Steel Framing:
Pros and Cons

Is residential steel framing competitive with wood framing? What factors should you consider in choosing whether or not to build with steel?

Pros of Steel Framing

There are numerous advantages to constructing with steel. Among them are the following:

* Steel is often lighter in weight than wood. It is lighter than concrete or masonry products.

* It doesn't warp, expand, contract or twist as wood can.

* This particular metal is rust and moisture resistant (thus resisting fungal attacks).

* Steel can't catch fire. Some insurance companies may lower their rates on such a home.


Termites can't eat it.

* Pre-punched holes for wiring and plumbing are located on the studs.

Cons of Steel House Framing

The list of disadvantages for framing with this metal is not lengthy, but still deserves careful consideration.

* Many builders are not familiar with steel construction.

* Special tools are required.

* Specific design is necessary to brace the steel properly.

* The metal sometimes has a coating of oil (from the manufacturer) which can cause problems in a person with petroleum sensitivity. It can be removed with a heavy-duty cleaning solution such as TSP (tri-sodium phosphate) mixed in water.

* The Biggest Disadvantage

Steel framing's lack of energy efficiency may be the biggest disadvantage by far. Steel is an excellent conductor of heat, so heat can be easily lost through each steel piece - possibly up to 50% of the heat in your home.

Since cool air in the winter months will cool the steel studs, extra humidity can form in these areas. Care must be taken to ensure that this scenario does not happen, as it can lead to mold growth.

Some type of superinsulation - such as a double wall system or other highly efficient insulating system should be used if you choose to frame with steel.

Check with the steel manufacturers for specific suggestions on dealing with the energy issue.

You might also consider a hybrid approach to help overcome this disadvantage.

As steel becomes a more popular option, its pricing may be closely competitive with that of wood framing. Be sure you consider other factors in the total cost as well, such as the price of a super- insulating system as well as the possibility of lower home insurance premiums.

Reading books on this topic as well as researching manufacturers and systems will help you gain the knowledge you need to make a wise decision.

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