The Benefits of Using Metal Studs
When it comes to studs, instead of automatically buying wood, consider metal for non-load bearing walls. According to the Steel Framing Alliance, more than 40 percent of commercial structures are now built with metal studs and nearly 500,000 homes have been built with steel framing over the past decade. Most metal studs are made from sheet steel that is cold-formed into shapes and sizes that are similar to what builders are accustomed to in dimensional lumber (2×4, 2×6, 2×8, 2×10, 2×12 and so forth).
While metal studs do conduct cold (insulation should be applied between the outside wall and the metal to act as a thermal break), they offer many benefits and advantages over wood studs.
6 Benefits of Metal Studs
Convenience: Metal wins here, according to Thumb and Hammer who write extensively on the subject of wood vs metal. It’s lighter than wood and takes up half the space of lumber because of its hollowed shape. This makes for easier transporting and storage. Cut metal studs with aviation snips, which means no sawdust. However, if you’re doing a complete build, it’s easier just to use a metal cutting saw blade and a miter saw to cut in bulk. Wear gloves, though, to protect the hands from sharp edges, and clean up any small pieces that end up on the floor.
Ease of installation: Steel framing is easier to handle because the studs weigh a third less than wood and can be installed at 24 inches on center. They also are attached with screws, so moving studs is simple if you make a mistake.
Stability: Wood is prone to twisting and warping; metal is not. Wood also wicks moisture, which can lead to mold growth and rot, while metal is immune. Metal does rust, so install a vapor barrier or sill gasket between the bottom plate and the concrete floor.
Strength: The strength and ductility of structural cold-formed steel (CFS) framing, along with the holding power of CFS connections, make it ideal for construction in high-wind and seismic zones such as the U. S. eastern seaboard, the Gulf Coast states, California and Hawaii.
Insects and Fire: Carpenter ants and termites can severely damage wood construction, but steer clear of metal. Likewise, wood burns and metal does not. A wall built with metal studs is virtually fireproof.
Lower construction costs: There are some nuances to this area. Steel framing can cost three to 15 percent more than wood studs, based on Steel Framing Alliance calculations, but metal studs offer cost advantages in other areas that can offset this price difference. Warranty callbacks are minimized because steel does not shrink, split or warp. As a result, there are no nail pops or drywall cracks to fix after the structure is completed. Consistent quality means that scrap is drastically reduced (two percent for steel versus 20 percent for wood), which also reduces costs for hauling off and disposing of discarded material. You also may enjoy significant discounts on risk insurance for steel framed structures.
For more information on using metal studs is the Builder’s Guide to Steel Frame Construction from the Steel Framing Alliance.
What are your thoughts? Share your reasons for using metal studs or discuss why you believe wood studs are a better option.
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