Comparison of Steel Versus Wood
Steel framing is a practical, code approved solution to many of the limitations that builders face
today when using traditional building materials. There are a number of frequently asked questions
about building with steel. A number of consumers, businesses, and organizations are attracted to
the seemingly low costs involved with steel building construction but still aren't quite sure whether
it is a viable option when compared to more conventional construction.
Why should I consider building with steel?
Steel framing can lower construction costs.
Warranty call-backs are minimized because steel does not shrink, split, or warp. As a result,
there are no nail pops or drywall cracks to fix after the structure is completed.
Consistent quality means that scrap is drastically reduced (2% for steel versus 20% for wood).
These savings also translate into lower costs for jobsite culling of wood materials and haul off and
disposal of discarded material.
Discounts on builders risk insurance for steel framed structures can result in significant cost
savings for builders.
Steel framing is easier to handle because steel studs weigh 1/3less than wood studs, and can be
installed at 24 on center.
Steel framing offers marketing advantages because consumers recognize steel as a superior
framing product for its fundamental characteristics:
Long term maintenance costs are reduced because steel is resistant to rot, mold, termite and
Good indoor air quality (IAQ) is promoted because steel does not emit volatile organic
Steel is Green because it contains a minimum of 25% recycled steel and is 100% recyclable.
Steel framing has proven performance in high wind and seismic zones.
The non-combustibility of steel allows a significant density increase in commercial and multifamily
structures, offering building owners with the potential for higher revenue.
How much will steel framing cost compared to wood framing?
The method of construction, stick framing or panelization, and type of project will have a direct
bearing on the cost of the steel frame system.
Stick framing is the method most commonly used to build wood framed homes today, and
involves assembling the floors and walls using individual studs and joists on the construction site.
This method often requires extensive cutting of individual framing members, and requires a fairly
high level of skill of framers who must know how to assemble the elements within the house.
Framing and trusses represent approximately 20% of the total cost of the house construction. If
the conventional stick framing method of construction is used, steel framing can add 3% to the
total cost of a house. When only the framing system is considered, studies have shown that a
stick-framed steel system can cost 15% more than wood framing.
However there are a number of savings that builders realize when they use steel framing including;
Warranty callbacks associated with the seasonal movement of framing members are virtually
eliminated ($400) Save on waste haul off ($210) Insurance savings ($60) Site culling of wood framing ($100)
What are the differences in construction details between panelized steel wall panels and wood?
In most residential applications, plywood or OSB is used for floor, wall and roof sheathing, just
as in a wood framed house. Sheathing is attached to steel framing using pins shot from a
pneumatic gun at a cost and rate of speed similar to the tools used for wood construction. With
panelized construction many of these steps are eliminated, reducing the framing responsibility to
positioning and fastening the pre-assembled components.
In most residential applications, additional plywood or OSB is added as sheathing. With steel
panels sheathing is not required on the exterior walls. Any exterior cladding can be used which
reduces material costs for items that are not needed.
Steel panels also reduce the time it takes to build. Steel is lighter and you can move the
material around easier. With most stick framing, a builder has to cut the lumber to size, frame,
drill holes for wiring, insulate, and sheath. In today s technology, steel panels are custom made
based on a set of architectural drawings. Panels will arrive at the job site cut to the correct
heights, framed, molded wire chases, and insulated. So many steps are eliminated lowering the
cost of labor and time needed to construct. Its also Easy to make on site adjustments easily and
Using EPS (Expanded Polystyrene) as in insulator reduces air leaks and is recyclable.
Using a steel insulated panel with EPS has its own built in vapor barrier which allows the panel
to breathe but also eliminates the cause of molding.
No wood for the invitation of termites and other wood-boring insects.
Little to no waste on the job site.