Metal Framing vs. Wood Framing - The Match Up of Studs

Wood framing used to build a barn

When you're looking at putting a project together, one of the questions that regularly arises is whether to incorporate wood or metal framing into the structure. There are a number of benefits and drawbacks to each type of framing system, which can affect the initial construction cost, how quickly the structure can be assembled, lifetime costs and building health concerns. In this article, we'll take a comprehensive look at the benefits and drawbacks of each type of framing, situations where one may work better than the other and similar concerns.

Codes and Specs

The first issue with any type of framing system is what your local building codes will approve or not approve. If one type of framing system is just not acceptable, it doesn't matter how great it is to put together. Because metal framing has been in existence for many years, most codes boards will allow its use in some, but perhaps not all, structures.

Steel Bridge FramingAnother area to consider is the differences between the two systems. Overall, metal framing tends to take up less space when transporting and storing on site, weighs significantly less which in turn causes fewer muscle sprains and strains, does not warp, is relatively easy to fix a mistake and is virtually fireproof. Wood is heavier but can provide a load bearing structure, provides a solid structure for heaving items such as mirrors or tiles, doesn't transfer much cold through the wall system, uses less expensive fasteners and is a traditional system almost every carpenter has used in the field.

Considerations in Initial Cost and Installation

In general, it takes less time to install a metal framing system than it does to frame in a stick-built structure. Because of the specialty fasteners that are required, the metal system can initially cost more for materials but may make up that difference in labor costs. Metal studs can be cut several at a time on a miter saw, provided that a metal blade is used. The metal studs can also be cut using aviation snips, leaving no sawdust behind and making cleanup easier, but at the same time, requires the use of gloves to prevent potential serious cuts to your crews' hands. In addition, you may need to provide training for your crew so you can ensure that framing around windows, doorways and utility boxes has been done correctly.

Long-Term Aspects to Consider

Metal Framing ConstructionWhen you're looking at the long-term benefits, there are a lot of benefits and drawbacks that will depend on your project's particular situation. When it comes to moisture, metal often rusts and corrodes, reducing your wall system's ability to remain structurally solid. By comparison, wood framing will absorb moisture, rot and promote mold growth. Wood-boring insects can create significant structural problems in wood framed structures, but obviously are not a problem to metal framed construction.

Another area to consider is the long- and short-term environmental impacts. Metal can be recycled into new products, while wood can be sustainably produced and acts as a carbon sink while the structure is intact. The transfer of cold through a wall system is much stronger in metal framing structures because metal, by nature, is a conductor of temperature. This means that even with a decent vapor barrier in place, you may still have condensation issues on an exterior wall. It also means you'll have a higher utility bill as the heat is stripped out of the building through the metal studs. Batt insulation can potentially help with this scenario, but metal studs also require special insulation sizes at a full 16" wide, due to the narrower, hollow aspects of the metal studs, and may be difficult to find.

The difference between metal and wood framing can be complicated and often isn't simply a matter of choosing one or the other. By taking this information into consideration when planning your next project, you can help avoid the problems that befall many contractors. If you are considering metal framing for your next project download our metal framing product guide below.

Metal Framing Product Guide Download

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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.