Over the past couple of decades, as steel has become more available through local home improvement centers and contractor supply companies, its use as a framing material for both interiors and exteriors has taken off.
Here are some of the best reasons to use or not use steel in your next project:
Pro: Function follows Form: If you have ever got into a wrestling match with a hardwood floor while using 3/4″ hardwood or have written 10 percent of your wood studs off in advance because you know that you might have that many that are too bent or crooked to use on a project, steel-fabricated studs may be the answer. Not only is each stud perfectly straight, they are also available in configurations that allow them to work on uneven floors when you are using them as interior studs. All of these end up saving you a lot of time when you are building.
Con: Steel-Fabricated Building Materials are Expensive: Steel prices fluctuate just as much as wood prices do. There was even a time in the recent past when the cost of going with either option became close to the same. On average, however, when you opt to construct something using steel-fabricated materials, you are going to end up paying more for the material.
Pro: Steel-Fabricated Materials Can Be Used More Than Once: Already known as being excellent for temporary structures, one of the hidden values of constructing permanent structures using steel-fabricated studs is that if you want to change your home’s interior, you merely need to take the drywall off the studs before removing the studs. You can then re-use the studs as if they were new. That wouldn’t be the case if you were using wood studs and were remodeling a home that was 10 or 20 years old. Of course, either way, if the wall is load-bearing, you will have a couple more steps to follow before you start removing studs.
Con: Using Steel-Fabricated Studs on the Exterior is Less Energy-Efficient: Actually, this is true if you are comparing it to a brick or concrete block structure. The key thing to remember, however, with steel-fabricated exterior studs, is that there is exterior insulation that is available that can be applied when you are doing the home’s exterior finish work. If you incorporate that into your building practices, you should end up with a more energy-efficient home.
Pro: You Can Save Your Heavy-Lifting For the Gym: Steel-fabricated studs tend to weigh less than their wood counterparts, making it easier to tote them around the work site and put them in place. It can also make it less expensive to transport them compared to brick or block or wood.
Pro: Man-made Means We Put That Feature in There For You: Have you ever framed a wood room- and then satisfied with your work realized that you had hours of work ahead of you drilling holes in the studs so that you could accommodate all of the electrical and internet cabling that your client wanted run? With steel-fabricated studs, the holes are are already there. You put them up and then can start running cable right away.