17 Options to Widespread Constructing Supplies

Photo of 2 construction workers at a table looking at plans to discuss alternative building materials with a "Pros vs Cons" label

If necessity is the mom of invention, contemplate shortage and inflation the grandparents of throwing your fingers within the air and saying “Nicely, what can I order?” In recent times, materials shortages and risky materials costs have slowed so many initiatives to a grinding halt. In consequence, contractors and property house owners are more and more contemplating alternate options to conventional constructing supplies. And whereas these supplies typically buck custom, they’re typically simply nearly as good — and typically even higher.

We’ll check out a few of these lesser-known constructing supplies, how they’re used, and their execs and cons under. With some creativity from the designer, open-mindedness from the consumer, and approval from the constructing division, these different building supplies might open up a world of prospects on your subsequent undertaking. 

Concrete alternate options

Concrete is the second-most broadly used substance on the planet, surpassed solely by water. It’s used for constructing residential foundations and driveways, but in addition for establishing hospitals, faculties, and bridges. It’s additionally the fabric of alternative for holding mom nature again within the types of levees and dams.

Whereas it’s a dependable and comparatively reasonably priced constructing materials, concrete (and its manufacturing) is chargeable for round 8% of worldwide emissions. Undertaking house owners that would like to avoid concrete’s dangerous impression can go for one of many following supplies.

Photograph of fly ash.

Fly ash

Coal has its execs and cons, however one of many advantages of burning coal is that it produces fly ash. Fly ash is a fantastic powder shaped by mineral impurities. When combined with water and lime, fly ash turns into a fabric similar to Portland cement, making it superb for concrete blocks or bricks, in addition to poured concrete. 

It’s acknowledged as environmentally pleasant, requires much less water than cement to combine, and prices lower than Portland cement. Nevertheless, its shade consistency is tough to manage, and it does take longer to remedy.


  • Price-effective over Portland cement
  • Acknowledged as environmentally pleasant
  • Requires much less water than cement


  • Longer to remedy than concrete
  • Colour consistency is troublesome to manage
Photograph of ferrock being laid between red bricks.


Ferrock is an environmentally-friendly cementitious product made up of as much as 95% recycled supplies. This concrete substitute consists of recycled metal mud, iron-rich ferrous rock, and silica from recycled glass. When combined with water, it varieties a compound as much as 5 occasions stronger than concrete, extra versatile, and extra immune to oxidation and corrosion. 

Nevertheless, because it’s created from byproducts of area of interest industries, availability could also be restricted in some areas.


  • Fabricated from recycled supplies
  • Stronger and extra versatile than concrete
  • Units rapidly and resists oxidation and corrosion


  • Restricted materials availability attributable to reliance on byproducts from different industries
Photo of unfinished walls constructed out of straw bales.

Straw bales

As one of many old-school concrete alternate options, straw bale buildings have been round because the late 1800s. Constructed from the byproduct of wheat manufacturing, a machine compresses straw into dense bales, and the constructor makes use of them for partitions.

Fashionable constructions embrace post-and-beam frames with straw bales sandwiched between framing members. As soon as satisfactorily compressed in the course of the building course of, the installer coats partitions with a mud and clay combination, ending the bales to a clean consistency. With correct care, straw bale building buildings can final over 100 years — so long as they’re saved dry.


  • Environmentally-friendly materials
  • Partitions have a excessive insulation worth
  • Creates thick partitions that may in any other case be very costly to create


  • Moisture and leaks could be devastating 
Photo of a wall constructed of layers of rammed earth.

Rammed earth

Some type of rammed earth has been utilized in building for 1000’s of years. In truth, probably the most widespread rammed earth-built constructions is The Nice Wall of China. 

This building materials is created from layers of silt, clay, sand, and water poured into varieties after which compressed with energy rams. The result’s a ravishing, sturdy materials similar to concrete at a lot much less value (so long as there are supplies on website). 

