You may have heard about metal stud framing in commercial projects, but did you know that many progressive home builders have switched from wood studs to metal studs for stronger buildings and faster construction times? In this article, we will explore metal stud framing techniques and how they compare with old-fashioned wood framing.
What is Metal Stud Framing?
Metal stud framing is the use of cold-formed steel to build the interior and exterior walls of both residential and commercial structures. Metal stud walls are built with two main members: a steel stud and a track. Metal studs are manufactured from higher gauge steel, and are used in load-bearing, or structural, walls.
Are Wood Studs Better Than Metal Studs?
A Brief History of Wood Stud Construction
Wood stud framing has been the standard in the construction industry for many years, especially for residential projects. This is partly due to the fact that wood has been cheaper than steel for decades. Because of that, professional builders, tool manufacturers and engineering firms developed products and techniques for constructing homes that revolved around the timber industry.
Framing a building using wood studs is pretty straightforward, and there are limited opportunities to make the system more efficient. Studs are laid out for walls in 16 inch or 24 inch increments on center spacing, and attached with screws or nails through the top and bottom plates.
There is no allowance for miscuts, as the studs must fit perfectly between the top and bottom plates to be effective. If one is discovered to be unusable later in the construction process, it must be cut out of the wall with a sawzall, as the fasteners cannot be reached with conventional tools.
In addition, wood framing can be affected by:
- Insect infestation
- Mold, mildew, and rot
- Warping and twisting
Metal Stud Construction Overcomes the Problems Associated with Wood
With the rise in timber costs, metal stud framing is competitively priced and is becoming more popular as an alternative in residential and commercial construction. Metal framing provides many important benefits over wood:
- Metal stud framing is faster to install than wood, and much lighter.
- It is also stronger and performs better under the stress of hurricanes and earthquakes.
- Metal studs are less susceptible to moisture damage, making them ideal for use in wet or humid environments.
- They make consistently straight walls.
- Steel is fire resistant.
Advanced Framing Techniques Using Metal Studs
Metal stud framing can utilize advanced techniques that speed up the home building process, saving you time and money.
Faster Wall Layout
The easiest technique to frame steel walls is to start with the floor and ceiling tracks, then add the studs one at a time. This makes for a faster and more accurate layout. In addition, metal studs do not have to fit tightly, so you can cut an entire wall of studs a little shorter than the exact measurement, and it is still acceptable. There is no need to waste time trying to make a perfect cut.
Easier to Cut
A miter saw or chop saw with a metal cutting blade can be used to cut 10 or more metal studs at a time. In addition, single studs can be cut with tin snips on the flanges, and then scored with a utility knife and bent back and forth to get a burr-free edge. This makes it possible to frame a wall without electricity if needed.
Use the Scrap Pieces of Studs for Blocking
Instead of nailing wood members in between floor or roof trusses for blocking, notch out a scrap piece of metal stud to screw between joists and keep the project moving forward.
Metal Track for Headers Over Doors on Non-Structural Walls
On inside cavities that aren’t load bearing, use a track section as a header. Cut the track 3 or 4 inches wider than the hole opening and the flanks, then bend them back using a rafter square as a guide. If you need the cripple studs, have the open side of the track face up so you can insert them later.
3 Important Framing Reminders
- Don’t run metal bottom channel through door openings. You won’t be able to cut them out later before you install the doors.
- If you don’t want to use trim screws in your base molding, build the metal stud wall on top of 2- 2x wall plates. If you are building on concrete, make sure the bottom plate is treated wood.
- At inside corners and “T” intersections, leave the final stud loose. When drywall is installed on metal studs, one piece is slid all the way back and butts the stud rather than meeting the other piece of drywall. This allows the installer to adjust the stud as necessary. The same applies to drywall that meets a “T” intersection.