Concrete Block House Problems (5 common issues)

This article will tackle concrete house problems despite the advantages this type of concrete building system provides. In addition, this article will provide other concrete building system that you can use in case concrete block in not a possible option as based from your location and budget,

Concrete Block House Problems

Concrete blocks are rectangular blocks and the most widely used concrete building system in the United States. Many homes built during the golden age of the 1950s used concrete blocks then bricks were installed outside to save money.

When assembled correctly, a concrete block provides tons of advantages. This includes higher house integrity, provides insulation against cold and heat reducing home’s energy usage. Concrete blocks can resist strong winds and provide a natural level of fire resistance. Rebuilding concrete block homes is also cheaper in case a disaster ruins areas of your homes.

However, despite the advantage of constructing concrete block homes, there are several problems you are not aware of in building concrete block houses.

  • Building a concrete block house is expensive.

The cost of building homes using concrete blocks is three times more expensive than using wood framing and drywall. The price of concrete blocks in every area varies and fluctuates, that’s why there is no fixed price that we can provide. So if you are planning to build your home using concrete blocks make sure to do some research first before setting your budget. 

In the long run, your initial investment will recover due to lower energy costs which is one of the advantages of concrete block houses, however, additional costs will still be needed when problems in essential systems such as electricity and water systems occur. When electricians and plumbers have to reach these essential systems they need to cut concrete blocks which will incur additional costs.

  • Concrete blocks must be built correctly to avoid foundation buckling.

Foundation buckling occurs when foundation walls are under constant pressure brought by outside soil pushing in. The rain that can be absorbed by the soil creates a hydrostatic pressure pushing against the foundation walls. Therefore, for concrete blocks it is essential to build the concrete blocks to avoid this phenomenon. Concrete is also porous material especially for a split face concrete block, this absorbed water in the soil can also be seeped by the concrete, compromising the resiliency of the material.

Signs of foundation buckling include wall cracks, tilting and bowing. When a stair-step cracks creating separation to each concrete block starting from the roof part of your concrete wall and diagonal cracking to individual blocks are observed, this is a sign of wall cracking. The soil pressure pushing the top wall inward will make the foundation wall to lean, this will lead further to bowing due to the weakened wall. When this damage occurs no foundation repair can save your concrete walls.

  • Concrete blocks are harder to cut thorough in case there is something to fix.

It was mentioned that repairing plumbing and electricity issues can be costly due to the need to cut through the concrete blocks just to reach these essential systems. Thus, it is important to consider installing your utilities through specific access points in your structure so that it will lessen the impact of potential damage in your concrete block. Also, you need to ensure that appropriate drainage systems will be installed so that in case pipe leaks and breaks occur, flooding issues will be prevented.

  • Concrete blocks can be prone to water seepage over time.

Water seepage will be a big issue especially to areas where there is a high water table. Concrete materials are strong and resilient but as mentioned, it is also porous, water seepage over time can weaken the concrete. Therefore during construction it is a must to include an array of waterproof materials to prevent potential water damage. These waterproof materials can be waterproof paint painted on top of sealant to further maximize the resistance benefits of the sealant and again it is important to install an adequate drainage system to avoid flooding issues.

  • Windows and doors installation should be specific to maximize the environmental benefits of concrete blocks.

Concrete block homes are ideal for those who want to consume lower energy since they provide insulation strong enough that it will not allow easy escape of warm air from your HVAC or cold air from the air conditioner. So a concrete block home will stay warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer.

To maximize this benefit you have to purchase doors and windows that have excellent weather stripping. Also, it is important to void the space between the block and the window. The air in this void will be stopped and this will act as a channel in case there is a sound or temperature change outside. 

  • Concrete blocks may not be available to some areas.

Regional preferences can also affect your decision to build concrete block houses. Some communities do not fabricate this kind of material, thus finding exotic design for this kind of structure will be difficult. Construction crews have limited experience in fabricating this kind of materials making it hard to insist in using this material. Also, there is a need to use reinforcing steel in constructing concrete block houses which is also problematic to acquire. Reinforcing steel will improve the strength of the foundation or wall that you use.

  • Concrete block homes don’t always have a curb appeal.

Concrete block homes look industrial and can be plain looking. Another layer of cement is required so that you can paint the walls if ever you want it to look better. You can also improve the curb appeal by decorative landscaping at your front porch. However, this means additional expenses for the final structure.

Other Concrete Building Systems

If ever you are now having doubts of building concrete block houses but still want to use concrete as building materials, here are other types of concrete building systems that you can use for your home.

  • Removable Forms

Concrete is being poured into a removable wall made of aluminum, wood, or steel. Insulation and reinforcing steel are also placed inside the removable wall. This insulation and steel should be placed inside the wall before pouring the concrete. Removable forms are best for homes in high winds.

