Brick Houses Or Timber Houses: Which Kind Of House Should You Buy?

What’s important to you as a home owner? You may be surprised to find out there are more differences between timber and brick houses than you first thought!

Brick Houses Or Timber Houses: Which One Is Best?

Your intentions for the property, as well as your lifestyle choices and preferences, will ultimately determine which is the better choice for your situation. However, there are some considerations to be made when it comes to what you MIGHT be getting yourself in for.


Of course, in the South East Queensland area the big question is often around termite activity in brick v
timber houses. Whilst most of us are very aware of the dangers of termite activity in timber homes, it is
often the brick homes around which we have the most questions:

● Can termites get into a brick house?
● Can termites eat brick walls?
● Can termites eat through concrete?
● What attracts termites in the house?
● What are common problems with timber houses?

Can termites get into a brick house?

Yes, termites can find their way into brick homes. Most “brick” homes are brick veneer – the structural
framing of the house is commonly made of timber (less commonly of steel) sitting on a concrete slab,
with a brick shell erected around the frame. Brick house inspections will often identify moist soil or
mulch and other materials left resting against the edge of the brick veneer which can encourage termite
activity and conceal termite entry through cracks and weep-holes. Termites can also gain access
through cracks and expansion joints in concrete slabs. Older “double brick” homes are not impervious
and can also succumb to termites which will attack any wooden elements within the home once they
have gained entry.

Can termites eat brick walls?

Termites can’t eat brick, but they will eat any timber that is attached to the brick. Brick veneer houses
are not “held up” by the brick – it is the structural timber framing between the brick and your
plasterboard which is holding the house structure and your roof above your head. The termites can gain
access and travel undetected within the cavity created between the brick and the plasterboard and eat
the structural timber behind the brick veneer. Termites will also eat any other wooden elements such
as baseboards and window frames. A brick home inspection will pay particular attention to possible
points of entry for termites and the condition of all accessible wooden elements of the home.

Can termites eat through concrete?

Whilst termites can’t “eat concrete”, they can gain access to the home through concrete
slabs/foundations. Small cracks and expansion joints in the concrete can allow the termites to tunnel
into the home and begin their attack on the timber frame of the house undetected. Poor drainage
which allows moisture to collect around and under a slab can help create the ideal conditions for

What attracts termites in the house?

Prevention and early detection of termites is essential and regular, thorough building and pest
inspections will look for common conditions which encourage termite activity around brick homes.
Termites love wood (or cellulose), warm, dark and moist conditions. So, storing firewood, newspapers,
mulch and other timber products near to the house and its foundations will encourage termite activity
with ready access to their favourite food. Warm, dark and moist spaces with poor ventilation spaces are
ideal conditions for termites to flourish undetected. Poor or inadequate drainage around the house
foundations will keep soil moist and provide conditions suitable for termites to tunnel and gain access to
the home.
What are common timber house problems?
Brisbane timber home inspections will often identify potential costly problems, including:

● Termite damage or activity
● Borer activity
● Timber rot
● Fungal decay
● Damp under the house caused by poor drainage or leaks
● Stump issues including decay, subsidence and shifting

Any of these problems can be expensive to remedy if they flourish undetected. Early detection and
prevention is essential.

How much truth to the old adage, “Live in timber, invest in brick”?

Ask anyone for their opinion (and if you’re buying a house – you’ll get it!) and you’re going to get mixed reactions on the question of timber or brick houses. Everyone’s response will come from their own preferences and experience, which leaves you, the prospective purchaser, at a bit of a loss.

So which is better? Timber houses or brick houses?

The little house on the hill

You’ve driven past it millions of times – dreaming about what it looks like inside. It goes up for sale and you walk through the open house, your heart in your mouth, imagining the possibilities. In your desperation to secure the deal you rush through pre-purchase inspections to get your name on that line and those keys in your hand.

The door closes behind you as you bring in your last box from the truck. You sit down on the couch, breathe a sigh of relief and look around. You REALLY look around. Properly. For the first time.

