Introduction to Cold-Formed Steel Framing

Steel studs are often preferred over wood because of the increased strength and durability offered by this iron alloy. Steel is strong, resistant to moisture and lasts a long time, making it ideal for framing. There are different types of steel, however, one of the most popular of which is cold-formed steel (CFS).

What Is Cold-Formed Steel Framing

Cold-formed steel framing refers to the use of CFS studs to frame a building. Just because two studs are made of steel doesn’t necessarily mean that they feature the same type of steel. CFS studs are made using a special process in which steel materials are rolled – at or near room temperature – into various shapes to create steel products such as studs and joists. These CFS products are then installed to create the frame of a building.

Cold-Formed vs Hot-Formed Steel: What’s the Difference?

The key difference between CFS and hot-formed steel is that the former involves a room temperature production process, whereas the latter involves a heated production process. With hot-formed steel, the steel materials are heated to temperatures of 1,700 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. This makes the steel easier to manipulate and bend but at the cost of strength. The high temperatures to which hot-formed steel is exposed causes structural changes, making it difficult to manipulate.

Benefits of Cold-Formed Steel Framing

There are several benefits to using CFS studs to frame a building, one of which is increased strength. According to the American Iron and Steel Institute, CFS steel products have an average yield strength of 33 to 50 kilopounds per square inch (ksi). They are stronger than hot-formed steel products, making them a particularly attractive choice for commercial framing.

CFS framing is also cost effective for construction companies. It’s easier to manufacture than hot-formed steel, resulting in a lower price. Furthermore, the standardized specifications of CFS promotes faster installation, allowing construction companies to finish their projects more quickly.

Like all steel products, CFS isn’t susceptible to rot, mold or termites. Since its made of inorganic material, it won’t succumb to moisture damage, nor will wood-boring pests feast on it.

Because of their room temperature manufacturing process, CFS products are limited to just a few basic shapes. The good news, however, is that framing studs, joists and other components are available in CFS.

To recap, CFS framing involves the use of cold-formed steel studs, joists and other components. The CFS components are made by pressing and rolling steel at room temperature. It’s a simple yet effective process for creating high-quality framing components.

As a commercial installer, UBS is a leader in metal stud framing. Contact us for a quote on your next office building, high rise or apartment complex. 303.466.7200.

Commercial Construction: How to Prevent Drywall From Cracking

It’s not uncommon for drywall to crack either during or after installation. While small hairline cracks are usually harmless, larger cracks can create weakness points within the walls and expose framing studs to moisture. However, there are steps that commercial construction companies and contractors can take to protect drywall from phenomenon.

Choose the Right Type

First, choose the right type of drywall for the job. Although most drywall is made of calcium sulfate dihydrate (gypsum), there are variations, each of which has its own unique characteristics. Mold-resistant drywall, for instance, features a paperless backing and chemically treated surface to discourage the growth of mold. Fire-resistant drywall, on the other hand, is designer with thick fire-resistant materials. Choosing the right type of drywall will minimize stress and reduce the risk of cracking.

Use the Right Compound

It’s also important to use the right compound when installing drywall. Also known as joint compound, this product is used to seal joints between drywall sheets. Skip the lightweight compound and, instead, choose a general-purpose compound for stronger adhesion and longevity.

Avoid Overcutting

Use caution when cutting your drywall to ensure that you don’t accidentally cut too much. Overcutting, even if it’s only by a few inches, will affect the way in which the drywall fits. The presence of large gaps and openings may stress the drywall to the point where it develop cracks. You can prevent this from happening by cutting your drywall to the correct size. And remember, you can always cut away additional drywall material, but you can’t add it back.

Don’t Break Paper With Fasteners

When securing drywall to the framing studs, try to avoid penetrating the outer paper layer with the screw or fastener head. Some contractors believe that driving fasteners deeper into drywall creates a stronger hold. However, it actually weakens the drywall by making it susceptible to cracking and other forms of damage. Drive fasteners just deep enough to secure the drywall to the framing studs, without penetrating the outer paper layer.

Sand Gently

After securing drywall to the framing studs, you may want to sand it down to create a smooth surface. To protect against cracking, however, you should sand gently while applying only minor force. Start with 12-grit sandpaper and gradually work your way up to larger grit paper.

Dealing With Cracks

You don’t have to replace a sheet of drywall just because it’s cracked. You can often fill small holes and cracks with joint compound. If it’s a large hole or crack, adding fiberglass mesh tape to the area before applying the compound can help hold it together.

