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Old 11-27-2019, 03:23 PM
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What is the oldest material in a modern house


Take a modern brick house in any European or US state. What will be the oldest material in the house, if you exclude private possessions.

The bricks, the door, the lead flashings, the copper pipes, the wooden floors, the glass, the roof.......

Is there something that houses are made of that clearly trumps all of the above as having been on planet earth earlier than anything else in the structure of the house.
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Old 11-27-2019, 03:25 PM
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The wood structure?
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Old 11-27-2019, 03:31 PM
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The clay the bricks are made of?

Or (at least in much of northern Europe) the slates on the roof.

Last edited by PatrickLondon; 11-27-2019 at 03:32 PM.
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Old 11-27-2019, 03:31 PM
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It depends how you count. The sand in the mortar might be ancient. Are you counting when the mortar was made, or when the parts that made it were gathered, or when the sand was created? Are you counting a wooden door form when it was formed into a door or from when the tree grew?

I'd think if you are counting from when the item was made into its current form, most of the parts of a house would be just a little older than the house.
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Old 11-27-2019, 03:34 PM
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Diatomaceous Earth, if you have a filter that uses it.

It's the fossils of ancient diatoms. As the link below notes, some of it dates back to the Miocene, 12-13 million years ago (although the Miocene stretches back much older than that. Maybe some of the diatoms do, too)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diatomaceous_earth
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Old 11-27-2019, 03:35 PM
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Sheetrock?

I don't know which is older. Sand for cement or rocks made into sheetrock.
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Old 11-27-2019, 03:48 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CalMeacham View Post
Diatomaceous Earth, if you have a filter that uses it.

It's the fossils of ancient diatoms. As the link below notes, some of it dates back to the Miocene, 12-13 million years ago (although the Miocene stretches back much older than that. Maybe some of the diatoms do, too)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diatomaceous_earth
If the sand contains fragments of ancients rocks such as zircons they could potentially be billions of years old.
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Old 11-27-2019, 03:51 PM
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I'd guess pure elemental material, particularly metals heavier than iron, since they would be formed in (as I understand it) neutron-star collisions, and thus must predate the Earth.

So the copper pipes are a good candidate.
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Old 11-27-2019, 04:02 PM
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Granite countertops?
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Old 11-27-2019, 04:05 PM
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Originally Posted by Nansbread1 View Post
Is there something that houses are made of that clearly trumps all of the above as having been on planet earth earlier than anything else in the structure of the house.
Hydrogen and helium are the oldest elements in the universe. Water is made up of hydrogen and anything containing water would be the oldest. So things like water in wood (about 30%), in mortar , in bricks, .....
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Old 11-27-2019, 04:27 PM
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I would imagine slate is pretty old as a construction material in its own right, rather than an amalgam such as mortar. Lots of houses will have stone lintels and mullions.
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Old 11-27-2019, 04:51 PM
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In a closet I have some mono records of Toscanini conducting the NBC Symphony Orchestra. Does that count?
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Old 11-27-2019, 05:21 PM
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The Welsh slate on my sister's house roof is supposedly 400 million years old.

https://www.geolsoc.org.uk/ks3/gsl/e.../page4008.html

Last edited by bob++; 11-27-2019 at 05:21 PM.
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Old 11-27-2019, 07:19 PM
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I'd guess pure elemental material, particularly metals heavier than iron, since they would be formed in (as I understand it) neutron-star collisions, and thus must predate the Earth.

So the copper pipes are a good candidate.
Most Elements heavier than iron are formed in Supernovae. Gold is formed in neutron-star collisions.
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Old 11-27-2019, 07:36 PM
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Granite countertops?
Probably. Lots of precambrian granite. If you go with elements, if the house has any type of storage batteries (for solar or whatever) the lithium goes back to the Big Bang.

Last edited by Darren Garrison; 11-27-2019 at 07:38 PM.
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Old 11-27-2019, 09:54 PM
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Many houses in the Sydney Basin, which covers a population of maybe 5 million people, incorporate local sandstone blocks as footings or even wall structure. It was formed in the earliest Triassic, so a quarter of a billion years ago, in round figures.

Unlike some of the material cited, its still pretty much just what it looked like back then, only cemented. Of course its constituent quartz sand and other particles are older still.
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Old 11-28-2019, 03:55 AM
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Going by "material" as being a composite substance, rather than the elements or individual minerals that comprise it, I think it's going to be rocks of some form, if the house has any. Even concrete will usually have rock in it as aggregate - recycled aggregate exists but ins't the norm - millions of tons produced vs billions for crushed rock.

And unaltered rocks are millions to billions of years old, nothing else is going to come close - the metal alloys will all be recently smelted, ditto the glass, and the same goes for porcelain and bricks, even the clays will be fairly recent alteration products of older rocks. The oldest possible wood can only be a couple thousand or so years old (and most lumber will be less than a hundred).

I'm not that familiar with US construction - can a modern brick house not use any concrete? I would think it would require a poured foundation at a minimum. So it will have million-years-old rocks in the aggregate.
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Old 11-28-2019, 03:58 AM
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Sheetrock?
The gypsum used for sheetrock is a manufactured product. The raw material may be the older gypsum rock, but it's completely changed by the time it's incorporated into the drywall.
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Old 11-28-2019, 06:22 AM
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If you consider the various constituent parts of a building and set an arbitrary requirement that is a material used in its original form and structure (so it can be physically shaped but not amalgamated or otherwise processed) then for houses I'm familiar with, probably slate (>500 million), sandstone (>700 million), limestone (>200 million) or flint (>75/100 million). Those figures will of course vary from location to location.
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Old 11-28-2019, 09:02 AM
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Originally Posted by bob++ View Post
The Welsh slate on my sister's house roof is supposedly 400 million years old.

https://www.geolsoc.org.uk/ks3/gsl/e.../page4008.html
Whoa. I was impressed with our shingles 50 year warranty.
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Old 11-28-2019, 10:13 AM
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Thus illustrating the old adage that Europeans think 100 miles is a long distance, and Americans think 100 years is a long time.
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Old 11-28-2019, 10:41 AM
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I'm not that familiar with US construction - can a modern brick house not use any concrete? I would think it would require a poured foundation at a minimum. So it will have million-years-old rocks in the aggregate.
It would be difficult to build a brick house without a concrete foundation. And very few houses of any kind can be built without some kind of concrete to form a foundation. Even if there's no concrete somehow the mortar for bricks will contain sand.
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Old 11-28-2019, 02:19 PM
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Yeah, but sand doesn't have to be more than a few thousand years old.
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Old 11-29-2019, 01:24 PM
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Virtually every drop of water on Terra existed a few billion years ago so what's mixed in our modular house's concrete foundation is a good candidate for "oldest stuff here". Otherwise... I have some millennium-old pottery.
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Old 11-29-2019, 03:33 PM
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Not really. Water is constantly being recycled, including spending time in organisms as things other than water and spontaneously breaking up on it's own. "Water" has been around for billions of years, but specific individual molucules haven't.
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Old 11-29-2019, 04:29 PM
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Isn't hydrogen primordial? There's pounds and pounds of it in a typical house, in water of hydration in any cement or drywall, in wood, in polymeric plumbing and wire insulation, all over.
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Old 11-29-2019, 05:32 PM
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Isn't hydrogen primordial? There's pounds and pounds of it in a typical house, in water of hydration in any cement or drywall, in wood, in polymeric plumbing and wire insulation, all over.
Yes, but the OP asked for "materials", not atoms.
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