Types of Home Construction
Types of Home Construction & Insurance

One of the primary elements that insurance companies pay attention to is the type of construction you have. It impacts your homeowners insurance premiums. Some homes are easier to insure than others because they are less susceptible to environmental damage.

We will break down the various types of home construction and how they can affect your homeowners insurance policy. Here is everything you need to know.

Young Alfred Home Construction Terminology
Although there are millions of houses in the U.S., both contractors and developers typically use only one of three types of home construction when building a new home: frame, brick, and concrete blocks. When you get an online home insurance quote, you are often asked which construction type you have. Insurers want to know because some construction prevents wind and hail damage more than others.  

Knowing what type of construction you have is confusing for some homeowners. So, we put this guide together. Here is an overview of each method and how each impacts your insurance premiums.

Frame Construction

Wood Framed Homes
Most frame-built houses use wood for structural support. The frame acts as a skeleton, upon which the skin (drywall) and muscles (insulation) sit. Wood-framed homes are either called stick or timber frame construction, depending on the beams' thickness. As you can imagine, stick-frame units are much thinner and cheaper to build, but they are much less resilient to environmental damage, including high wind, pests like termites, and dry rot.

Steel Framed Homes
Although wood is used most for frame residential construction, some home builders may opt for light gauge steel studs instead. Steel framed units are costly, but they are durable and resistant to virtually everything, from wind to mold to pests. Rather than using nails to secure each piece, contractors use screws to hold the beams in place.

Brick vs. Brick Veneer
There was a time when solid brick homes were popular. However, in the United States, it is rare to see one of these buildings intact. Instead, most brick houses use a veneer, aka brick siding.

However, that is a bit misleading since the surface is real brick, not faux brick. Here is a breakdown of the difference between brick and brick veneer:

  • Brick. Since the masonry is load-bearing, a general contractor must build two layers of bricks with headers to secure them together. Typically, builders place headers every six rows or so. These pieces are simply standard bricks turned sideways.
     
  • Brick Veneer. Instead of the masonry holding up the house, the house holds up the masonry. Brick veneer homes typically have a wood frame and drywall with a single brick layer on the outside. These are real bricks, but since they are not load-bearing, they do not require headers. Usually, builders use brick veneers for aesthetic purposes, not functionality. In some instances, contractors may use thin brick to cut down on costs.

Block Construction
Concrete block homes are like solid brick buildings, except that builders use larger concrete block pieces to create the structure. Instead of standard 3 5/8" x 2 1/4" x 8" bricks, contractors use 8" x 8" x 16" concrete blocks, aka concrete masonry unit CMU. However, the construction methods are similar between brick and concrete, with mortar holding each piece in place.

In some cases, block-constructed homes may use poured concrete or steel pieces to reinforce the load-bearing walls since they typically have two or three holes. However, it is not often necessary to fill the blocks.

To make this construction type more visually appealing and energy-efficient, builders will typically cover the concrete with other materials, such as a brick veneer, drywall, or stucco.

Types of Home Construction

How to Tell Which Type of Home Construction You Have
Just looking at your home will not necessarily indicate the type of construction used, so you will have to do a little digging (sometimes literally). Here is a guide of the most common home construction options and how they can affect your standard homeowners insurance.

Brick & Brick Veneer Home Construction

Frame with Less Than 10% Brick Veneer
When it comes to percentages, you will need to do some math. Fortunately, the formula does not require an intense amount of measuring. Since insurance companies mostly care about the home's frame and exterior, you should not have to pay attention to any interior masonry.

Instead, measure the height and width of each side of your house. Do not pay attention to any windows or doors - your percentage estimate does not have to be precise. From there, measure the total area of the brick veneer and subtract the numbers.

For example, let us say that you live in a perfect square with 15-foot walls. One wall's area would be 225 square feet (15 x 15). All four walls would add up to 900 square feet. Ten percent of that would be 90 feet.

So, when measuring your brick veneer, if it is 90 feet or less (i.e., 10 feet high by 9 feet wide), your house would fall into this ten percent category.

Brick Veneer vs. Brick House
Brick houses have two layers of brick that become the house's frame. Brick Veneer has one layer of real brick used for siding on top of a different type of frame material. You can check window sills, wall outlets or switches, and door frames to see what you have. You also might be able to tell by measuring the thickness. One standard brick is 3-5/8" x 2-1/4" x 8".

10-33% Brick Veneer
Using the same measuring methods as above, you can determine how much brick veneer exists on your home's facade.

34-66% Brick Veneer
Use the same formula as above.

67-100% Brick Veneer
Use the same formula as above.

It should be quite easy to tell if your home has a 100-percent brick veneer as it would cover the entire outside.

When it comes to homeowners insurance, brick veneer houses are more flame-resistant since bricks do not catch fire as quickly as wood. So, the more brick on the outside, the more resilient your home, and the lower your home insurance premiums.

 Brick & Brick Veneer Home Construction

Brick Stone Masonry

It can be quite hard to tell whether your home is solid brick construction or uses a stone veneer. Here are some tips on how to know if your house uses brick stone masonry construction:

Regarding homeowners insurance, solid brick masonry can affect your premiums in a few ways. First, since solid brick is stronger than wood, the house is more resilient to environmental damage, including water and pests. Bricks also have better fire resistance. That said, brick buildings have higher replacement costs, so if something does destroy part of the structure, it will be more expensive to rebuild your home.