As a commercial installer, UBS is a leader in metal stud framing. Contact us for a quote on your next office building, high rise or apartment complex. 303.466.7200.

5 Tips for a Green Construction Project

Green construction is a building methodology that centers around the use of environmentally friendly and energy-efficient materials, systems and processes. Although it’s been around for decades, it’s become increasingly popular in recent year – and for good reason. Green construction offers cost-savings benefits to both construction companies as well as tenants and property owners who occupy the newly constructed space. To take advantage of these benefits, construction companies should consider the following tips.

#1) Recycle and Reuse

When possible, construction companies should recycle or reuse materials rather than disposing of them. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), only 40 percent of all building-related construction and demolition (C&D) materials are recycled or reused. From drywall and steel to electrical wires, insulation and even glass windows, though, countless C&D materials can be recycled.

#2 Energy-Efficient Lighting

According to the Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory, lighting accounts for up to 40 percent of the average commercial building’s energy usage. Whether it’s a high-rise apartment complex or a multi-tenant commercial office building, using energy-efficient lighting promotes a greener construction project while reducing energy costs in the process. Traditional incandescent lighting has the shortest lifespan and consumes the most energy of all modern lighting technologies. Compact fluorescent lighting (CFL) or light-emitting diode (LED) is a smarter choice. Both of these alternative lighting technologies last longer and use less energy than their incandescent counterpart.

#3) ENERGY STAR HVAC

When choosing a heating, ventilation and cooling (HVAC) system for a building, construction companies should consider an ENERGY STAR-certified model. These systems are designed with stringent specifications to achieve a higher level of energy efficiency than traditional models. When used in conjunction with proper building practices, an ENERGY STAR-certified HVAC system can lower a building’s cooling costs by up to 30 percent.

#4) Water Conservation

Construction companies shouldn’t overlook water usage in their projects. Water conservation technologies like low-flush toilets and low-flow showerheads can reduce a building’s water usage and help property owners save money on utility bills.

#5) Eco-Friendly Materials

Another tip for a green construction project is to use eco-friendly building materials. Bamboo, for example, has become a popular alternative to hardwood flooring. With an average growth rate of 3 to 5 feet per year, bamboo is a fast-growing plant that’s easy to harvest and perfect to use as a flooring material. Even steel is considered an eco-friendly building material, as it’s easy to recycle. While its exact content varies depending on the product, most stainless-steel products consist of roughly 60 percent recycled material.

As a commercial installer, UBS is a leader in metal stud framing. Contact us for a quote on your next office building, high rise or apartment complex. 303.466.7200.

Humidity Control Solutions for Construction Sites

Humidity control is a challenge faced by many commercial construction companies. When left unchecked, humidity can contribute to mold and mildew while also damaging the building’s structure in the process. Thankfully, though, there are ways to control humidity on construction sites.

What Is Humidity and How Does Affect Construction Sites?

Water is all around us in the form of moisture vapor, known as humidity. The term “relative humidity” is used to describe the amount of moisture in the air relative to what the air can hold as its current temperature. A relative humidity of 50 percent, for instance, means the air is holding half the amount of moisture vapor that it can hold at its current temperature. As the relative humidity on a construction site increases, it can pose serious problems.

Some of the most common problems associated with high humidity – defined as a relative humidity of 60 percent or higher – include the following:

• Mold
• Paint damage
• Degradation of drywall and related building materials
• Wood swelling and warpage
• Corrosion of metal materials
• Electrical system failure
• Increased risk of respiratory ailments

Prevent the Intrusion of Water

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), preventing the intrusion of water is the first step to controlling humidity problems. Whether it’s melted snow, frost, rain runoff or wet materials, the presence of water contributes to high humidity. As the water evaporates, it turns into moisture vapor that’s able to saturate walls and surrounding structures. So, construction companies should use caution to prevent water from entering the building or site on which they are working.

Air Conditioning

Once the HVAC system and exterior walls are constructed, using the building’s air conditioning can also keep humidity levels in check. Air conditioning systems have two primary goals: to lower the ambient temperature and reduce humidity levels. Even if the building doesn’t have working air conditioning, construction companies may still be able to use window units, which function the same way.

Dehumidifier

Perhaps the most effective solution for controlling humidity is a dehumidifier. This device lives up to its namesake by lowering the humidity level of the surrounding space. It works by extracting moisture from the air, either storing this water in a tank or draining it through a hose. There are even some dehumidifiers designed specifically for commercial applications.

