What About Steel in Home Construction?
Despite some advantages over wood, light-gauge steel framing hasn’t made the leap to residential building, and the reasons why may surprise you.
Visit just about any commercial construction site in the country and you’re likely to find light-gauge steel framing. And why not?
Galvanized studs are uniformly straight, lighter than wood, inedible by bugs, resistant to fire and rot, and conveniently prepunched for wiring.
The system is pretty simple, particularly on non-load-bearing partition walls where studs fit into tracks at the floor and ceiling and are held in place with a couple of screws. As builders continue to complain about the difficulty of finding quality framing material, and an ongoing trade dispute with Canadian lumber producers helps to push up prices, the time seems right for more residential builders to move to steel.
Why is it, then, that in 2016, the United States Census Bureau reported that a mere 3000 single-family houses are framed with steel, compared to the 674,000 houses framed with wood? In some regions of the country, the proportion of steel-framed houses is too low to rate more than a “Z” in Census Bureau records—less than 500 units, a statistical no-show.
Despite efforts by a few production builders to introduce steel framing, and attempts by researchers to make builders more comfortable with steel by providing performance data and construction details, steel framing is barely a blip on the home-building radar. Why aren’t more residential builders using steel? It turns out they have their reasons, even if not all of them make sense.
For a deep dive into the pros and cons of steel framing, click the View PDF button below.