Light Weight Steel Studs
In the past, the only building material for studs in an interior wall was wood. Wood has a number of benefits, but the recent addition of steel studs to the building repertoire brings some unique features to the industry that are not possible with wood.
The Benefits of Steel Studs
Perhaps the biggest benefit of steel is that it won’t shrink, warp, or split. That means that steel studs remain unchanged over time and thus help to prevent problems, like cracking drywall seams, that are more common with wood. Steel studs are also lighter, cheaper, and more resistant to insects, rot, and fire than wood studs.
In truth, the supply of quality lumber has been diminishing. For this reason alone, steel studs have begun to replace wood options in more and more homes. Steel studs are about 30% cheaper than wood and metal framing can be a greener alternative in some cases. The light weight of steel studs means they are more efficient to ship. They are also fully recyclable.
Working with Steel
Working with steel comes with a bit of a learning curve and many people find that, at least initially, framing with steel is slower than framing with wood. Over time, however, working with steel is generally faster because the material is lighter and more forgiving.
One of the biggest benefits of steel studs is that they can be cut with simple materials like aviation metal snips. The tools required to cut steel studs cost no more than $30. As an added benefit, there is no sawdust when dealing with steel studs.
One of the major differences between steel and wood comes down to how they are fastened together. With wood, nails are the best option. For steel, screws are superior. Using screws has the added benefit of allowing steel studs to be easily moved and repositioned. Drywall and wood trim are attached to steel studs with screws.
When to Avoid Steel
Steel studs have many advantages, but they aren’t as strong as wood. The lightweight, galvanized steel used in studs is best for interior, non-loadbearing walls. Walls that will need to support cabinetry or heavy wall hangings, for instance, should not be constructed of steel. While it is possible to build in additional support and strength for steel walls, doing so leads to increases in material and planning costs that are generally prohibitive.