It’s nearly impossible to remove all moisture vapor from the air, and that’s okay. Some moisture vapor is perfectly fine. When humidity levels remain elevated for a prolonged length of time, though, it can cause serious problems. These tips can help construction companies better control the humidity at their job sites.

As a commercial installer, UBS is a leader in metal stud framing. Contact us for a quote on your next office building, high rise or apartment complex. 303.466.7200.

How Drywall Can Control Sound

Drywall, also known as sheet rock or plasterboard, is used to create the walls of a commercial building. Made of calcium sulfate dihydrate (gypsum) plaster that’s sandwiched between layers of paper, it’s attached to the building’s frame studs to form interior walls. In addition to creating partitioned spaces, however, drywall has a secondary application that often goes unnoticed: sound control.

The Basics of Acoustics

Acoustics refers to the properties of a building or space that influence the way in which sound is transmitted. When a building has poor acoustics, sound vibrations can travel through walls, ceilings and floors more freely, thus creating a distracting environment for occupants.

Acoustics is important for several reasons. Statistics show, for instance, that reducing noise levels in an office increases worker productivity by roughly 20 percent and worker satisfaction by 140 percent. Furthermore, prolonged exposure to noise level of 85 decibels (dBA) or louder can lead to hearing loss.

Drywall and Acoustics

Drywall controls sound by acting as a barrier that interrupts sound vibrations, weakening the strength of the vibrations as they travel through the building. Without drywall, there’s nothing to stop sound vibrations from traveling from one room to an adjacent room other than frame studs and insulation.

Construction companies and contractors can improve the sound-controlling properties of drywall by using multiple layers of panels. Rather than installing a single drywall panel, two panels can be glued together to form of a thicker wall. Choosing thicker drywall, such as 1/2 inch as opposed to 3/8 inch, may also dampen sound vibrations.

Sound-Controlling Drywall

While standard drywall does a pretty good job at controlling sound, there are certain types that offer stronger sound-dampening properties. QuietRock, for example, features multiple layers of gypsum mixed with sound-absorbing polymers. Originally developed in 2003, it’s become one of the industry’s most popular drywall products for soundproofing applications. There’s also Soundbreak XP, which is a cheaper type of sound-controlling drywall. Soundbreak XP has a lower Sound Transmission Class (STC) than its QuietRock counterpart, but it’s also lighter and easier to handle.

Other Ways to Control Sound

Of course, there are other steps construction companies can take to control sound. According to the Gypsum Association, steel framing studs are more effective at reducing the transmission of sound than wood studs in commercial construction projects. This is because steel studs are less rigid than wood studs, so they inhibit a greater amount of sound. Insulation can weaken sound vibrations as well. The Gypsum Association recommends adding insulation in the open space behind the drywall.

As a commercial installer, UBS is a leader in metal stud framing. Contact us for a quote on your next office building, high rise or apartment complex. 303.466.7200.

How Drones Are Being Used in the Construction Industry

Often viewed as nothing more than a recreational toy, drones have a variety of commercial applications. According to a recent report by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the number of commercial drones in the skies will increase from 110,000 to 450,000 by 2022. While drones are used in a variety of commercial sectors, they’ve become increasingly popular in the construction industry.

Surveying

One of the ways in which construction companies use drones is to survey buildings and the surrounding the landscape. Equipped with cameras, GPS and rangefinder measurement tools, they provide a detailed bird’s-eye perspective of the surrounding environment. Rather than sending a worker to the top of a high-rise building via scaffolding, for instance, construction companies can pilot a drone. It’s a fast, efficient and cost-effective way to survey a building or landscape.

Report Progress

Construction companies use drones to report progress to their clients or stakeholders. Known as a progress report or status report, it provides detailed insight into the project’s completion. A core element of a monthly construction project report is photos, which reveal the exact stage of the project. Drones simplify the process of creating progress reports by allowing construction companies to take high-resolution photos of their building or project without the need for human workers on the ground.

Thermal Imaging

At minimum, most drones used in the construction industry are equipped with a camera that can take pictures and record video. Some, however, are equipped with thermal imaging scanners that identify hot and cold spots on the construction project. If a section of the building has a cold spot, it could indicate insufficient insulation. On the other hand, a hot spot could indicate an electrical problem. Either way, drones equipped with thermal imaging scanners can help construction companies identify thermal nuances with their project.

