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A Stronger Alternative to Building with Metal and Wood Framing

Light framing is an important part of any traditionally constructed building. They are built inside the walls of a structure and provide a bridging point between the exterior and interior parts of a wall. The most common materials used for studs today are wood and metal.

Both have their respective advantages and disadvantages, and you may want to use one or the other depending on the situation or what your client’s building calls for.

In order to help you brush up on the pros and cons of both metal and wood studs, let’s run through a breakdown of how they stack up against each other, as well as an alternative you may want to consider.

A Breakdown of Metal Studs vs. Wood Studs

The main benefit of metal studs is that they are cheap and durable under extreme weather. But, while you might expect that they are durable under other conditions like extreme heat from fires, they aren’t. Steel studs are known to have a low mass, so they weaken and break easily in a fire. Metal screws are also prone to failure if they’ve been stripped from over-tightening or are rusted.

The construction of a 4-hour fire-rated steel stud building is possible only with additional layers of fire-resistant material being added. Steel stud buildings also allow fire and smoke to spread more easily, and sprinklers cannot reach the fire when it breaks into the void spaces of a steel stud wall. Firefighters know that steel studs will collapse even quicker than wood studs in a fire.

Steel studs are also inefficient at conserving energy. The thermal bridging they allow for results in a 55% loss of energy compared to other materials. Because of this, their cheap cost is offset by the additional insulation required to raise the R-level of a building to an acceptable level.

There is also the rare event in which the entire metal frame of a building can become energized with deadly electricity if sharp edges cause the protective coating of inner wiring to wear off, exposing bare wires to the frame.

Wood studs, on the other hand, have their own benefits and drawbacks. For instance, wood studs are stronger than metal studs, and are able to support more weight without being compromised. They are also longer-lasting and easier to cut as well.

On the negative side, wood studs are more expensive than steel and can be harder to install, requiring many different tools. There is also the issue of moisture intrusion, which can rot and warp wood studs in your client’s building, rendering them completely useless and compromising the entire building.

ICF Blocks are an Excellent Alternative

If you’re looking for an alternative to using wood or steel studs on your construction projects, you should consider ICF construction — a structural wall system which is insulated and provides a plethora of benefits to builders. The faster installation time, lower cost, and interlocking wall system are incredibly beneficial to builders looking for an advantage over typical wood or metal studs.

ICF Blocks are 4-hour fire rated and far more energy efficient than wood and especially steel stud-framed walls. This structural wall system is moisture-resistant, lightweight, durable, and incredibly affordable when compared with other types of wall systems.

The reason they have so many advantages over traditional wall building methods is the fact that the ICF Blocks are a complete envelope + structure solution wrapped up in a single integrated system which can be efficiently and quickly installed.

The blocks themselves are forms for building a grid of concrete beams and columns which acts as both the insulation and the enclosure of the wall. Completing the setup is a fluid-applied moisture and air barrier which is installed once the concrete pour is finished.

Metal Studs vs. Wood Studs vs. ICF Blocks

Many construction companies and builders are unaware that there even is another option when it comes to choosing the wall system of a building. Wood studs and metal studs have long been the standard for buildings of various different types, but new options are starting to pop up in the industry.

Because of the variety of different drawbacks of both metal and wood studs, the need for something more efficient, durable and safe has been building for a while.

When it comes to energy efficiency, durability, weather-resistance, air- and moisture- resistance, cost-effectiveness, installation time and all the other important factors to consider when constructing a building for your clients, ICF Blocks have wood and metal stud-framed walls beat in almost every category.

If you want to impress your clients with a faster build time and longer lasting buildings that stand up against extreme weather, fires and moisture/air intrusion, it safe to say that ICF is worth a try.

8 Responses

  1. I’d like to look into this type of wall. if I have plans that call for wood studs do the plans have to be reengineered?

  2. I am building a new home in Omaha Nebraska. I’m looking for a bid on steel framing material. Can I send you my plan for a price quote?

  3. I’m a foreman for steel stud framing, drywall, mudding (taping.), insulation, poly and spray insulation in British Columbia. I’ll tell you that steel stud is a much better alternative than wood or ICF blocks. The cost of labour and material will cost a fraction compared to the others. Plus wood rots and a building made from wood won’t stay up more then 70 years. While structures out of steel stud (metal,) will stay strong for many more years to count. Steel stud framing is built of a foundation of concrete and pillars. While wood is just wood. With new technology and advanced tools. Steel stud is the best alternative with a foundation strength that beats any of the listed above.

    1. I agree, currently in the metal stud/ drywall field in Phoenix,az. I have been in both residential and commercial industries. All I hear from residential is wood is stronger…I guess they have no understand of the wide range of metal gauges to use and the minimal amount of deflection compared to wood. Ignorance is bliss.

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