The Advantages of Wood as a Building Material

Wood is obviously both a common and a historical choice as a building material. However, in the past few decades, there has been a move away from wood in favor of engineered products or metals like aluminum.
advantages of wood as a building material
While the desire to not rely on the world’s forests for building demands is well-intentioned, the advantages of wood as a building material still outweigh other products on the market when looking at the environmental impact and performance.

Wood’s Characteristics

Why Is Wood a Good Building Material?

Tensile strength – For being a relatively lightweight building material, wood outperforms even steel when it comes to breaking length (or self-support length). Simply put, it can support its own weight better, which allows for larger spaces and fewer necessary supports in some building designs.

Electrical and heat resistance – Wood has a natural resistance to electrical conduction when dried to standard moisture content (MC) levels, usually between 7%-12% for most wood species. (This conductivity is, in fact, the basis for one type of moisture measurement system.) Its strength and dimensions are also not significantly affected by heat, providing stability to the finished building and even safety implications for certain fire situations.

Sound absorption – Wood’s acoustic properties make it ideal for minimizing echo in living or office spaces. Wood absorbs sound, rather than reflecting or amplifying it, and can help significantly reduce noise levels for additional comfort.

Beauty – With the wide variety of species available, wood presents an incredible range of aesthetic options, as well as provides varied mechanical, acoustic, thermal properties along with others that can be selected based on the need of the building project.

Wood’s Green Advantage

At a time when ecological concerns are high, the trend has been to move away from wood as a building material in order to prevent deforestation, in part as an attempt to manage greenhouse gasses.

However, a closer look at the reasons for this thinking can prove to be slightly off track. Wood has several advantages that help both the builder and the environment.

Wood Is Renewable

Unlike concrete or metals, wood is a building material that can be grown and regrown through natural processes and also through replanting and forestry management programs. Select harvesting and other practices allow growth to continue while larger trees are harvested.

While the forests are growing (via solar energy), they are also naturally and efficiently removing carbon dioxide from the environment. It’s a bonus unique to wood.

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Wood Is More Readily Processed for Use

Wood Construction

When compared to building materials like steel or concrete, the life cycle of wood has a lower overall impact on the environment than its counterparts and as a result, also costs significantly less to produce. Wastewater production and environmental impact are also significantly lower in wood manufacturing processes, particularly when compared to steel.

Many lumber mills use wood byproducts (chips, bark, etc.) as biofuel for their facilities to reduce the fossil fuel burden of the production process, and moisture measurement systems like Wagner Meters’ Moisture Management and Grade Recovery Program allow mills to maximize efficiency and produce less sub-grade and waste materials in the drying process.

As forest management and replanting programs continue to grow, these benefits are continually multiplied.

Wood Emits Lower Volatile Organic Compounds

As a natural building material, wood emits significantly lower volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and carbon dioxide off-gasses than aluminum, steel, concrete and plastics. This is not, however, necessarily true of engineered wood products or composite wood products.

Wood’s lower VOC impact is of particular benefit to homes and offices that are occupied on a daily basis. In fact, one of the things wood does give off is a natural organic compound that relaxes people–it’s not just the warmth of wood’s color that creates such an inviting effect.

Wood Enhances Energy Efficiency

Wood has a higher insulation rating than either steel or plastic as a result of its natural cellular structure. This means that homes and buildings require less energy to maintain heating and cooling, plus wood can help regulate humidity levels to a small degree. (See below on Optimizing Wood’s Use with MC Measurement.) One source suggests that a hardwood floor installed over a wood subfloor provides the same insulation value as a 22-inch concrete floor. (1)

Wood Is Biodegradable

One of the biggest challenges of many building materials, including concrete, metal, and plastics, is that when they are discarded, they take an impossibly long time to decompose. When exposed to natural climate conditions, wood will break down much more quickly and actually replenish the soil in the process.

On the flip side, understanding the role of moisture and wood rot means that when conditions for the wood are optimized, the lifespan of the building or floor can easily outlive the lifespan of the tree!

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Optimizing Wood’s Use with MC Measurement

One of the most important elements when maximizing wood’s performance over time is having an accurate understanding of wood’s interaction with moisture.

The first step in preventing moisture-related damage in wood floors and other wood-based building materials is in bringing each wood building product to the correct MC level.

This process begins at the sawmill kilns and carries on through to each finished building application. At each step, it’s necessary for accurate MC measurement to determine the wood’s final performance.

Free Download – 6 Reasons Your Wood Project Failed

Why the Focus on MC?

Wood is a hygroscopic material. It naturally has a give-and-take relationship with the humidity in the air around it and is always in the process of trying to find a balance between its internal MC and the ambient conditions around it.

