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.