Is concrete construction better than wood frame?

wood frame vs concrete construction

Many buyers believe that concrete construction is better than wood frame construction. In your Vancouver Condo search, it not always a simple “concrete is better”. One must look at each building individually; if a buyer eliminates all wood frame buildings automatically, they may be missing some great opportunities.

Concrete is, in most cases, more expensive per square foot to build and to buy, this does not make concrete a superior product for condos. There are good concrete developments and poor concrete developments.

One thing I always pass onto the buyers I work for is: “you are not just buying a condo, you are investing in a building”. Knowing the building history, mechanics and type of exterior construction is key when considering to buy. Including wood frame buildings in your search you will broaden your opportunities to find a condo in a well-built development.

Here are some commonly asked questions:

Is concrete less problematic than wood frame?

Not always. Concrete buildings can have issues too; there are many concrete buildings that continuously have maintenance or structural problems. As new listings come to the market, eliminate poor buildings from your condo search. If you have found a condo in a building that your agent is not familiar with, have your agent do his or her research prior to making an offer.

I want to live in a building with fewer total condos, do I need to buy wood frame?

Wood frame buildings are built to a maximum of 6 stories and in general have fewer suites than most concrete buildings. However, there is also some great low rise concrete developments with fewer than average total number of suites. It is important to note that building developments are a type of community and this will be an indicator of the lifestyle you choose. If you want lower density and want concrete, there are many good buildings to choose from.


A few of my picks for smaller low rise concrete buildings are:

Are concrete buildings quieter than wood frame buildings?

Yes, concrete buildings are, in most cases, quieter than wood frame buildings. There is only one type of frequency that has a higher tendency to transmit to the floor below; the small sharp heel of a shoe. Under normal living conditions, concrete is less prone to sound transmission between floors. During your search, ensure that you read the building’s strata minutes to make sure there are no continuous noise complaints within the building.

How long do wood frame condos last?

Good wood frame buildings can last as long as concrete condos with regular annual maintenance. The age of the condo development will determine what building by-laws were in place when the structure was built; this is important particularly, with regards to the building envelope. Another important factor is to determine who the developer was and research how their projects have lasted over time. Not all builders are the same and when I am working with buyers there are some developments I do not recommend. Lastly, look at the exterior envelope and the interior structure of the condo development. I do this to see what type of design and materials the developer used to complete the structure. This will give me and my client a very good idea of how the building will age over time and what kind of regular maintenance will be needed to sustain the complex in the coming decades.

A great example of a solid 92-year-old wood framed strata building is The Leicester located at 1545 W 13th Avenue in Vancouver.

1545 W 13th Ave

Another great example of older solid wood frame buildings is the company operated (Co-ops) in and around Vancouver. These wood framed buildings are some of the most solid performing structures in all of Vancouver and offer great investment condominium ownership.

Is concrete a better investment than wood frame buildings?

There is no simple yes or no answer to this question. There are good investments to be made in wood frame buildings and good investments to be made in concrete buildings. First and foremost, the building must be of good construction and well operated by a proactive strata council and management company.

Vancouver has rapidly grown over the past 15 years and encompasses a wide variety of older and newer condo developments with numerous styles of construction. It is important to be able to recognize the different types and styles of construction and how they will function now and in the future. If you have any questions or would like further info on this subject please email or call me.

Written by Don Urquhart Vancouver real estate agent since 1987