Some Contractors Consider Alternate Framing Materials

Interior Plastering - Strawbale House Build in Redmond Western Australia

As construction costs escalate, contractors are considering alternative cost-effective framing options to better control their budgets and avoid the downsides to traditional framing products. Those builders focused on environmentally-friendly products and processes also consider some choices that fit a "going green" action plan.

Becoming familiar with alternative materials helps contractors accurately assess the pros and cons of using traditional products versus the benefits and downsides of using other products or methods. Even those contractors that decide using more traditional materials is the best choice for their projects, are ahead of the curve by understanding other options, even if they reject their use.

While price remains a key factor, current local building codes sometimes are more "friendly" to the use of alternative materials. Contractors considering these options have done their "homework" properly, regardless of their decision to use or discard other framing choices.

Among some of the more popular options are the following alternative framing materials.

Cold-Formed Steel

Used in residential framing since the 1800s, cold-formed steel (CFS) is a solid alternative in stick built home construction. Currently produced from recycled steel coming from other buildings or old vehicles, CFS is a sturdy, cost-effective material.

According to the Steel Framing Alliance, CFS also offers another advantage. Typically, there is little waste (around two percent) as compared to classic wood studs, which often include waste up to 20 percent.

Straw Bale

Strawbale House Build in Redmond Western Australia

This alternative framing material often remains undiscovered by many contractors. This material is made when baled straw is covered with stucco. Although it looks like most stucco or adobe buildings, this alternative is very cost-effective.

Made from leftover wheat stalks, oats or other grains after they've been harvested, this straw is amazingly inexpensive and easy to find. Since it requires no costly processing, it is easy to find, transport and very budget-friendly.


This material is a good alternative for a couple of good reasons.

  • Logs reduce the cost per square foot of traditional wood studs because they need no extensive processing.
  • Logs as framing material reduce the volume of other items to build a home or other structure, since traditional siding, drywall and costly insulation are unnecessary.

Plentiful in some parts of the country, logs can be an excellent alternative framing material, with a totally different "look and feel" from other more traditional construction materials. While not for everyone, using logs make a striking statement for individual owners, while cutting framing and other construction material costs.

Many Recycled Materials

Recycled wood or other materials can be perfect for framing. Since framing, after installation and covering, becomes invisible. Therefore, materials that were former shipping crates or similar objects, can be ideal alternative framing materials.

Items like these examples can be good options, because of their strength (they were strong enough to survive long shipping voyages, keeping their contents intact) and their low cost. For example, shipping crates, when disassembled, have little future purpose, need little processing and plentiful, are very budget-friendly.

Recycled Drywall or GypsumDiverse recycled materials can be excellent alternatives to traditional framing materials, as long as they deliver strength, durability and low cost. Although recycled materials are not always readily available to every contractor, the extra time it takes to investigate these options can save many construction dollars, possibly offering builders higher bottom lines.

When New England contractors want the best products and service, they often choose Wallboard Supply Company. With locations around the six-state region, Wallboard Supply Company offers convenience as well as prompt delivery.

Serving New England contractors since 1970, our family owned business maintains its commitment to provide builders with quality products, for both framing and finishing, combined with outstanding customer service. Although we've grown over the last 40+ years, our mission and commitment to contractors in New England has never wavered.

Give us a call or drop in to one of our New England locations to learn more about the numerous ways we can help you build better homes and save money. Our experts can also answer your questions, concerns and offer valuable advice and counsel.

Metal Framing Product Guide Download

Photo credit: Red Moon Sanctuary / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Red Moon Sanctuary / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0)


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Wallboard Supply Company is a third generation, family run business that has been serving New England's building needs since 1970. Bob Filion started the company with a commitment to provide quality drywall and finishing products with unmatched customer service. The company has grown over the years, expanding its' product range, but never wavering from its' core values.