Wood, unlike most processed building materials, is an organic material that can be used in its natural state. Factors that influence its strength are density, natural defects (knots, grain, etc.), and moisture content. Advantages include strength, renewability and beauty. Wood can also be easily shaped or cut to size on the jobsite, or it may be prefabricated in the shop.
Plastics by nature are capable of being molded or shaped into specific forms. The advantages to their use in structural and nonstructural building applications are many. They are generally impact resistant, durable and strong. They have a closed cell structure that makes them highly resistant to moisture and chemicals. Therefore, they will not warp, rot, rust, corrode, stain, chip or peel, making them ideal for use in hot, humid climates. Nor are they a food source for termites and other insects. They are generally colorfast, easy to clean and maintenance free, contributing to the comfort and energy efficiency of a home or building.
Composites are made up of two or more materials that, when combined, create a material that is stronger than the individual materials. Composites are used in the construction industry to produce durable products that improve performance and reduce costs. According to the American Composites Manufacturing Association, approximately 90% of all composites produced are comprised of glass fiber and either polyester or vinyl ester resin. Advantages included high strength, flexibility in design, resistance to corrosion, light weight and longevity.