If you’re debating between metal and wood framing, you’re in luck—that’s precisely the topic of today’s article. As building contractors, we find that there’s an everlasting debate between the merits of wood studs and metal framing. Today, we’re here to end the debate; or at least provide our perspective. In our eyes, metal wins out over wood. Here’s why:

Metal Framing Is Fast & Efficient

It’s simple to frame a building with metal studs. In most instances, we can put up over a hundred feet of wall structure in a matter of hours. Why? Well, metal studs are far lighter (making it easy to haul studs into the building) and completely uniform; you can trust that a stud is perfectly aligned to meet the header and footer. Plus, with cold-formed steel (CFS) stud connections that are specifically designed to connect metal studs, so building a wall couldn’t be simpler. Finally, construction doesn’t have to halt due to adverse weather conditions. If the weather is inclement, you don’t have to worry about your steel, it’s not going to warp.

Metal Frames Are Comparable in Cost

OK, it’s true, metal studs are more expensive than wood—steel can cost up to 15 percent more than lumber would cost for the same project. However, the extra cost isn’t crazy. And reduced waste hauling costs and increased build times may make up for a portion of that cost. Plus, there’s no maintenance necessary for metal frames. Termites don’t consume metal, so you’ll never have to have your building inspected, and you’ll never have to replace studs due to an infestation. In addition, metal doesn’t warp due to temperature or moisture. Warping can cause major issues in a home or building, such as drywall cracking, structural settling, and other problems. Over the lifetime of the building, you’ll probably save money by opting for metal studs up front.

Metal Frames Are Safe

Metal doesn’t burn. Wood does. That’s a major concern for building owners, and that’s a huge constraint if you have a building with multiple stories—you may not even be able to build with wood studs in some instances. The Steel Framing Alliance (SFA) enlightens us on some of the safety benefits of CFS metal framing:

“The International Building Code (IBC) and other building codes limit how tall a building can be or how much area can be encompassed by the building based on several factors. The primary factor is the combustibility of the products used for the building. Table 503 of the IBC categorizes buildings by construction type and use group, and gives the maximum building height in feet or stories, and the maximum area in square feet. Cold-formed steel (CFS), being totally non-combustible, can help developers and builders use land more efficiently by allowing taller and wider buildings for the same occupancy classification. For mid-rise buildings in the 4 to 9 story range, CFS is much more cost effective than heavier construction. It also has a more predictable schedule that can shave months off the total project cycle time.“

The SFA also notes that CFS framing mitigates the possibility of damage and danger caused from seismic activity. Since steel is lighter (per member), more durable, energy absorptive, consistent in manufacturing, and securely connected, it is far superior against shearing forces and other forces that can occur during an earthquake.

Metal Frames Are More Versatile

Build taller, and build with fewer members. Metal studs can be spread out up to 24 inches from center throughout a wall, whereas it’s best practice for wood studs to be spaced at 16 inches from center. In addition, metal studs are built to withstand greater loads, and they can handle greater shearing stress—that means that you might be able to add another floor to your building, or increase your ceiling height. Build the building that you envision with CFS metal.

The Environmental Debate

There’s an understandable debate about the sustainability of metal framing. While wood is, of course, a renewable resource, steel producers have made leaps and bounds to make steel production more eco-friendly. Once again, the SFA fills us in on the environmental impact of CFS framing:

  • “Since the early 1990s, the steel industry has reduced its energy use to produce a ton of steel by approximately 1/3.
  • More than 95% of the water used in the steel making process is recycled and returned – often cleaner than when it was taken from the source.
  • Every piece of steel used in construction contains recycled content.  Further, all steel can be recovered and recycled again and again into new high quality [sic] products.
  • Steel is durable, safe, and strong. It is not susceptible to rot, termites, or mold. Steel used for framing will last from hundreds to over a thousand years due to its zinc coating, a natural element. Steel structures require less material (both reduced weight and reduced volume) to carry the same loads as concrete or masonry or wood structures.
  • Steel is dimensionally stable: it will not warp, split, or creep – making it durable and built to last. Don’t waste time and dollars on costly call backs. Minimize cracking and pops in drywall and other finishes with CFS framing.”

Count on Sage Construction

For your construction needs, you can count on Sage. We provide a variety of services, from finish carpentry to acoustical ceiling installs, and from demolition to, of course, metal framing. We’re a Des Moines-based framing contractor firm. Get a bid today!