Read our article below to learn more about the differences and benefits of constructing with cinder and concrete blocks.
If you are looking into building a house or buying a ready-made structure, chances are you need to decide on what material to use for it.
Your new house can be constructed of a number of different materials; each material has its own benefits and shortcomings.
Some are stronger, some are cheaper and some are more eco-friendly. Either way, a decision has to be made as to which one works best for you.
Though you need to choose which construction material is best for your house, chances are you won’t be choosing just one.
In almost every house, these materials are used in conjunction to create the final structure. Some of these materials include glass, wood logs, plastic, clay bricks, cement, metal and of course, cinder and concrete blocks.
Cinder blocks and concrete blocks are often seen as interchangeable, but the blocks do have some fundamental differences. To know more about them, read below:
How Are Blocks Used In Construction?
These blocks are used as the primary construction material in walls. These blocks are often referred to as concrete masonry units (CMUs). These blocks are one of many other materials that work in unison for construction.
Concrete and cinder blocks are precast materials, meaning that their structure is formed away from the job site; they are hardened and then brought in for construction.
Concrete and cinder blocks are used in buildings or double-story houses to reduce structural load. The blocks are a much lighter alternative to bricks.
A typical block is also about 6 times the size of a brick, measuring to 60cm x 25cm x 15cm.
These blocks are laid together and bound by concrete, then layered in the same fashion as bricks. The layering is done vertically until the desired height of the structure is achieved. The process is repeated to form the skeleton of the structure.
What Are Cinder Blocks?
Cinder blocks are typically made of concrete and coal cinders, but in reality, they can be made of many different things.
The term “cinder block” has become a generic synonym for any structural block, but they need to be produced with cinders. Cinder is the ash left behind when materials like coal or wood are burned.
These blocks often feature two or three cut-outs in the center, creating a hollow rectangular shape. Because of the way they are structured, and the way they are created, cinder blocks are more lightweight when compared to their counterpart.
However, because of this, they aren’t as strong or structurally sound either. If you live in an area with a lot of humidity or moisture, cinder blocks should be avoided as much as possible because they are prone to bowing and buckling, and repairs in the foundation can be very expensive.
Traditional cinder blocks have become an outdated material for construction and can hardly be found on any site.
This is because the blocks lack tensile strength and are not easily replaceable. When we talk about actual cinder blocks, not the generic term, they haven’t been as produced in over 50 years; if they need to be replaced, they are not as readily available.
However, most people nowadays when referring to “cinder blocks” (as generic term) they actually mean blocks made from concrete which will be discussed below:
What Are Concrete Blocks?
Concrete blocks are traditionally made of pure concrete; an aggregate of crushed stone and sand. These days, concrete blocks have steel, wood or cement mixed in to increase structural integrity.
These blocks are heavier and stronger than cinder blocks. These blocks can withstand a lot more pressure as well; making the structure they are used in much more sound and reliable.
If the structure is not too high, and cost-efficiency is a factor, people tend to use concrete blocks along with cinder blocks alternately so they don’t lose much structural integrity but save on cost.
Concrete is a durable, heavy and long lasting material, which makes it a popular choice for construction. The blocks are also a lot larger in size compared to bricks, making them preferable for use in taller buildings.
Pros and Cons of Cinder/Concrete Block House
Pros of Concrete Block Construction
- Concrete blocks offer an affordable defense against natural catastrophes
- Great for high wind areas (up to 200 mph) and locations with constant precipitation
- Offers improved insulation benefits; helps prevent air leakage
- Blocks can soundproof a structure, buffering up to 75-percent of outside noise
- Ideal for foundations and basement walls
- Can help reduce power bills and mediate energy use up to 20-percent
- Concrete blocks have lower volatile organic compound (VOC) emittance ratings so residents stay healthier
- Won’t attract mildew or mold as readily as wood
- Fewer issues with termite and rodent invasions and infestations
- Won’t rot or otherwise deteriorate like competitor materials
- Offers the potential of maintaining structure for centuries
- Fire resistant; concrete blocks are the preferred material in regions threatened by wildfires
- Receives high marks from insurance entities for safety and longevity
- Usually meets stringent zoning codes and laws issued by municipal governments
- Capable of blocking allergens, radon and other toxins
- Potential resale value and appreciation could offset paying more for concrete block
- Lower labor costs may be associated with concrete block construction
- Shoppers can choose from smooth- or rough-surfaced blocks that add aesthetic appeal
- New types of lighter, more attractive concrete block are beginning to hit the market
- Vinyl or aluminum siding can be added to improve the home’s exterior look
- Homeowners insurance for concrete block homes average 25-percent less than homes made of other materials
- New types of concrete blocks use less cement, are easier to handle and could bring down costs.