  • Panel Systems

Panel systems can utilize either precast concrete or tilt-up concrete. Precast concrete requires casting concrete with foam insulation, embedded with steel reinforcing and electric wiring in a reusable mold and will be transported to the construction site. Tilt-up concrete, on the other hand, is also casted but the casting is done on site itself.

This is best for homes aiming for contemporary designs.

  • Insulating Concrete Forms (ICFs)

Insulating concrete forms or ICF construction involves casting in concrete walls in place, in which these concrete walls or planks are sandwiched between two layers of insulation material. The planks are interconnected with plastic and metal ties. The interlocking blocks are connected with special grooves or interlocking teeth. This is best for homes in which insulation is important.

Conclusion

Concrete block homes offer greater integrity structure. so if you are aiming for a house that can somehow withstand natural disasters, concrete block houses are the best option. However, it is also important to take into consideration the disadvantages of building concrete block homes. These considerations will depend on your method of constructing the house and if it is really advisable to build your home in this type of building system considering your location and budget.

For any questions and suggestions about this article, please feel free to submit your thoughts in the comment section below.

FAQs: Concrete block house problems.

How long do concrete block homes last?

House life expectancy for different house material varies. When assembled correctly, concrete block homes can last a lifetime. Also, with waterproofing with bituminous coating can further preserve your structure. 

What is the difference between concrete block and cinder block?

Both concrete block and cinder block are made of concrete material, but there is an additional cinder inside a cinder block making it lighter as a building element than concrete block. Concrete block is a hard building material that can withstand high strength, cinder block on the other hand, does not have the strength to withstand high pressure. Thus, cinder blocks are only utilized for small projects and not in more important projects and large construction.

How do you insulate concrete block houses?

Concrete block houses already have the advantage of effective insulation, however, if you intend to insulate your house further, you can insulate the block wall by building the wall out of furring strips and insulating in between. To obtain 1.5-inch-thick stud spaces a two-by-four studs can be used. This can be more tedious instead of just putting up sheets of rigid foam, but his method can allow you to install drywall over the wall.

Should concrete blocks be filled?

Concrete blocks can be filled with a poured concrete or cement-based mortar that contains small pea gravel. This method will be similar to the poured concrete walls but with concrete block as material this filled concrete block does have more structural integrity.

Are poured concrete walls better than blocks?

Poured concrete walls are better than hollow concrete blocks. A poured wall doesn’t have joints, thus, it has greater lateral strength and is easier to waterproof. Poured walls are also flexible in terms of forming any foundation design and can adapt to last minute changes in the design and this is more efficient and faster to build as compared to concrete blocks, that’s why procured walls are the preferred voice of new construction builders.

REFERENCES:

Miller, B. (2020, February 5). 15 Advantages and Disadvantages of Concrete Block Homes. Green Garage. Retrieved from: https://greengarageblog.org/15-advantages-and-disadvantages-of-concrete-block-homes

Guerra, T. (2018, December 27). The Pros and Cons of Concrete Block House Construction. SF Gate. Retrieved from: https://homeguides.sfgate.com/pros-cons-concrete-block-house-construction-65954.html

The Pros and Cons of Concrete Block Homes (n.d.). Chicago Tuckpointing INC. Retrieved from https://chicagotuckpointinginc.com/the-pros-and-cons-of-concrete-block-homes/

Mercado, A. (2018, April 27). Advantages & Disadvantages of Concrete Block Homes. Hunker. Retrieved from: https://www.hunker.com/12003741/advantages-disadvantages-of-concrete-block-homes

Flietner M.B. and Vila, B. (n.d.). Should you Consider a Concrete House? Bob Vila. Retrieved from: https://www.bobvila.com/articles/345-should-you-consider-a-concrete-house/

How to Identify and Repair Bowing and Buckling Foundation Walls (2018, June 16). Thrasher Foundation Repair. Retrieved from: https://www.gothrasher.com/services/foundation-repair/wall-repair/bowed-foundation/identify-and-repair-bowing-and-buckling-foundation-walls/

Cinder Block vs, Concrete Block (n.d.). GlobMac. Retrieved from: https://www.globmac.com/en/cinder-block-vs-concrete-block/

Taylor, G. (2018, December 17). What Can You Put on a Cinder Block Wall to Stop Cold from Coming In? SF Gate. Retrieved from: https://homeguides.sfgate.com/can-put-cinder-block-wall-stop-cold-coming-in-69835.html

Hyatt, A. (2018, October 23). Cinder Block Walls vs. Poured Walls. Ayers Basement Systems. Retrieved from: https://www.ayersbasementsystems.com/about-us/news-events/32913-cinder-block-walls-vs-poured-walls.html

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