Steel Versus Wood: An Update

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The debate over wood versus steel for home framing heated up in the early 1990s when the cost of framing lumber doubled in just a few months

April 01, 2002

 

The debate over wood versus steel for home framing heated up in the early 1990s when the cost of framing lumber doubled in just a few months. That, coupled with the decreasing quality of sawn lumber, made steel framing seem more attractive than ever. Not only does the price of steel framing tend to remain fairly constant from the time you bid a job until the day you buy the materials for it, it’s consistently straight and warp-free, even when it’s rained on.

On the downside, steel’s tendency to bring cold temperatures from outside the house to the inside makes steel unattractive to some.

For remodelers, steel framing can be a good sell to customers who worry about dry rot and termites in wood. It’s less likely to arrive at the site damaged or compromised. And it’s much lighter to carry and handle. However, retooling for steel framing could keep companies from moving in that direction.

As for the green aspects of wood versus steel framing, both camps are claiming victory. The steel industry promotes the idea of using five recycled Chevrolets to frame a home rather than an acre of trees, while the wood industry points out the heavy environmental toll that metal mining and smelting take on the earth. Indeed, wood is the only “renewable resource,” proponents of wood framing say.

Some say steel framing will never catch on. But the same was said of drywall 30 years ago.

Wood versus steel? Stay tuned.

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