Cons of Concrete Block Construction
- Cost of building a concrete block home can be 4-to 8-percent more than when other materials are used
- The “look” of concrete blocks can dissuade potential home buyers
- Adding a layer of stucco to enhance curb appeal ups the cost of construction
- Blocks may not be sized properly to suit blueprints requiring more cutting time
- Improperly poured concrete blocks can cause future foundation buckling
- Over time, concrete blocks can become susceptible to water seepage
- Crew productivity could be diminished if workers aren’t familiar with working with blocks
- Environmental benefits are compromised if windows and doors aren’t rated highly enough
- Concrete prices can fluctuate; calculating pricing for a construction project can be tricky
- Blocks can make it difficult to reach plumbing and pipes in emergencies
- It could be hard to find a contractor experienced at building concrete block homes.
How Much Does It Cost To Build Cinder Block House Walls?
On average, cinder blocks cost $1 to $3 each. Factor in the cost of labor and other material inputs and the total cost of constructing a cinder block house wall ranges between $9 and $12 per square foot.
However, you should note that numerous other factors influence your project’s specific cost, including the design of your house and your location.
Are Cinder Block Homes Cheaper To Build Compared To Wood Framing?
No! Cinder block homes cost more to build than wood framing. For starters, the Cinder block is more expensive to manufacture.
While the price can be as low as 90 cents per cinder block, the average price range is $1 to $3 per block.
Additionally, you need to factor in the cost of mortar, rebar, and concrete fill involved in the construction process.
Finally, cinder block construction requires more labor and specialized equipment, all of which add to a cinder block construction project’s overall cost.
How Do You Keep A Cinder Block House Warm?
While cinder blocks will keep the house cool in the summer’s searing heat, they are unable to keep the heat indoors during winter.
The mostly empty core works well to transfer heat between either side of the walls. Consequently, many homeowners will have to add insulation to the walls’ exterior and/or interior to reduce thermal transfer through the walls.
There are numerous methods of insulating your home with varying prices. Moreover, some cinder block insulating methods can be applied as DIY projects others need professional contractors. In a nutshell, you have plenty of chooses.
One of the easiest methods of insulating your cinder block house is to seal the block’s perforations. Using masonry-suitable sealant or caulking, seal the surface of the wall.
Additionally, the use of cinder blocks construction leaves numerous perforations around windows, pipes, switches, and other outlets that allow drafts of air to perforate into and out of walls. You should seal all these gaps and cracks with a sealant or masonry caulking as well.
An effective insulation method is to use rigid foam insulation. Available in 3 by 5 or 4 by 8 blocks, you can cover the wall’s interior with this lightweight insulating material and reduce heat transfer in the wall.
The insulating rigid foam blocks are fitted between the furring strips and, thereafter, the drywall is installed over the insulated furring strips.
Alternatively, you can treat the exterior walls to insulate your home. Insulated vinyl siding and the Exterior Insulation and Finish System are popular options.
It would be best if you contracted professionals to install exterior insulation systems to ensure you get the best finish possible.
How Long Do Cinder Block Houses Last?
There are numerous variables at play to determine the longevity of cinder block houses. Primarily, the quality of the block will influence how long the home will last.
Moreover, the quality of craft that goes into building the house will affect the house’s longevity. Other factors that play a part in determining the longevity of a cinder block house include its location, soil, and drainage.
With the above in mind, you should note that cinder blocks cannot last long without protection from the elements. Cinder aggregate foams a lightweight block with lower tensile strength, which cannot withstand the elements for a significant period.
As such, cinder block walls need the application of a waterproof coating and a damp-proof membrane at least once a decade.
It is important to note that a house constructed using concrete blocks that use sand as aggregate will last anywhere between 50 and 100 years. As such, you can expect cinder block houses to last fewer years than concrete block houses.
With all the facts above, it makes you think that concrete is the far superior choice for construction, so why do people still use cinder?
It’s true; a lot of building codes explicitly prohibit the use of cinder blocks in construction projects because of its weak structural integrity and low tensile strength.
But somehow, whenever it is permitted, construction workers use cinder blocks in their projects.
The fact of the matter is that cinder is a lot lighter, making it much easier for workers to construct, rather than having to lug around heavy concrete blocks.
Over time, because of their lack of availability and preference for use by construction workers, cinder blocks are becoming more and more expensive; even though they lack tensile strength.
We hope this breakdown of the two construction materials makes your understanding and choice a little bit easier!
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