Metal stud framing is primarily used for commercial construction framing. Typical uses are schools, restaurants, multifamily housing, hotels, and buildings over 6 floors. While metal stud framing is typically more expensive than the equivalent wood labor, we’ve made it our goal to optimize and evangelize metal stud framing. Here are 6 way to frame faster with metal studs.
1. Use a nail gun specific to shooting metal for fast cladding application
There are specialized nail guns for metal stud framing which require a unique sharp pointed nail. Indiana based company Aerosmith sells these. The VersaPin ST4200 Fastening Tool is one we’ve personally used and when combined with VersaPin Fasteners for Steel you can easily shoot though plywood and into metal studs underneath. You may need to use different nails depending on what you’re attaching, plywood, Dense Glass, and OSB all have different types of nails.
2. Use high quality bit holders and screwdriver bits
Screwing metal to metal requires a lot of torque. This results in the breaking of a lot of drill bits, drill bits getting stuck in Phillip’s screws etc. Production is slowed when workers are constantly having to replace bits or when screw bits are falling out. We’ve tried over 10 different bit holders and this Milwaukee bit holder is the strongest and easiest to work with. We haven’t found Phillips screwdriver bits that don’t break frequently. For high production each framer should carry around a small box of impact ready #1 Philips bits. We use black Dewalt impact bits.
3. Custom order metal studs pre-cut to length
Save a lot of time and money by ordering custom length metal studs. This will save a lot of time on-site cutting and wall as save money on cut-off waste. This requires a more detailed take-off and there is a longer leader time on material. Most distributors take 3-4 weeks on custom orders. We usually take 2 weeks to deliver our studs. We recently had a customer order a bunch of custom length track frame up the inside of a red-iron frame.
4. Ratchet Strap Wall Panels to get the best fit
Use ratchet straps and wall bracing. Ratchet strapping your panel allows for a tight fit in studs and track. To increase the load transfer from your studs to track make sure the gap between the stud and bottom of track is as small as possible. Using studs to brace the walls while building is helpful also. Bracing the walls to a right angel and floor panels square allows for walls to be the most dimensionally correct.
5. Use higher grip screw heads other than Philips
While Philips screws have a low profile allowing for flush finishes, they often strip out and become impossible to use. We’ve had good results when using Gabber self tapping lox screws. They need a special lox bit but are far tighter and don’t slip out. However they’re 2-3x more expensive than regular Phillips head. For surfaces were a flat finish isn’t required hex head screws work great.
6. Have multiple ways to quickly cut metal studs
In addition a regular abrasive chop saw, the two tools that are useful are a 6″ DeWalt band saw and this Milwaukee 16 gauge nibbler. While not optimal for cutting multiple studs at the same time, the nibbler and band saw are easily carried around the job site and can cut studs rapidly. I discuss our typical tools in the video below.
For further large scale optimization look for prefabrication wall panels.
For large jobs you can come in early and utilize prefabricated wall panels at a massive scale. This requires multiple parties to be on the same page. This starts with the developer looking for a fast cost effective alternative to traditional framing. The engineering design must be done with the goal utilizing penalization and BIM models must be built accordingly. The end product is easily transportable wall-panels which can be erected rapidly with small crews.