When it comes to building homes and light commercial buildings, it’s common for people to default to wood framing as their first choice. Wood is relatively cheap, readily available in North America and Europe, and has been used in home construction for centuries, so it makes sense that it would be a typical choice.
However, light gauge steel is an increasingly popular option, and for good reason! So let’s break down the advantages and disadvantages of light gauge steel construction.
First, What Is Light Gauge Steel?
Light gauge steel is a cold-formed framing material. Whereas heavier gauge steel is melted down and formed from a molten state, cold-formed steel is formed by rolling thin sheets of steel into form at room temperature.
The result is a sturdy building material that can be used in similar contexts to wood framing, but with slightly different features – some good, some bad, and some that could be either good or bad depending on your needs and preferences.
Advantages of Light Gauge Steel Framing
Light gauge steel construction is well-known to be strong and more durable than wood or concrete construction. Because light gauge steel framing is not biodegradable, it is not susceptible to decay or termite attack, and is moisture resistant so it will not shrink, rot, or warp in adverse weather conditions.
Despite its strength, light gauge steel is about 30-50% lighter than wood, and no on-site cutting or welding is typically required for its construction. In addition, because of its increased strength compared to wood, fewer light steel members are required for proper construction compared to wood. This all translates to much faster construction times.
Light gauge steel construction can be easily modified and designed for any kind of custom shapes or requirements, and can even be changed easily at any point in its lifespan. They can be clad in a wide range of different materials to suit any purpose, and work for essentially any type of building that would ordinarily use wood. It’s even better for buildings with unique or custom architectural needs.
Disadvantages of Light Gauge Steel Construction
Light gauge steel construction does tend to be more costly than alternative building materials. Though it does allow cost savings over time with efficient construction and durability, the initial installation cost is often higher. While uncommon, it is also more expensive and time-consuming to deal with manufacturing or planning errors since materials can’t be easily cut or adjusted on-site.
Light gauge steel loses its strength quickly in a fire, making it important to use a fire-resistant coating to prevent severe structural damage from extreme heat.
Metal is not a good insulation material on its own, and light gauge steel construction can create condensation, which may lead to drywall damage. Installing a moisture barrier will help mitigate this, but this will also increase the overall cost of construction.
Contact PSE Consulting Engineers to Learn More!
This is just a starting primer on what you can expect from using light gauge steel framing in your construction project. Our engineers can talk with you about your complete range of options, laying out options and considerations for your unique needs.
Contact us today and let us help you bring your project together!