The structural steel frame is a long-lasting, cost-effective, and ecologically-friendly construction method for low-rise, mid-rise, and high-rise structures. It typically refers to building frame systems in which the vertical and horizontal structural components are made of a system of structural steel beams and columns.
Column spacing is generally 25 to 45 feet on center, with smaller or greater spacing variations depending on architectural demands. The available forms and sizes allow architects almost limitless possibilities. This article will discuss the benefits of using metal studs, both structural and non-structural in a metal framed building and their advantage over wood.
Metal studs are gaining popularity among homebuilders and contractors. They provide a variety of advantages over traditional wood frame construction, including being more robust and durable, and better able to endure the elements. Metal studs and steel framing can be used in both residential and commercial building projects, making them an appealing choice for any project.
Typically referred to as steel studs, or light gauge steel studs, they are commonly used to frame interior walls. They are non-combustible, UL fire-rated, and manufactured in gauges from 25 to 12 (18-97 MILS). Steel studs are produced from galvanized steel and meet or exceed all building codes.
Is Framing with Steel Better Than Using Wood?
Metal studs and steel framing are gaining in popularity due to their many advantages over traditional wood frame construction:
- Galvanized steel studs are more robust and durable, as well as better able to endure the elements.
- They can be used in both residential and commercial building projects, making them an appealing choice for any project.
- Metal studs are easily screwed into place, making them quick to install compared to wood.
- Steel framing has excellent sound dampening capabilities, which helps contribute to a quieter building environment.
- Steel studs are always straight, reducing lost time on the job due to lumber sorting.
- Steel is impervious to insect damage.
- Steel is easily recycled, so it is eco-friendly.
- Insurance companies favor steel construction due to its fire resistance.
Additionally, steel is non-combustible, so it is possible to create higher density multi-family and commercial buildings. This can lead to increased revenue for owners, in addition to insurance companies favoring steel construction due to its fire resistance.
Steel frame buildings are also better able to resist natural calamities, such as earthquakes, high winds, heavy snow, and hurricanes, than wood construction.
When it comes to wooden studs, you may also want to consider these factors:
- Excess moisture easily affects it, leading to rot and decay.
- The price of wood has skyrocketed compared to steel.
- Availability can be an issue.
The studs can be installed horizontally or vertically between two parallel surfaces of steel framing on the interior or exterior of a building. There are various steel studs for both residential and commercial use. They all contain knockouts for electrical, as well as bridging channels for strengthening the wall.
Standard widths for metal studs are 1 ⅝”, 2 ½”, 3 ⅝”. 6”, 8”, 10” and 12”.
Structural or Load Bearing Steel Studs?
Most builders are familiar with metal studs for use in framing out basement walls or other interior non-structural situations. Load bearing steel studs give you the advantage of dealing with a single supplier to provide all your framing and fasteners, as well as using the same subcontractors for interior and exterior walls. The studs are made in the same dimensions as the non-structural studs, but they have been designed with a minimum tensile strength of 33 KSI (kilo pounds per square inch) in the .033 and .043 thickness, and a 50 KSI in .054, .068, and .097, thickness to carry structural loads.
Recommended Tools and Other Tips for Working with Steel Framing
It’s no coincidence that when the word “tool” is mentioned, the first image conjured is a hammer. Even after thousands of years and the incredible evolution of construction and building materials, including steel framing, the hammer remains essential.
Utilizing a number of other tools with metal framing can help out, while having others on hand can prevent delays and issues. Here are a few tools that specifically help with metal framing construction:
Impact Drivers and Screw Guns
For driving screws to fasten metal members and forming vital steel-to-steel connections, impact drivers are essential. Their small size and high-torque output reduces strain for users and thus leads to less mistakes and higher precision.
For screw guns, one that has an adjustable clutch, 5 to 6 amps, and 0 to 2,500 rpm is beneficial to steel framers.
The great news for metal framing is that speciality saws are not needed. The circular saw works perfectly fine for manipulating steel, so long as the saw blade is selected for use with steel. For steel framing, a blade designed for up to 1/8-inch thick steel is highly recommended.
Nibblers and Snips
Steel and wood, generally speaking, can serve the same purposes, but they are obviously very different materials. A nice benefit of metal framing is being able to make small adjustments with relative ease, as long as you have the right nibblers and snips.
Another benefit of metal framing is being able to introduce plasma cutters, an extremely powerful and precise tool when working with metal. Whether it’s cutting holes or irregular shapes, straight lines, contour lines, or cutting steel channels and corrugated steel sheets to length, a plasma cutter is a handy tool. One great benefit is its ability to cut through metal without warping or otherwise negatively manipulating the material. When it comes to making more precise cuts, a plasma cutter is essential.
Chop saws are one of the most important tools, since metal framing studs will come at a standard length that needs to be cut to size. Metal framers suggest cutting at a steady pace to avoid creating rough edges on the metal studs.
Gloves with Rubberized Coating on the Palms
It may seem obvious, but we’ll say it anyway: metal is far sharper than wood and can make some nasty cuts to the body. Utilizing the right gloves before any framing with metal studs is absolutely critical.
In addition to the tools used to manipulate and place metal framing, modern measuring tools are essential to make the proper measurements and calculations prior to construction. One of the most handy is a 5-point leveling laser. They can measure far further than traditional tape measures, and the accuracy they afford provides the necessary precision when framing.