Rammed partitions provide wonderful thermal mass, however they’re not nice insulators. 


  • Very cheap (so long as there are supplies on website)
  • Creates a ravishing layered aesthetic
  • Excessive thermal mass, absorbing warmth in the course of the day and releasing it in the course of the night time


  • Surprisingly, rammed earth just isn’t an ideal insulator
Photo of an outdoor wall with a section made of colorful ByBlocks. The ByFusion logo is in the lower left corner.


ByBlocks are concrete block replacements created from 100% recycled plastic. They’re made by accumulating recyclable and non-recyclable plastic, heating them, after which compressing them into cinder block-sized bricks. Whereas they’re not simple for contractors or owners to get their fingers on but, they do suggest a solution to the earth’s plastic downside, that means they could develop into extra widespread sooner or later. Whereas ByBlock partitions do require threaded rod and compressive wooden high and backside plates, as mortar won’t adhere, they’re very simple on drill bits and instruments.


  • Sensible use for recyclable and non-recyclable plastic
  • Simpler to drill via or fasten to than concrete block


  • Not appropriate with mortar, requiring rigorously positioned threaded rods and locking bolts as a substitute
  • Not commercially out there in the meanwhile

Get supplies now, maintain your money.

Get pleasure from 120-day payback phrases with any materials provider.

Lumber alternate options

Lumber pricing volatility has created extra headlines over the previous few years than one might think about. In consequence, contractors, DIYers, and craftspeople have searched far and broad for supplies they may use as a substitute.

Photo taken from below of a construction worker standing on steel framing.

Metal framing

The business constructing business has been utilizing metal studs and tracks for years. It’s light-weight and unbelievably constant in dimension and pass-through places for wires and plumbing. 

The development course of goes rapidly, and the fabric’s apparent hearth resistance makes it a great substitute for conventional lumber (although steel studs could be costlier). Heavier-gauge metal studs may even be used as exterior partitions or in load-bearing purposes.


  • Light-weight and constant
  • Fast set up
  • Fireplace resistant


  • Will be costlier than wooden
A photograph of structural steel.

Structural metal

Structural metal refers back to the massive steel beams which can be typically seen in the course of the early levels of building or in industrial-designed buildings. The lengthy lengths of metal can stand up to an unimaginable quantity of weight over lengthy spans, making them helpful in creating open-concept properties or garages free from posts. 

Structural metal beams virtually all the time require particular ordering they usually’re not often mild sufficient to put in by hand — whatever the dimension of the crew.


  • Carries numerous weight over lengthy spans
  • Can complement an industrial design


  • Requires customized ordering
  • Heavy equipment required for set up 
Photograph from above of Structural Insulated Panels making up a building.

Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs)

Structural Insulated Panels are modular wall sections created from foam sandwiched between two items of OSB. They’re extremely sturdy and power environment friendly, as the froth contained in the OSB acts not solely as the net to supply energy but in addition as insulation. Usually, SIPs are greater than ample for load-bearing partitions, and since they often arrive on-site prepared for set up, there could be vital financial savings realized on labor. 


  • Arrives preassembled for quick set up
  • Sturdy and power environment friendly
  • Reduces labor prices


  • Costly as a supplies buy
  • Nonetheless requires put up and beam or timber framework to function the precise framework most often


Whereas concrete is clearly not fixing any of the world’s eco-centric issues (and as famous above, can have provide problems with its personal), it may be a helpful different to framing lumber. Concrete supplies like poured slabs or concrete blocks are sturdy, dependable, and long-lasting, resisting rot and corrosion for longer than most different supplies. Sure, the manufacturing course of creates a whole lot of dangerous emissions, however concrete is, at occasions, cheaper than wooden and lasts longer. 


  • Sturdy and sturdy
  • Will be cheaper than wooden


  • Produces numerous CO2 emissions
Photo of the second story of a structure made from engineered wood.