Little bumps and niggles start to betray themselves and you’re left thinking… In your rush to secure what you thought was the deal of a lifetime, have you gotten more than you bargained for?

Buying a home is a very personal experience. You’re pouring your hopes and dreams into a block of land. You might be looking for somewhere to raise a family, renovate or to build your investment portfolio.

Whether it’s timber or brick, a pre-purchase inspection is going to make all the difference when it comes to signing on that dotted line. Avoid getting ahead of yourself and get the professionals in the door to check what might just be lying underneath the floorboards!

Ever wondered what hidden horrors building inspectors come up against? Be warned before following this link – you may never look at some timber or brick houses the same way!

What can go wrong in timber houses?

This may sound fairly obvious but so many first home owners have thought, “It’ll never happen to me!”. Their houses have then, quite literally, fallen down around them.

We’re talking, of course, about termites and other pests. These conniving critters are far more likely to be found within the walls and floorboards of that beautiful timber home you’ve had your eye on. However, they are still capable of causing damage within a brick-based structure. If the termites have gone untreated and undetected you’re looking at severe structural damage to a home and your ‘perfect home’ dream being over before it began.

Timber houses are, by nature of their materials, sometimes more likely to present fire hazards. This means a thorough checking of any electrical wiring, the identification and removal of potentially catastrophic flammable situations and careful consideration of the surrounding area. A pre-purchase inspection will also identify if the timber has been appropriately treated with weather-resistant retardant.

The presence of mould and other dangerous carcinogens is also amplified in timber houses, as there is just more opportunity for mould to breed, breathe and grow. Water damage may have occurred at some point in the property’s history and have been merely painted over – undetectable without an appropriate pre-purchase property inspection.

There are many positive aspects to owning and living in a timber home; they’re quite timeless in design (particularly in Queensland) and can offer effective cooling solutions that won’t impact energy bills. Timber homes have a pleasing aesthetic quality that will only increase in value over time so can be a savvy investment if appropriate checks have been made.

What can go wrong in brick homes?

Don’t be fooled by the sturdy look of brick houses. Quite often there can be a wealth of issues hiding behind those thick brick frontages that only a building and pest inspection will be able to identify.

Pests are still an issue in brick houses. Wooden floors, wooden stud frames and window frames can hide termites. There are a million and one places for nefarious insects to build their nests. Rodents, too, may appreciate the solid structure and create a den in any nooks and crannies.

Structural concerns such as concrete cancer, hidden asbestos, plumbing issues and electrical stability are significant concerns in brick houses. Depending on the age of the structure, the original materials used and the professionalism applied in the first build, you could be unknowingly dealing with the little house from hell.

The presence of mould, hidden water damage and issues with draughts, heating and cooling could lurk in your brick home without you being aware of them until it’s too late.

Timber or brick houses require the same due diligence

The checks and balance that Action Property Inspection put in place are designed to provide you with peace of mind and a sense of stability.

Regardless of the kind of structure you’re interested in, it’s vital to protect your investment, your family and your future by ensuring you know what you’re dealing with.

Choosing a timber home because it looks charming, or being interested in brick houses because they look safe, could ultimately end up costing you a lot more in the long run. An appropriate pre-purchase inspection may be an upfront expense but it’s one that’s designed to save you in the future. You deserve a quality inspection that looks for absolutely everything – not the casual walk-through that some companies think they can get away with.

Debating the pros and cons of timber and brick houses? Get expert advice before you sign. Contact Action Property Inspections today!


About Andrew

Andrew Mackintosh has been answering home inspection questions in the greater Brisbane area since 1995. He has personally carried out over 20,000 building inspections and is a licensed builder and licensed building inspector, Member of Queensland Master Builders Association & Institute of Building Consultants. Being the business owner and the inspector, Andrew is passionate about providing clients with excellent customer service, value for money, honest, unbiased, thorough inspection and reporting in a professional and timely manner to allow clients to make informed decisions when purchasing property.