On the job site, wood needs to be in balance with its environment, a state referred to as equilibrium moisture content, or EMC. If builders or flooring installers begin the project before wood has adjusted to the relative humidity levels around it, they run the risk of the wood warping, twisting, splitting, or having significant gaps or buckling.

The right tool for monitoring wood MC is a wood moisture meter.

Pin-style moisture meters work in conjunction with the electrical resistance properties of wood by measuring a precise area between the tips of two metal probes or “pins” inserted into the wood. Pinless moisture meters have the advantage of measuring MC along an entire length of a board without causing repeated damage to the wood’s surface.

Here at Wagner Meters, our pinless moisture meters are designed with IntelliSense™ Technology, which means MC readings are not susceptible to surface moisture or temperature, and can “scan” wood for MC at a uniform depth without surface damage.

The meters provide easy-to-use, accurate MC measurements to be sure that every building and flooring professional knows the MC of the wood they will be using in the building process.

Overall, wood has some “built-in” advantages when choosing a material with both environmental and aesthetic appeal, and with the right application of wood MC management, wood can retain those properties for generations.

Consider reading, how to use a moisture meter properly next.


Last updated on June 23rd, 2021


  1. Finding a lumber mill that will maximize efficiency and produce less sub-grade waste materials in the drying process is a great idea. A company that knows what they’re doing and has the skills and equipment they need could help you get the best quality. Making sure you have the best building materials could help your project work better and last longer.

  2. Wood sounds like a fantastic building material. I love the fact that it’s renewable, so, as long as we’re careful, we’ll naturally have enough wood forever! In my opinion, natural choices are almost always better than man made ones.

  3. Kylie Dotts says:

    I didn’t realize that moisture could play such an important role in ensuring that the wood you use in your house is strong enough to support everything. It does make sense that moist wood could end up being a little bit weaker because it would allow the fibers to bend or even break. Having building supplies that are up to par with health codes and things like that would be pretty important.

  4. Hector Uba says:

    Thanks for elaborating on the benefits of using lumber when building. I never really thought about the idea that wood actually absorbs sound and can reduce noise levels. I would imagine that wood can last longer than a lot of other materials if you treat it right as well.

  5. Ashley says:

    I liked that you said that one thing to consider when you are in need of wood is to order through a lumber supply business in order to create beautiful woodwork. I have been thinking about starting my own business that would involve woodwork for the building but I have been worried that I wouldn’t be able to attain quality wood. I will be sure to buy wood from the lumber supplier to ensure quality in the building of my business.

  6. rachel frampton says:

    My husband and I plan to have a mini timber bridge on top of our residential pool. It’s great to know that wood is a kind of material that can be grown and regrown through natural processes. Well, we better start looking for a construction company that can build us our bridge.

  7. Demilade adeyonu says:

    Nice write up on wood…. i have found this useful as an aspiring architect….. on the uses of wood in building construction especially that which says wood is sound proof…. thumbs up

  8. Adam Golightly says:

    My dad is thinking about building a shed in his backyard so that he can store a bunch of items that children shouldn’t get into and damage themselves. He would really like to get some help from a professional that can get him the right materials to build with. I liked what you said about how other trees can be harvested while allowing more growth and they can have a small impact on the environment.

  9. Anse Mercken says:

    Could anyone do an analysis cob vs. straw vs. wood as natural building materials?

  10. Megan Alder says:

    My brother told me that he wants to have a new bridge built on his property and is asking me for advice on what material should he choose. I like that you talked about how using wood is great not only to give a fine appearance but because the material is renewable and will not affect the environment. W I will definitely pass this information to him so he chooses the best option for his property.

  11. Eli Richardson says:

    It’s awesome that this article talked about how wood used as a construction material enhances energy efficiency. If I were to build my house, I think wood would be a great choice for it. Due to it requires less energy to heat and cool. Thank you for the information about the advantages of wood as a building material.

  12. Levi Armstrong says:

    It’s great that you said wood is an excellent building material because it absorbs sound instead of reflecting or amplifying it. My dad wants to have a barn constructed in his newly-bought rural land. He plans to store his farm animals there, so I’ll suggest he has a custom wood building made. Thanks for this!

  13. corten says:

    I like that you talked about how using wood is great not only to give a fine appearance but because the material is renewable and will not affect the environment. He would really like to get some help from a professional that can get him the right materials to build with. My brother told me that he wants to have a new bridge built on his property and is asking me for advice on what material should he choose.

  14. Hassaan-EBP says:

    Thanks for sharing this information on advantages of wood as a building material, i like this useful informative blog.

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