Wednesday 25 December 2019

Wood Constructions vs Stone Constructions in History

There have been many buildings in history made out of wood and stone. Which material is better? Is wood inferior to stone?

For example, Japanese castles ( shiro) were fortresses constructed primarily of wood and stone. They evolved from the wooden stockades of earlier centuries, and came into their best-known form in the 16th century. Castles in Japan were built to guard important or strategic sites, such as ports, river crossings, or crossroads, and almost always incorporated the landscape into their defenses.

The castles were certainly built to last and used more stone in their construction than most Japanese buildings. However, the castles were still constructed primarily of wood, and many were destroyed over the years. Castles from mostly stone would be harder to destroy than mostly wood.

Roman concrete or opus caementicium was invented in the late 3rd century BC. This is when builders added a volcanic dust called pozzolana to mortar made of a mixture of lime or gypsum, brick or rock pieces and water. Portland cement was invented in the 1800s.

Wood is used very often in construction. Hardwoods are commonly used in the construction of walls, ceilings and floors. Softwoods are often used to make doors, furniture and window frames.

Wood has advantages as a building material. Its thermal, acoustic, electrical, mechanical, aesthetic and working properties are very suitable for building a comfortable house using only wooden products. With other materials, it is almost impossible.

However, wood has some disadvantages. Transportation of wood to urban areas can be expensive. Wood energy likely produces green house gases. Wood is hygroscopic and it will absorb surrounding vapors loses moisture below the fiber saturation point. Wood can decay with mold fungi, bacteria and insects. Deterioration of wood can also happen with sun, wind, water, fire and certain chemicals.

Stone as a building material has advantages. It is durable and resistant. It has low environmental impact. It’s a low maintenance material. It ages well.

These are the disadvantages of stone. It is poor insulation. The cost of building with stone can often be a lot higher than other materials.

There are pros and cons to building high rises with wood. Wood is definitely a cheaper material than steel. Wood also offers lower labor costs, because more professionals have experience with wood than metal.

Stones are more difficult to transport because of their weight and often large size. Cutting stone into smaller pieces is pretty difficult. Civilizations in history have benefited from creating small bricks.


  1. Here is an interesting type of castle. A motte-and-bailey castle was made up of two structures:

    1)A motte (a type of mound, most often artificial, topped with a wooden or stone structure known as a keep)
    2) At least 1 bailey (a fortified enclosure built next to the motte).

    The term "motte and bailey" is a relatively modern one, and is not really medieval in origin.

  2. Wood is nice for rough framing walls, floor, ceiling and stairs.

    It is nice to know the definition of Halfpace (a landing of a staircase like a broad step between two half flights).

  3. An interesting discussion is worth comment. I think that you should write more on this topic, it might not be a taboo subject but generally people are not enough to speak on such topics. To the next. Cheers


    1. Thanks for liking this discussion.

      In interesting recent news, Vancouver mass timber schools receive funding.

      (Tuesday, March 16, 2021)

      The Vancouver School Board has received $1.4 million in federal funding for 2 pilot mass timber schools: Bayview Elementary School and Sir Mathew Begbie Elementary School. This massive investment will enable the construction of 2 local schools as part of recent seismic upgrades to make B.C. schools safer.

      The original structure of Bayview Elementary School was demolished, making way for a new school to be built over the existing footprint with a greater resistance against earthquakes. The building consists of 2-storeys of classrooms and teaching areas, as well as a gymnasium and Neighbourhood Learning Centre.

      Sir Mathew Begbie Elementary School will be a completely new, 34,000-square-foot modern design with open learning spaces. With the use of mass timber as the primary building material, the total carbon benefit is approximately 1,400 tonnes of carbon dioxide, the equivalent of removing hundreds of cars from the road for a year.

      This is an impressive economic effort.

      Read more about it here:

  4. It’s hard to find knowledgeable people on this topic, but you sound like you know what you’re talking about! Thanks

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