Although most houses built throughout the Middle Ages were made of flexible materials such as straw, wattle and daub, cob, and occasionally wood, stone constructions were the only ones that could endure today. The oldest known house in North America was built entirely out of stone.
Medieval houses were usually between 3 and 5 stories high, although castles tended to be higher. The ground floor was used for storage or accommodation for servants. The first floor contained administrative offices while the master bedroom was on the second floor. The third floor was often used as a prison or dormitory while the top floor was used as an observation point or defense position.
House walls were made of mud bricks or dried cow dung mixed with sand and gravel. If wood was used instead, it would be grown or harvested locally. There were also castles made of stone, but they used much more expensive materials then. They were generally larger and had better defenses than average homes. Some rulers even had their own villages built for themselves near their capital cities.
There you have it! Medieval houses were usually made of wood or stone. Sometimes they would be combined with brick or other materials. Get out there and explore some medieval buildings!
(Yes, cranes existed in the Middle Ages.) Stone constructions are expensive; the first building in a distant place would almost usually be built of wood, unless local requirements demanded stone, such as because the building is in Iceland and wood is prohibitively expensive. A wooden building will decay over time if not repaired or replaced, but a stone building can be restored or even rebuilt. The Middle Ages were a period of great construction activity all over Europe.
Wood was widely used for buildings during the Middle Ages because it was available and affordable. Wood is easy to get hold of and simple to work with. There are few limitations on what you can do with it. It can be shaped into any shape you like and used as a support structure for walls and ceilings. If it gets wet it will rot so care has to be taken with water-based materials such as roofs and windows. But if it is kept dry it will last for hundreds of years.
Stone was also used for buildings in the Middle Ages but only rich people could afford it. It was costly to transport and difficult to find skilled workers who knew how to use it. So most buildings were made of wood instead.
But there were some important exceptions to this rule. Royal castles were often built of stone because it was easier to repair damage caused by enemy attacks.
During the Neolithic period, Stone Age dwellings were rectangular and made of timber (4000 BC to 2500 BC). These houses are no longer standing, although the foundations may still be seen. Some buildings featured thatched roofs and walls made of wattle (woven wood) and daub (mud and straw).
During the Bronze Age, people started building with stone and clay instead. They used the same basic shapes as their timber predecessors but with different sizes and materials for the rooms. The floors were usually made of earth or wooden boards.
During the Iron Age, people started building with more metal. Metal tools were used to construct houses out of wood, which collapsed after use. People built homes out of hardened mud mixed with small stones, which dried into hard bricks.
The Romans built huge cities like London and Rome during their time on Earth. Their houses were made of wood and plaster. There were also a few stone houses built using Roman-era technology.
The Vikings began building with wood and then moved on to stone around 800 AD. They built their ships out of wood and used them as their boats where they traveled around Europe killing everyone they came across.
The Mongols began building their houses with wood about 1200 AD. They too used their horses for transportation, just like the Vikings.
Wood and stone were frequently utilized by medieval builders, and timber framing remained the primary practice in many regions of England throughout the Middle Ages. Brick and tile were also used extensively in Europe at this time. The masonry that made up most buildings in the Middle Ages was not very durable and usually required substantial reinforcement including internal steel frames or concrete foundations.
People in the Middle Ages didn't build much. They built castles, churches, and markets. These structures were used for war, religion, entertainment, education, and trade.
Castles were important in medieval society because they represented power. A king could be weak or strong, but he could never escape his castle. If a king was weak, then other nobles might try to overthrow him. This is what happened when Edward II was young: His two uncles, who were stronger than he was, took control of the kingdom. They built themselves lavish castles, which still can be seen today in England. But despite their efforts, both men were eventually killed by an arrow through the heart (probably sent by one of their own soldiers).
If a king was strong, then his subjects had no reason to revolt. Still, powerful kings wanted to show that they weren't afraid to fight battles.
The nobles of those times lived in far nicer medieval buildings and enjoyed easier lives in their residences, and the fact that some of their houses still survive now attests to the greater quality of the construction. Noblemen's residences were built of stone, as opposed to peasants' huts, which were composed of twigs, straw, and mud. The castles and manors of the rich often had large walls around them, within which were smaller walls with gates that could be closed at night. This was necessary because thieves would come into villages looking for travelers who were not protected by guards or alarms.
Inside these walls were rooms for sleeping, eating, and receiving guests. There were also kitchens where cooks prepared the food for meals and parties. Servants took care of cleaning and repairing clothes and furniture. Artists painted pictures and made statues in the workshops. Minstrels played music for entertainment during rituals and feasts. Poets wrote poems and songs.
People didn't only use their houses to sleep, eat, and hold gatherings. They also used them to make money. Merchants sold goods in markets and at fairs held outside town walls. Travelers gave talks in schools about new places they had seen. Professors taught students how to read and write in libraries. Priests performed religious rites in churches with altars, candles, and holy objects. Musicians played music at celebrations and funerals.
In short, people used their houses to work, play, and relax.