Another point to consider is that brick is heavier than wood, meaning that the walls could cause more foundation settling and potential shifting. If that happens and the foundation cracks, it could put your home at risk. Note, home insurance typically excludes this gradual foundation damage.

Overall, if you have a solid brick house, be sure to discuss your insurance pros and cons with your agent.

  • Wall Thickness. Measure the distance from the exterior to the interior wall surfaces (using a window works best). If the frame space is at least 12 inches, it probably means that you have a double brick wall, not one single layer.
     
  • Interior Gaps. Frame houses have gaps or insulation behind the interior walls. You can verify if there is open space by knocking. If it sounds hollow, you do not have a solid brick house.
     
  • Outlets & Switches. You can also remove your outlet cover to peek behind the drywall.
     
  • Home Renovations. If you try to drill into the wall or pound a nail, you will know if there's brick behind the wall.

Brick Stone Masonry Home Construction

Wood Frame Home Construction with Aluminum Siding

Aluminum siding is a popular choice to protect a home's exterior because it is pest and weather-resistant. Since drywall and wood siding can break down and rot when exposed to the elements, aluminum siding extends the life of your property. Also, because aluminum does not rust and is endlessly recyclable, it is a cost-effective and resilient option for siding.

Here are some indicators that your house uses aluminum siding:

  • Color. Vinyl tends to fade in direct sunlight over time, while the enamel paints on aluminum may not. If you scratch the surface of aluminum panels, you will notice that they are painted or stained.
     
  • Feel. Press your hand against the siding. If it feels firm, it is likely insulated aluminum. Vinyl is more flexible.
     
  • Age. Older homes may have aluminum siding, while newer properties mostly use vinyl.

When it comes to homeowners insurance, providers typically charge the same amount regardless of the material. However, aluminum is a bit more expensive than vinyl, so repair costs are higher when replacing damaged or missing panels, such as from heavy winds.

Some insurance carriers offer matching siding insurance, which pays for extra installation costs. You might not find the specific make and model to match the existing siding in some cases, so this coverage allows you to replace the whole section when filing insurance claims.

Wood Frame Home Construction with Aluminum Siding

Wood Frame Home Construction with Vinyl Siding

Most homes built after the 1970s use vinyl instead of aluminum. As we mentioned, vinyl can fade in the sun over time, and it is more flexible than aluminum.

When looking at the panels from the side, you will notice that vinyl pieces are thicker than aluminum. If all else fails, try the scratch test, and see if any paint comes off. If not, your home uses vinyl.
Wood Frame Home Construction with Vinyl Siding

Stucco Home Construction Over Concrete Block

Stucco siding is another popular surface material for a home's exterior walls. While it does not look as lovely as brick, it can provide an earthy, stone-like appearance. Typically, builders put stucco over both wood and cinder block houses for additional insulation and aesthetic reasons. Here are some ways to tell whether your stucco is over block construction or a wood frame.

  • Sound. If you knock on the outer surface, does it sound hollow? If so, you have a wood-frame house. If it sounds solid, your home uses concrete masonry units.
     
  • Window Frames. On wood-frame houses, builders place the windows within the frame. So, once the stucco goes on, the frame should extend about an inch or less from the wall. However, on concrete block homes, contractors place the windows inside the wall since the blocks are thicker. So, there should be a recess between the stucco and the window itself.

When it comes to homeowner insurance premiums, having a concrete structure should improve your rates. On average, wood-frame houses cost about $550 more annually in home insurance premiums than block homes since they are more susceptible to fire, pests, and other property damage.

Stucco Home Construction Over Concrete Block

Log Home Construction

Fortunately, if you have a log house, it should be easy to tell. Instead of using an interior wooden frame and drywall, the logs serve as both the structure and exterior surface. While you may have drywall on the inside, the outside is self-explanatory. Part of the log house's appeal is the aesthetic of full-size logs as the walls.

As far as homeowners insurance, the company will want to know the types of logs used and whether they are treated with fire-resistant elements. Since log homes are much more of a fire risk, they can be tricky to protect.

Some insurers may want to know how far the nearest fire station is and may have maps of high-risk areas for wildfires.

The roofing can also make a difference in your premiums, particularly if you have an impact-resistant roof.

Log Home Construction

Pre-Fabricated/Manufactured Home Construction

Rather than focusing on a specific material, manufactured or prefabricated homes rely on a construction process. Although the results are similar, contractors typically assemble prefab houses on-site, while manufactured homes are not. Instead, manufactured houses get built at the factory and then shipped to a permanent foundation, fully made.

Typically, prefabricated and manufactured homes use wood frames, but some models may use concrete or metal pieces. Depending on the materials and the manufacturing process, you can pay different amounts for home insurance.

As a rule, manufactured or mobile homes are less resilient, so they cost more to protect. These buildings also must follow HUD code regulations before they ship out. Prefab homes made from stronger materials like concrete will cost less to insure.

Pre-Fabricated/Manufactured Home Construction

Get a Home Insurance Quote!
No matter your home's building material, it is vital to protect your asset with the right insurance policy. We make it easy to compare companies and policies side by side. Click the button below and get the right plan for your needs!

Hope that helps!

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Young Alfred