Engineered wooden

Engineered wooden, also referred to as SCL (structural composite lumber), is a sort of wooden product created from strands or veneers of wooden merchandise (usually byproducts from the lumber business) and adhesives. Since every size of wooden makes use of much less tree materials than a bit of conventional lumber the identical dimension or of the identical energy, engineered wooden is taken into account extra environmentally sustainable. 

These supplies are a lot stronger than customary wooden they usually can be utilized for assist beams, rafters, headers, joists, and columns. Whereas they’re costlier than conventional wooden, when used as a carrying beam, they require much less assist over the identical span, slicing again on the quantity of supplies vital.


  • Stronger than conventional wooden
  • Makes use of lumber business byproducts
  • Can attain longer spans with out structural assist than conventional wooden framing


  • Dearer than customary wooden framing lumber

Different wooden alternate options

Till now, the wooden alternate options talked about had been explicitly for changing framing lumber. Nevertheless, there are additionally alternate options to changing wooden trim, siding, and flooring supplies. 

  • Bamboo is a sort of fast-growing grass. It’s harvestable in 3–5 years, which is significantly much less time than bushes. It’s helpful for making flooring, trim, and different supplies.
  • Cork is one other sustainable materials. It comes from the bark of a cork oak tree.  Cork’s hottest use is as a flooring materials, as it’s sturdy, moisture-resistant, and comfy underfoot.
  • Fiber cement is a sort of wood-replacement product created from sand, cement, and cellulose fibers. Initially a substitute for asbestos siding (which was initially a substitute for wooden siding) its hottest use is cladding properties to guard them from the weather. These boards mimic the look of wooden however they’re far more sturdy and final for much longer. 

Get the newest constructing materials prices and costs in widespread building items like lumber 2x4s, cinderblocks, and extra with Levelset’s Development Supplies Worth Tracker.

Sheetrock alternate options

Sheetrock. Drywall. Gypsum board. Totally different names for a similar materials. However what different frame-covering different building supplies are on the market for ending inside partitions?

Photo of a wall covered in a sheetrock-alternative veneer


People who’d favor a bit extra texture or dimension for wall finishings could go for a veneer. Constructed from supplies like pure stone and brick, these finishes make the wall appear like they’re fully strong masonry, however in actuality, it’s only a layer an inch or two thick. Understand that these layers do want one thing to stick to comparable to a concrete floor, concrete board, or drywall stretched throughout studs, however they add extra depth than a drywall floor can.


  • Creates a strong masonry wall look
  • Offers a sense of depth and texture


  • Does want a substrate to stick to

Plaster and lath

Whereas old-school as it might appear, there may be nonetheless a spot for plaster and lath partitions. At this time’s plaster partitions characteristic steel mesh lath stretched throughout the framing, with coats of gypsum, sand or cement, and water laid over high. Plaster partitions are extra sturdy than drywall, insulate higher, and are extra hearth resistant. Additionally, since there isn’t any natural materials just like the paper that faces drywall, plaster partitions gained’t harbor mildew progress. With an professional hand, these partitions will look as clean and flat as drywall, however they’re costly as a result of they’re labor-intensive and require expertise.


  • Improved sturdiness, insulation, and hearth resistance
  • Received’t permit mildew to develop


  • Costly because it requires an professional’s contact

3D Panels

Another choice for contractors or shoppers trying so as to add extra depth or model to plain inside partitions is 3D panels. These wall coverings are available in sheets that characteristic raised patterns or textures. They will change all the look of a wall rapidly, they usually are available in a variety of kinds and patterns. They’re normally created from supplies like polystyrene or medium-density fiber boards. Usually, the panel just isn’t sufficient to fulfill hearth code, so a substrate like drywall, concrete, or concrete board is normally vital beneath. 


