There are several choices, of construction methods and material you can use, when you build the walls for your home.
Once the foundation is in and the floor is on, the next step is the walls. Despite the lesson of the three little pigs, we still build our homes from straw or sticks, with the most common in North America being the wood frame building. I will deal with this type more extensively, because it is also where most of my experience lies.
Another less conventional style of wall construction is the insulating concrete form filled with reinforced concrete. This produces a strong, energy efficient and quiet building envelope. Often built from the footing to the roof, this method does not require a lot of special skills, and is quite fast. Interior and exterior finishing is not much different from wood frame. The walls are nearly a foot thick, so doors and windows will have to be modified, or purchased specifically, for this type of wall. Probably a little more expensive than other methods, this can still be an excellent choice for cold climates, and likely for hot locations as well. An added advantage is that the concrete can be poured in cold weather.
My experience is limited on this type of construction, as I have only built one commercial building and one basement using it. Both were reasonably uncomplicated, and went very well, considering my lack of firsthand knowledge.
Conventional poured concrete walls are a possible choice for moderate climates, but should be reinforced, if there is any chance of earthquakes.
SIP (Structural Insulated Panel) is another intriguing method for hot or cold climates. Basically a sandwich of various exterior and interior sheathing, bonded to a polystyrene core. They can be of various thicknesses, and can be used for foundations and roofs as well. I will have to depend on links to other sites here, as I have little knowledge and have only seen the method used in a few instances.
Steel frame with metal cladding is not very common in residential construction. Although strong, it has the bad habit of collapsing quickly in a fire.
Other methods include various types of masonry wall, straw bale construction, rammed earth walls and many location specific methods using easily available material. Climate and tradition are two of the common deciding factors.
The common exterior wood frame wall can have a few variations as well. The structural framing is usually 2 x 6 or 2 x 8 spaced on 16 inch centers, in cold or hot climates, to allow for more insulation. In more moderate climates a 2 X 4 wall is adequate. A wall with staggered 2 x 4 studs can provide a thicker wall for insulation, while eliminating some thermal bridging.
Exterior cladding is usually a sandwich starting with 4 ft x 8 ft sheet goods of OSB (Oriented Strand Board), plywood or a fire resistant material such as gypsum board. Next would be well sealed layer of house wrap which is designed to allow air and moisture penetration outwards, but not towards the inside. There may also be a layer of rigid insulation over, between, or replacing other layers.
The final or cosmetic layer is widely varied. Commonest today is vinyl siding, because it is attractive, low maintenance, easy to apply and very inexpensive. Although given an R rating I don’t feel it has any insulating value, as it doesn’t provide any real air barrier.
Conventional cement based stucco is still quite common. Very cheap material wise, it takes considerable skill to apply, and is rarely a do it yourself project, although I have done it with moderate success. It can have a great range of textures and colors.
A newer innovation is acrylic stucco. Although not so variable as to texture, it can be used to add a great deal of detail to an exterior. Often applied over a layer of foam board, it provides an extra level of insulation. Detail is added by building up areas with foam board. It can be very attractive.
Natural wood siding is not as popular as it once was, probably because of increasing cost and maintenance issues.
Aluminum siding, steel, various types of composition siding board and brick or stone veneers may also be used. Artificial stone or brick facings are available. Two or more types of exterior treatments may be used together.
A concret walled building
If you are building in a high rainfall area such as coastal British Columbia, there are some other considerarions. With some combinations of siding, insulation, etc. a rainscreen may be mandatory or advisable. I am from the prairie and am not familiar with this, so will have to rely on links to sites that seem knowledgable. If you think this may apply to you, please do your research.
Insulation is placed between the studs. Batt type is the most common, with the insulating material most often fiberglass, although other material may be used. Foamed in place insulation of polyurethane or other formulations may be used. Although providing higher R values and less gaps, it is somewhat more expensive. Loose fill insulation is often used in ceilings, but seldom in walls, as it may compact and leave a gap at the top. In Cold climates at least, a polyethylene film of at least 6 mil thickness, should be placed on the inside wall over the insulation and well sealed. With foamed in place insulation this might not be necessary. Without a vapor barrier moisture could penetrate the wall cavity and condense, or even form an ice layer against the outside sheathing. If moisture penetrates into the attic cavity, it can cause frost to form against the underside of the roof, which will melt in warmer weather. This can reduce the effectiveness of the insulation, cause rot, promote mold growth and even cause staining of ceilings.
I am not sure what should be done in hot and humid climates, so if any reader has experience or knowledge, please comment.
Interior walls of course, require no insulation, unless desired for soundproofing. Framing of inside walls are usually 2 x 4 wood, but can be other sizes to allow for plumbing, heating or ventilating runs. They may also be of finger jointed wood or steel. Drywall is applied directly to both sides.
Older homes often had interior finishes of plaster or wood, but modern homes are almost exclusively done with drywall (gypsum board,) with joints taped and “mudded”, after which a primer\sealer is applied, and followed by paint, texture or other decorative material.
Drywall slows the spread of fire, and should cover all structural wood, without any gaps for fire to travel through. Door and window openings being the exception.
The subject covered here is too large for a single post, so I have only covered the basics, and will have to rely on links to other sites, if you want more detailed information on specific items.
There you have it, I have actually admitted that I need some help. Twice!!!.