The Pros And Cons Of Metal Stud Framing In Complex Construction

For many years, wood framing was the most common method for securing drywall on commercial and residential properties; however, metal framing is becoming increasingly common — and for good reason. Framing is a critical piece of infrastructure for every building as it ultimately determines where and how your partitions will sit. Metal studs offer a number of benefits over their wood counterparts; however, the best option will ultimately come down to your project and needs. The type of framing you select should ultimately be determined by your budget, building design, and the availability of skilled labor.

Below, we’ll review some of the pros and cons of using metal stud framing in your complex construction project.

What Is Metal Stud Framing?

You can think of framing as the interior bones of a building. The quality of your framing as well as the manner in which it’s installed will help determine the durability and effectiveness of your partitions. For example, your framing will help ensure your drywall can lie flat and your doors and windows can open and close properly.

Metal stud framing is a framing system comprised of a series of studs that are connected to form the interior skeleton of a building. These studs may be either U-shaped or C-shaped. U studs are placed on the floor and ceiling, and they work to hold the C studs in place. C studs are then connected or clamped to U studs in order to create a strong framing system capable of supporting drywall.

There are two primary types of metal framing. Heavier gauge studs are usually used to support exterior walls or load-bearing walls. On the other hand, you have light gauge studs, which are used on interior walls and partitions.

What Are The Advantages Of Metal Stud Framing?

Metal stud framing is becoming more and more popular in complex commercial construction as it offers a number of advantages over traditional wood framing. Below are some of the pros of using metal stud framing:

Durability

One of the best things about metal stud framing is its ability to withstand long-term exposure to moisture and humidity. Wood framing on the other hand can rot or warp over time when exposed to moisture. Metal studs are far more durable than wood framing and should have no issues withstanding severe weather and high winds over a long period of time. As a result, you’re likely to have fewer issues with metal stud framing and you can have confidence that the structural integrity of your building will remain intact for quite some time.

Keep in mind, while metal framing is durable, it can lose its strength after being exposed to high temperatures for a long period of time.

Fire Resistant

Not only is metal framing durable, but it’s also fire resistant and non-combustible, which means your building will be more likely to maintain its structural integrity in the event of a fire. This is especially important for commercial construction and even more important for clients in California who must face the threat of wildfires. Using steel framing may even help lead to reductions in insurance premiums.

Portability

Metal studs are hollow, so they’re surprisingly lightweight which makes them easy to transport. Because C studs and U studs interlock, they’re also very easy to store. Both of these features mean subcontractors may have an easier time lifting, carrying, and installing metal framing, which can help speed up the overall project (assuming the subcontractor is experienced with metal framing installation).

Versatility

Metal studs can support buildings of any size. Because of their strength and durability, they’re commonly used on tall structures such as office towers. On the other hand, wood framing usage is usually limited to just a few stories.

What Are The Disadvantages of Metal Stud Framing?

While metal studs offer a number of advantages, there are still some reasons why they might not be the ideal framing material for your commercial construction project. Below are some of the common drawbacks associated with metal framing:

Expensive

Metal framing might last longer, but it’s also more expensive than wood. Installing metal framing also requires specialized tools and a good bit of experience with complex construction. Additionally, taping a drywall screw to light gauge metal framing can be more time-consuming as opposed to attaching drywall to wood framing. All of these factors mean metal framing is likely to be more expensive both in terms of materials and labor. Some sources suggest steel framing can cost 15 percent more than wood framing.

Energy Efficiency

Steel can be recycled, which makes it somewhat environmentally friendly; however, steel also conducts heat and cold, which means it does not improve the energy efficiency of a building. Metal framing basically serves as a thermal bridge that allows heat to escape and cold air to flow in. This can ultimately lead to increased heating or cooling costs. 

In order to meet insulation requirements, some clients will pursue an EIFS, or exterior insulation finishing system. This setup provides an extra layer of insulation that sits outside of the metal studs and helps reduce the amount of hot or cold air that is transferred through the frame. While EIFS may increase the price tag of your commercial project, they go a long way to reducing the building’s utility costs in the long term.

Difficult To Cut

Cutting metal studs can be difficult and dangerous, so it should be done by skilled professionals. Ordering pre-cut metal studs is usually your best bet to keep the project on-time and on-budget. Cutting metal studs requires specialized tools, like a metal cutting blade attached to a miter saw. Unless you’re working with pre-cut or pre-fab materials, you’ll need to take this into consideration. 

Sound Waves And Wireless Interference

Metal framing may possibly have a slight impact on the acoustics of the rooms within your commercial building. Sounds waves are more likely to bounce off of loud surfaces. If this is actually noticeable, you can always invest in sound barriers for the wall. Metal framing may have a slightly larger impact on wireless connections such as cell signals or Wi-Fi connections. If this is the case, you may need to invest in additional routers.

Metal stud framing offers numerous advantages over wood framing, especially when it comes to complex construction; however, wood framing has been more frequently used for years. As a result, finding a commercial subcontractor with extensive experience with metal stud framing can be difficult. Because metal framing is becoming more popular, many general contractors and their clients need to find a skilled drywall contractor who has experience working with the components of a metal framing system.

If you’re looking for an experienced commercial construction subcontractor in California that specializes in metal framing, contact us at Unique Building Group today. For over 30 years, we’ve completed complex construction projects on-time and on-budget.