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If you compare the cost of building a masonry home with the least expensive way to build a wood frame home, then the masonry home will probably cost more to build. That said, builders are now responding to homeowner's requests for better quality homes and are building better insulated, tighter, higher performing homes which cost more. So, the price difference between wood and masonry is diminishing.
Generally speaking, yes. However, most production builders build with wood frame and are not able to build a single masonry home in a subdivision of wood frame homes. Visit subdivisions that feature masonry builders and you will find the home you are looking for at a price you can afford. If you're planning to build a custom home, look for a custom builder who builds masonry homes on a regular basis.
Several methods are available for insulating masonry. Masonry can be furred out inside the building and insulation placed between the furring strips, under the drywall. Several systems are available that place insulation in the block cavity. There also are systems available to place insulation on the outside of the masonry wall, and for existing buildings, there is liquid foam that can be injected into the cavity of the walls.
Masonry is very solid and has fewer connections and penetrations than wood frame construction. The largest connection and point-of-entry for pests in wood frame construction is where the stem wall and the rest of the house meet (usually 6-8" above grade level). This connection is a very weak point and is rarely finished and sealed correctly. This connection also further invites pests because it is shaded by the protruding foam insulation. This connection is sealed and basically does not exist with most types of masonry construction. Also, masonry is not a cellulose food for termites.
Yes. Concrete block and other masonry products have better sound-proofing qualities than traditional wood frame and stucco. Sound can easily travel through air but it can also travel through and reverberate through materials. Wood and drywall are not solid enough and allow sound to travel through easily. Foam on the outside walls is a fairly good sound insulator but not as good as masonry block, with its rigidity and ability of repelling sound waves. Masonry's solid construction also has fewer openings to let sound in as well. Wood frame homes have studs spaced 16" or 24" apart. The space between the studs is filled with fiberglass insulation, which has little effect on reducing sound transmission.
Information courtesy of the Arizona Masonry Guild © 2004