Light Gauge Steel Framing
What is Light Gauge Steel Framing?
Light gauge steel framing members, sometimes called cold-formed steel, are made from structural quality steel sheets that are formed into shapes either through press-braking blanks sheared from sheets or coils or, more commonly, by roll-forming the steel through a series of dies. Unlike hot-formed structural I-Beams, neither process requires heat to form the shape, thus the name “cold-formed” steel.
Steel vs. Wood Framing
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. However, light gauge steel is an increasingly popular option, and for good reason!
A major distinction between light gauge steel vs. wood framing is that light gauge steel framing eliminates risks related to wood framing. Light gauge steel framing is significantly easier to work with than wooden material because the studs are much lighter and aren’t susceptible to the same bowing and warping as wood when exposed to different environments.
Another significant benefit for the homeowner is that steel studs don’t rot when they come in contact with moisture. Even treated lumber can rot even in the best conditions. Light gauge steel construction is beneficial for your building’s longevity and your budget.
Light Gauge Steel Framing Advantages and Disadvantages
Advantages of Light Gauge Steel Framing
Durability & Building Safety
Light gauge steel construction is stronger 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. And unlike traditional stick framing, steel framing members that are properly fireproofed with a coating are highly fire-resistant and non-combustible.
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. Steel is also the #1 recycled material in North America. Every year, the recycling of steel saves the energy equivalent of electrically powering 1 out of 5 US households for one year.
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 up-front 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.
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.
Metal framing can require specialized tools and construction expertise as compared to wood framing. Experienced builders and engineers will be needed to oversee the light gauge steel framing installation.
Why Build Using Light Gauge Steel Framing?
Light gauge steel framing doesn’t face near the number of problems that wooden structures do. Weighing the advantages and disadvantages of light gauge steel framing while you plan your construction now can make the difference between wasting thousands of dollars over many years and having a durable, long-lasting building.
- Lower insurance costs due to upgraded safety factors.
- Lower maintenance costs due to steel’s durability and resilience.
- Steel is dimensionally stable, so it’s not affected by temperature, humidity, and climatic changes.
- We can engineer steel’s strength and resiliency to the highest possible seismic rating for your building.
- Enjoy peace of mind knowing your building is safe from rot, termites, and fire damage.
- Framing is completed quicker with steel, as it is stronger than wood and requires less material.
- Design your steel home exterior with any material you would use with traditional wood stick framing, such as stucco, plaster, or any other siding material of your choosing.
Light Gauge Steel Framing Manufacturing & Engineering
When it comes to sustainable building materials, there aren’t many that come with the same benefits as light gauge steel framing. Designing with light gauge steel is the better way to build durable, safe, and longstanding structures. PSE Consulting Engineers, Inc. is an industry leader in the sustainable engineering world. Contact us for more information on light gauge steel construction and other sustainable engineering and building practices.