survey and US Geological Survey (USGS) currently rate homes on a one-to-five scale. A one-to-three shake rating is “soft and friendly,” Hukbar says. A three-to-five shakes are “very hard and dangerous,” and a five shakes are “really hard.”

“A one-to-four shake is very different from a three-to-five shake in terms of safety,” Hukbar explains. “A house can suffer severe damage on a one-to-four because the foundation is water-filled.”

If you’re in a one-to-four shake zone, Hukbar recommends that you choose to build a safer, and stronger, home.

“If you’re in a three-to-five shake zone, when you’re coming home from work, for example, you don’t need to go outside, shower, etc. And if you do get to the house, keep an eye on the clock for the least amount of time before you are jolted by a one-to-four or 3-to-5 shake. This is because shoddy construction places us at a greater risk.”

4. Understanding your situation

Before you begin any building project, you should get a 3D physical-footprint read of your home’s location and outline what type of layout is most appropriate, according to Adam Michel, technical chair at Daetwyler, a builder of pre-fabricated homes.

The solution, he says, is to avoid restrictive design for this point. Instead, there is “no requirement to install a portico” and “there is no requirement to have a conventional single driveway.”

5. The right material

“Some drywall is stronger than others, some doors are stronger than others,” Michel explains. “There are more steel rivets in my production than any other. If you tear or knock a plank of the house off, you need to ensure that all the rivets are still in place, and that the edge of the plank is secured back to the top of the wall.

“The cost of construction tends to go up with the type of material being used. If your house doesn’t face the storm side of the street, that part of the house is going to be more susceptible to wind damage.”

6. An added level of protection

Michel says that proper integrity is key to the development of houses.

“You have to be cognizant of the building certification, like the SRA and NCC, and pay special attention to how the building is secured in relation to the basement,” he says.

“Think about the structure of the foundation of the house — is it drilled down below the soil level?” Michel explains. “It will likely be very well protected.”

7. Consider the materials

Hukbar says that homebuilding is designed to save energy and last a lifetime. You have a choice in this regard, she explains, between materials such as hardwoods, alfalfa straw or hot weather insulation.

8. More than just a door

Michel says that people often misunderstand that materials can save you money as well as protect your home.

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