Home | Building materials - Natural materials, Man-made materials

Chapter: 11th 12th std standard Home Science Maintain Basic Knowledge for family life Higher secondary school College

Building materials - Natural materials, Man-made materials

Natural materials : Mud, stone, sand, wood, lime, asbestos and leaves. Man-made materials: Cement, brick, tiles, metal, glass and plastic.

Building materials


The beauty, utility, economy, comfort and convenience of the houses generally depend to a larger extent on the selection, use and care of the

building materials. The cost of building materials alone works out to more than forty percent of the total cost of the house. The materials available in our country are natural materials and man made materials.

Natural materials : Mud, stone, sand, wood, lime, asbestos and leaves.

Man-made materials: Cement, brick, tiles, metal, glass and plastic.

a. Natural materials Mud


It is the most commonly used material in the house construction. Ever since man felt the necessity of a house, mud is widely used.

Its main features are as follows.

Abundantly available natural material.

Cost is cheap.

Easily made and repaired.

Sufficiently lasting.

Maintain equitable temperature both in winter and summer.

Highly useful for low-income people. The use of mud mixed with chopped straw and cow dung helps for coating the inner and outer walls of the house. A thin coating of mud and cement maintain the surface in a good condition.



Stone is a natural material of construction and is obtained from quarries. Since prehistoric days, it has been used for constructing different components of buildings like foundation, walls, lintels, floors, roofs etc.


The stones used for foundation and walls should be sound and free from cracks and decay. Stones of different forms such as granite, marble, slate, sandstone and limestone are commonly used as building materials. Waxing and polishing make them more attractive. Gravel which are stones not larger than 2cms is essentially needed for building. Care should be taken in using proper sizes of stones and correct inter locking in the width of walls.



It consists of small grains of silica and is formed by the disintegration of rocks caused by weather. Sand should have the following qualities.

It is hard, durable, clean, free from organic matter and does not contain appreciable amount of clay.

It does not contain harmful impurities such as iron pyrites, salts, coal, mica, alkaline or other materials, which will affect hardening.



Wood is the nature's most abundant useful building material. It is comparatively inexpensive, strong, durable and easy to work. Mainly wood is used for paneling, ceiling, roofing, partitions, doors, windows and for making veneers and plywood.


Plywood is made of odd number of woodpiles or layers laminated with plastic resins under high temperature and pressure. It is used for doors, cupboards and decorative paneling.


Deodar, teak, mango, jack, toon, mahogany and bamboo are some of the common Indian timber trees used for building purposes.



Lime has been used as a cementing material since time immemorial. In India till recently, lime has been extensively used for all types of construction purposes. Big palaces, forts, monuments, temples, bridges that were constructed centuries back and that are still existing in good condition substantiate that the use of lime for constructional purposes had reached perfection in the past. Egyptian and Romans made extensive use of lime. Even tough cement has replaced the use of lime. Lime mortars have some advantageous properties like good workability, plasticity, less shrinkage on drying and durability. Lime is cheaper and easily available.



It is available in nature as a mineral in Marwar , Garhwal (Uttar pradesh) and Bhandra in Madhyapradesh. It is silicate of calcium and magnesium found in the form of very thin fibres which are elastic and capable of being woven into fabrics. It can withstand high temperature and acids without any change. It is used for roof, bathroom doors and partitions. However it is not advisable to use asbestos as a roofing material essentially in our country since they transfer heat.



Grass, palm leaves and palmyrah leaves are used for roof structure. They are temporary and highly inflammable.

b. Man-made Materials



Cement should be used for the purpose of durability and strength of buildings. It has the quality to bind together loose particles of gravel, broken stones or other aggregates.


Its quick setting property, strength and ease with which it can be used under variety of conditions has revolutionized the concept of construction. Hence it has become the most popular cementing material. Concrete is a building material made by mixing cement, sand, gravel and water, which becomes rockhard, when dry and set. It is fire proof, sturdy and can withstand high pressure. Because of these qualities, almost all huge structures are moulded by concrete.



It is the most extensively used construction material because it is locally available, cheap, strong, and durable and it has the good insulating property against heat and sound. It can be moulded to any shape or size.



Tiles used for construction are of different types such as flooring tiles, country tiles and marble tiles. The Country tiles and


Mangalore tiles are generally used for roofing in rural areas. Floor tiles consists of terrazzo, which are polished tiles made out of marble chips mixed with coloured sand. Mosaic tiles are cement tiles polished with a portable machine after laying. Though they are expensive, they are easy to maintain.



Metals and their alloys are the backbones of all engineering products used for construction. Metals used for construction can be classified in to two categories.

 Ferrous metals wherein iron is the main constituent. (e.g.) Cast iron, wrought iron and steel.

Non-Ferrous metals wherein iron is not the main constituent. (e.g.) Aluminium, Copper, zinc, lead and tin.


Iron and steel occupy the most important place in the construction of huge structures. Steel is produced by combining iron and carbon chemically, heating it to red-hot and cooling it suddenly. Steel is used as reinforcement in reinforced cement concrete.


Metal have great tensile strength and are lighter than wood. Metals are both malleable (Capable of being beaten into any shape or rolled into sheets) and ductile (Capable of being drawn into wires of variable thickness).



Glass has been extensively used for glazing doors and windows, for insulation and for decoration. Rapid advances in glass technology have opened up new avenues for its use.


Glass plate is heated and then suddenly cooled to temper it. This tempered glass is much stronger and is used for glazing entrance doors, or in making table tops, shelves, counters, etc. Glasses are also used for sound proof partitions.



Plastic have become a versatile material of modern times. Plastics are available in a variety of forms to suit varied requirements. It is fast replacing many conventional materials like timber, aluminium etc. Plastics are used in electric and sanitary fittings like electric points, switches, holders, insulators, water closet seats and domestic furniture.


While selecting the building materials, the following factors are to be considered: 


Ease of maintenance



Process of installation


Family's taste and preference

Fashions of the present day.



Architects have long been aware of the need for less expensive ways of building and have recognized the potentialities in prefabrication. Prefabrication is the process of assembling the different architectural structures like roof, walls, floors, windows etc., from standardized factory-built components.

Reasons for prefabrication in houses are


Prefabrication reduces the cost of construction, shortens construction time and assures a specified degree of quality.


Inadequate housing for millions of people.


At the present rate of population growth millions and millions of new dwelling unit will be needed within the next few years. Enormous social problems can be solved only if satisfactory housing at realistic costs can be provided which is possible by prefabrication.

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