Inspections

Inspections are an important part of a commercial construction project. Designing blueprints with the correct specifications is only half the battle; the other half is ensuring that the construction project adheres to these specifications and complies with all local, state and federal codes. Drones are an invaluable tool for this purpose, as they allow construction companies to easily inspect hard-to-reach areas like the roof of a high-rise building.

The Future for Construction Drones

So, what’s next for the future of drones in the construction industry? It’s safe to assume that construction companies will continue to use UAVs for the purposes previously mentioned. As the technology improves, however, we’ll probably see other applications emerge, such as transporting and lifting equipment.

As a commercial installer, UBS is a leader in metal stud framing. Contact us for a quote on your next office building, high rise or apartment complex. 303.466.7200.

Steel vs Wood Stud Framing: Which Is Best?

Wall studs play an essential role in framing a home or building. Run from the ceiling to the floor and typically spaced 16 or 24 inches apart, they form the “skeleton” of the structure by holding together windows, doors, insulation, plumbing and utility wires and more. Once installed, the studs will create walls, which may or may not be load bearing, depending on the method of construction.

Studs are made of a variety of materials, including wood and steel. While both types serve the same fundamental purpose of creating the structure’s frame, there are some key differences distinguishing them from each other. So, how do steel and wood studs differ, and which one is best for commercial framing?

Popularity

In the past, wood was the preferred choice of material for framing studs. Now, however, there’s a growing focus on steel studs.  According to the Steel Framing Alliance (SFA), approximately 40 percent of commercial buildings are constructed with metal studs.

Longevity

Because they are made of organic material, wood studs typically have a shorter lifespan than their steel counterparts. When moisture encroaches into the drywall, it will cause wood studs to rot. Over time, the decaying wood will jeopardize the structural integrity of the building, prompting the owner to replace the damaged studs. Steel studs, on the other hand, last longer since they are immune to rotting and decay. They can still rust if not properly insulated, but steel studs almost always outlive wood studs.

Weight

Contrary to what some people may believe, steel studs weigh less than wood studs. Steel studs weigh 10 percent to 20 percent less than wood studs of the same size. As a result, they are easier to transport, manipulate and install.

Strength and Stability

Not surprisingly, steel studs are stronger and more stable than wood studs. Even if it doesn’t rot, wood studs are susceptible to contraction, expansion and warpage from humidity. These effects can make a structure less stable, especially during storms or strong winds.

Termites

Wood studs – like all wooden building materials – are susceptible to termite damage. According to Orkin, termites cause $30 billion in damage to man-made structures every year in the United States. Termites feast on the cellulose of wood, making steel a safe choice of framing material.

Pricing

You can expect to pay slightly more for steel studs than wood, but the difference is quite small. While prices vary depending on vendor, quality and other factors, steel studs cost about 3 percent to 15 percent more than wood.

Steel studs offer several key advantages over wood, including protection from decay, termites, a lighter weight, increased strength and more. As a commercial installer, UBS is a leader in metal stud framing. Contact us for a quote on your next office building, high rise or apartment complex. 303.466.7200.

What to Look for in a Drywall Contractor Estimate

Contractor estimates can be overwhelming and intimidating with their complexity, detail, and sheer volume of numbers. Nonetheless, it is critical to understand how to accurately read and evaluate these contractor estimates in order to make the right selection.

Every contractor estimate, also known as a bid, is intended to display the sum of all expected costs for a project. However, each company may use a different format due to the many software applications available for creating these estimates. When reviewing bids, you should compare how material costs, crew and labor expenses, and profit margin add up to the total cost for each provider. Understanding these elements allows you to more accurately compare different contractors, as well as identifying if a bid is structured in a manner that risks quality.

QUANTITY OF MATERIAL USED AND INDIVIDUAL COST PER UNIT

Some of the most important things to be aware of are the amount of materials needed to complete the job and the individual cost per unit of material. Each type of material used in the project should be individually listed, with an individual cost per unit. In evaluating these costs, a general contractor will often add in an acceptable percentage variance, as raw material prices fluctuate based on supply and demand.

NUMBER OF CREW MEMBERS, HOURLY WAGE, AND DURATION OF PROJECT

Of course, materials used and material costs are immensely important in a contractor estimate, but the number of employees working on the job, their hourly wage, and the hours they are expecting to be on site must also be clearly expressed. It’s important to carefully review each contractor’s estimate of how long the project will take, along with how many crew members will be working on that project and their hourly wage. A complex job with numerous subcontractors and trades on site requires significantly more project management to keep the project on track. It is all too common to see an inexperienced subcontractor provide a bid that doesn’t take into account the scope or intricacies of a big project.

