The vast majority of contractors and developers use wood as opposed to steel for framing residential and commercial properties. This is largely due to traditionalism as in many situations wood is actually an inferior product to steel. Naturally, there are advantages in using both materials, and deciding which to use in a particular structure is a matter of preference based on the strengths and weaknesses of each material.
Houses are generally constructed based on a method called stick frame, with the studs being the sticks and rectangular platforms (subfloors and ceiling joists) being the frames. The studs bear the load of the interior and exterior walls and the roof. That is one of the ways to construct a light frame building. Wooden studs are commonly used in residential properties and small apartment buildings, but there are other ways to frame a house.
Steel studs have long been used in commercial construction for a variety of reasons, and lately, they’re finding their way into residential buildings. Wooden studs are more prone to rotting, warping, shrinking, cracking and splitting. Termites, other insects and mould can also destroy wooden studs if proper treatment is not carried out. It is not easy to come across quality lumber to use as studs; it varies widely depending on where the wood has been grown. Lumber requires careful sorting to preserve its shape and integrity. Close to 20% of the lumber bought for studs ends up wasted, and given the fluctuation of wood prices it can be challenging to budget for a construction project.
In terms of inherent strength steel wins when compared point by point with the strength of wood. It is common knowledge that wood warps, twists, expands and contracts in the warm, humid months of the year, or during heavy rainfall and humidity. Steel, however, always remains straight, stable and strong. Steel studs weigh less than traditional wood studs, giving them a better strength-to-mass ratio. Steel is also impervious to fire, which means it is a safer and more durable material for properties.
It is worth pointing out that metal is less expensive than wood, for a variety of reasons. It can be made from recycled material, which drives the cost down. It is lighter and easier to install, which translates to less money spent on labour. Given that fewer tools are required for installation, this means lower tool costs or rental costs.