  • Covers partitions rapidly
  • Is available in a variety of kinds or patterns


  • They do require a substrate beneath to fulfill hearth code necessities

Insulation alternate options

When most individuals consider insulation, they instinctively image mounds of itchy pink fiberglass. Whereas fiberglass insulation is the most well-liked sort (and probably the most eco-friendly, because it consists of recycled glass), it may be a ache to work with, requires numerous protecting gear, and have to be saved freed from moisture. Luckily, contractors have a wide range of alternate options to discover.

Mineral wool 

Mineral wool isn’t truly wool, however an insulation materials created from extruded lava rock. The producer spins the lava rock at excessive speeds, inflicting the rock to type skinny strands which can be then used to make a fabric similar to fiberglass insulation. 

It’s an costly materials, however its moisture-resistant and fire-resistant properties exceed that of fiberglass. It’s additionally higher at dampening sound transference.


  • Constructed from naturally occurring supplies
  • Extra immune to moisture, hearth, and sound than fiberglass


  • Dearer than fiberglass

Spray foam

Spray foam insulation continues to develop in recognition. This polyurethane-based insulation adheres to the surfaces it touches when it’s moist after which expands, serving to to fill voids and gaps for improved insulation. The froth is each a thermal barrier and a moisture barrier, permitting installers to get two steps out of the best way with one software. 

Do observe that whereas spray-in insulation is excellent at insulating, lots of the chemical compounds used and launched in the course of the curing course of are dangerous to the surroundings.


  • Expands to fill voids for top insulation worth
  • Acts as a thermal and moisture barrier
  • Adheres to most surfaces when moist


  • Chemical substances launched throughout curing could be dangerous to the surroundings


Cellulose is an insulation materials created from recycled paper merchandise — principally newspaper. The fabric is shredded into small items and handled with a chemical to enhance its hearth resistance. It is available in free, crumbly type and is good for blown-in insulation in attics and partitions. Whereas it initially gives vital insulation, it will possibly compress over time, lowering its insulation worth and requiring topping off with extra cellulose. 


  • Recycled product created from paper
  • Very best for blown-in insulation purposes


  • Can settle over time and develop into much less efficient

Inflexible foam

Inflexible foam insulation is a well-liked different to fiberglass batts insulation. These sheets of insulation are sometimes adhered to concrete surfaces, however they can be reduce to suit between rafters, joists, and studs in some conditions. Inflexible foam’s potential to insulate relies on its thickness, but it surely’s moisture-, rot-, and mold-resistant, making it an ideal alternative for below-grade or moist conditions. It’s costlier than fiberglass on a square-foot foundation, nevertheless.


  • Straightforward to put in
  • Many purposes
  • Proof against moisture, rot, and mildew


  • Dearer than fiberglass

Reflective insulation

Reflective insulation is much like bubble wrap with a metallic coating on each side. This kind of insulation can attain an insulation worth of R-17 when put in correctly. Although barely costlier than fiberglass insulation, it’s much less vulnerable to rodent infestation and water harm. 

Accessible in pliable wraps and in additional inflexible panels, reflective insulation works finest in layers with an satisfactory air hole of about 4 inches between them. As well as, a thermal break between the reflective materials and the framing helps forestall power switch. Set up doesn’t require any particular instruments or tools — HVAC tape is used to seal the seams. 


  • Straightforward to put in
  • Excessive R-value with correct set up
  • No threat of fiber inhalation


  • Barely costlier than fiberglass insulation
  • Insufficient air hole or thermal break reduces effectiveness
  • No noise dampening properties

Various constructing supplies could maintain your undertaking on monitor

Materials shortages can rear their ugly heads at any time. Any disruption within the provide chain can have ripple results all through the business, so holding choices open (in addition to your thoughts) could assist you to keep nimble and make knowledgeable game-time choices.

Whereas these different constructing supplies aren’t prone to be anybody’s first alternative for a very long time, realizing they exist stands out as the distinction when aiming to maintain a undertaking on monitor.

Was this text useful?

2 out of 2 individuals discovered this useful

Related Articles


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Latest Articles