CONTRACTOR PROFIT MARGIN

Another item to look for in your contractor estimate is the company profit margin or markup. This is the cost of the company providing their service and managing an effective process to project completion.

Once all the above components have been individually identified including the volume of materials used, cost per unit of material, number of workers working on the project, hourly wages, the number of hours they’ll be working on the project, and finally the profit margin for the subcontractor, then the total project costs should be clearly indicated. While it is natural to focus on this final number, it is only by analyzing the individual bid components that you can accurately compare what each contractor is offering as their service.

United Builders Service is a leader in framing, drywall, acoustic ceilings and project management. We would be happy to provide a contractor estimate, or to help you analyze and compare estimates that you have already received.  Call us at 303.466.7200 to request a quote.

What Acoustic Ceiling Tile Options Are Available?

Suspended ceilings are common in both commercial and residential construction. Designed to minimize acoustic pollution and increase the aesthetics of the space, drop down ceilings can be both functional and visually appealing.  There are multiple types of tile available, each of which has its own pros and cons.

MINERAL FIBER TILES

Mineral fiber ceiling tiles are the most common type of ceiling tile.  Made of interwoven fibers, they are one of the least expensive materials available, often as low as 2 or 3 dollars per tile. Easy to obtain and easy to configure, mineral fiber tiles provide an accessible and straightforward installation process.
The biggest risk in using mineral fiber tiles is that they can easily break, and the results can be messy.  The debris can wind up everywhere, making it difficult to clean. Additionally, these ceiling tiles can be difficult to handle if there is a need to access the space above the tiles.

PLASTIC CEILING TILES

Plastic tiles have become more popular in recent years, in part because of their ease of use. They aren’t bulky or dusty, meaning that installation and maintenance are easier and less messy.  Because they are made of plastic, they tend to be lighter than other materials, making the wiring and piping above the drop ceiling grid more accessible. Additionally, there is no mineral fiber residue to deal with if the tiles ever need to be exchanged. Customization is also easier, as the tiles come in different colors and patterns.

Plastic tiles are more expensive and aren’t usually found at local home renovation stores. Tiles will need to be ordered for initial design and whenever replacements are needed, which can increase the cost of the job and ongoing maintenance.

METAL CEILING TILES

Metal tiles are manufactured to fit the room, so there is no need to cut the tiles further during installation. Because metal tiles are custom cut for each room during their construction, there are more design possibilities.  However, this means that the design and manufacturing process will typically require more time than other ceiling tile options.

The biggest drawback of metal tiles is the custom manufacturing process, which can make them more expensive than other material options.  Costs can range from $2 to $17 per tile. Metal tiles can also have a negative impact on the acoustics of a room, providing more opportunity for reverberation and echo.

COMPOSITE MATERIAL

Composite tiles can be cheaper than metal tiles and are the best at reducing noise pollution, which makes them ideal for areas that need higher levels of privacy, such law offices or medical centers. Additionally, they are more common than plastic, wood, or metal tiles, allowing for easier repairs and replacement. Composite tiles are made of a combination of mineral fibers and more supportive material like concrete, which means that they are less likely to break than mineral fiber tiles.

Composite tiles may not be as readily available as mineral fiber, which means they may need to be pre-ordered before a job starts.  This also might require that additional tiles are stored on site for maintenance and replacement purposes.

WOOD PANEL

Wood panels are yet another option. Each tile is individually cut, allowing a unique design for each space. Their acoustic capabilities are also better than metal, with less reverberation of sound.  As a result, they can create a unique look without increasing acoustic pollution.

Wood panels can be just as expensive as metal tiles, making them one of the costlier options on the market. The material can be hard to work with, and if they break it can be difficult to replace them, adding to material and maintenance costs.

OUR TEAM IS HERE TO HELP

Each type of panel has its own benefits and challenges. As a result, deciding which type of ceiling tile to use in your construction or rehab project can be a complicated process. We work with you and your designers to find the solution that will best match your project needs and budget. To find out more about our drop down and acoustic ceiling tiles contact us at 303.466.7200.

Safety in Metal Stud Framing

Every construction site has the potential to be a dangerous work space. The myriad of tools and hazards require that people ensure their safety. Working with metal stud framing has its own unique challenges, which can require that the worker remains extra diligent, not only to ensure the safety of themselves and those around them, but also to complete the job in a timely and accurate manner.

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