While sometimes used in residential applications, steel studs – or light gauge metal framing – are most commonly used in commercial construction. The 5 main reasons why commercial buildings use steel studs include:
- Steel studs are more durable than wood.
- Steel is resistant to insects and fire.
- Steel studs are easy to install.
- Steel is more stable overall.
- Steel studs can be fabricated to fit the installation.
The rest of this article describes the reasons commercial buildings use metal studs in more detail. Keep reading for insights into these and the disadvantages of these stud types.
1. Steel Studs Are More Durable Than Wood
Steel frames are excellent for commercial buildings because they last longer than wood. Commercial buildings need the best structural integrity, so metal is a logical choice that will not deteriorate over time to ensure quality construction and long-lasting results.
2. Steel Is Resistant to Insects and Fire
Steel studs have excellent fire resistance properties that can prevent a blaze from spreading quickly through an entire building. Plus, these types of metal framing don’t decay, so there is no risk for insect infestations, making them a more practical choice.
3. Steel Studs Are Easy To Install
Another advantage of steel studs is that the installation process is much easier on builders who don’t have to worry about nails pulling out or chunks breaking off. They can focus more on completing the construction in line with the design.
4. Steel Is More Stable Overall
Steel studs also don’t twist or warp like wood, making them more stable and less susceptible to changes in moisture levels. This is crucial in buildings as these structures have to withstand a wide range of climates and weather conditions.
5. Steel Studs Can be Fabricated to Fit the Installation
Prefabricated steel is the ideal building material for any property owner looking to conserve resources and space. The metal is pre-cut and assembled in a factory environment by experts. The process ensures reduced waste during installation.
Tip: For more information on the benefits of steel framing, consider reading Steel-Frame House Construction by Timothy J. Waite (available on Amazon.com). The author provides more detailed information on this topic, including a step-by-step guide on how to use steel framing in construction. Also, readers will find valuable insights into how to estimate metal stud costs.
The Disadvantages of Steel Studs
Despite their benefits, metal studs come with several cons worth mentioning. They include the following:
More Challenging To Cut Than Wood
Steel framings are much more challenging to cut than wood, and it can be tricky when you’re in the middle of a project that requires cutting many steel studs.
Steel-cutting blades dull quickly on these sturdy metal pieces. If such projects arise, consider investing in specialty blades to get the job done faster.
More Expensive Than Wood
Steel framing can be a more expensive option than wood, not only because of the increased purchase cost but also due to its specialized tools.
Notably, their installation requires special equipment that is easy enough for specialists who know the ins and outs of metal studs but difficult for generalists.
Noisy During Installation
Noise is unavoidable when building. Most noise during construction comes from metal or wood framing as the materials need to be fastened together.
Fastening steel is generally louder than driving nails through wood. Therefore, the former can disturb workers onsite or annoy neighbors who live close by due to the loud noises coming from work sites.
Steel studs do not offer as much insulation from heat or cold, making them ideal only in moderate climates where the need for heating and cooling isn’t so great.
Generally, commercial buildings that use metal studs tend to feel drafty during winter. This usually forces businesses to install HVAC systems to ensure their offices are comfortable for employees and visitors.
Interferes With Wireless Signals
Steel studs can interfere with wireless signals in the building, making it difficult for business owners to keep their employees connected.
This can pose a serious challenge to the tenants of commercial buildings, especially if their businesses involve continuous communication with different stakeholders like customers and investors. Besides, it also poses operational risks to companies since it interferes with internet connectivity.
Metal framing projects are typically more challenging for general builders since they require specialized skills and experience.
Some of the risks of involving traditional framers with little experience in steel studs include delayed or incorrect installations. These can be expensive to remedy in the future due to added labor costs.
Frequently Asked Questions
When Is Steel Stud Framing Used?
Steel stud framing is often used in areas where seismic or high wind speeds are a concern. It provides stability and flexibility, which are crucial in such areas. Besides, it can withstand more impact than a wood frame.
Notably, steel studs are generally used in the walls, ceilings, and floors of new construction or as a renovation material for existing structures in the areas mentioned.
Which Is Better for Commercial Construction, Steel Studs or Wood Studs?
Steel studs are generally better for commercial construction than wood studs since they’re durable, fire-resistant, and less likely to warp or wiggle over time. This makes them more stable and reliable than wood.
Steel studs are popular with commercial buildings because they don’t succumb to insects or fire, and installation is easy.
Besides, using prefabricated steel instead of wood reduces waste while also ensuring that the building will have fewer defects over time.
That said, wood studs have traditionally been the preferred material for home builders since it’s soft, making nail gun work easier. But wood frames will age quicker than metal frames, and wood is less durable than metal which doesn’t damage easily from moisture or dry rot events.
Metal stud frame construction is coated with weather-resistant paint, so there’s no need for regular treatment.
Here’s a 3-minute video that compares wood and steel studs:
- Reddit: Metal vs. Wood Studs
- Quora: What Is the Advantage of Metal Framing a House Over Timber Framing a House?
- Sage Journals: Comparison of Thermal Performance of Wood Stud and Metal Frame Wall Systems
- Oak Ridge National Library: Steady-State Thermal Performance Evaluation of Steel-Framed Wall Assembly with Local Foam Insulation