Frequently asked Metal Stud / Steel Framing Questions

Here are some frequently asked questions we get on metal studs. Here at US Frame Factory we are metal stud manufacturers and general contractors who have worked on project ranging from small houses to multi-million dollar hotels and churches. We exclusively work with metal studs and its our area of expertise.

Does metal stud length effect the cost?

No, all our studs are individually cut to length and charged per foot based on an algorithm. The rate is fixed until you get up to 1500 LF of metal studs then it slowly decreases.

What’s your lead time?

We carry small quantities of steel for most profiles and can manufacture the metal in 1-2 days. For larger custom length orders expect 1-2 weeks.

What size metal studs do we offer?

We manufacture metal studs ranging from 1-5/8″ width to 12″ width. Our flange widths are from 1-1/4″ up to 4″ flange height. We can manufacture from 28 gauge to 12 gauge.

Do you offer specialty products?

Yes, we sell curved track, slotted track, clips, web stiffeners, and more. Contact sales for more information.

What is the difference between structural and non structural metal studs?

  • Structural studs are made thicker gauges ranging from 18 to 12 gauge(43 mils to 118 mils). The standard flange size for the structural studs is 1-5/8″. This allows them to carry structural and environmental loads.
  • Non-structural studs also known as interior drywall metal studs. They’re primarily used for handing drywall in interiors. These are far thinner with thicknesses ranging from 23 mils to 15 mils, so 24 gauge to 28 gauge in thickness. Often these studs have EQ thicknesses also known as “Equivalent gauge.”
  • Drywall studs have a flange size of 1-1/4″. A typical structural stud product code would be 600S162-43 while a drywall stud code could be 362S125-23.

Are 20 gauge metal studs structural?

No, most 20 gauge studs are not structural. When most people refer to a 20 gauge metal stud they’re typically referring to a “EQ20 gauge stud” or an equivalent 20 gauge stud. The metal is far thinner than an actual 20 gauge stud. This a stud designed to hang drywall on in interior applications. The stud performs like a true 20 gauge in terms of hanging drywall, so when its just under lateral load, but it doesn’t have the same supporting load as a true 20 gauge stud would have. Read about non-structural drywall studs here.

20 ga drywall metal studs being used to frame in the interior of a red-iron building.

Is steel framing cheaper than wood??

  • Yes, metal studs on average are more expensive than wood. As of 2023, a 2 in. x 6 in. x 20 ft pressure-treated piece of structural wooden framing costs around $20.48, while an equivalent 20 ft. x 18 ga stud is priced at $34.
  • Metal becomes more competitive with wood when used in a prefabricated manner, such as pre-assembled wall panels, allowing us to build a house under $100 per square foot. Nevertheless, wood still offers a more affordable upfront cost for construction when suitable.
  • Wood is cheaper and easier to work with, but it is prone to fire, rot, pests, warping, and shrinking.
  • Metal is straighter, more uniform, and resistant to rot, but it is more expensive and poses greater challenges during the construction process.

When should I use metal studs instead of structural steel?

Buildings with large open spans and big wall heights (Churches, Malls, Car Dealerships) structural steel should be used along side metal studs to support these large spans. Ideal buildings for total light-gauges construction are builds with more room partitions like hotels and mutli-family living, usually in the form of mid-rise construction.

What is the downside of a steel frame house?

When you compare steel framing to other construction materials, it’s not as good at saving energy. Wood, on the other hand, is almost four times better at holding in heat. The reason steel-framed buildings aren’t good at saving energy is because of metal’s thermal bridging. This allows heat to escape from the inside to the steel frame in the walls, mainly through the steel itself.

To fix this thermal bridging issue, we often need to add layers of special insulating boards on the outside of the building. Boards like EPS, XPS, or Polyiso, create a non-conductive thermal barrier.

When should you use metal studs?

In the US, this is dictated by building codes. Hospitals, schools, churches, office buildings, and mid-rise construction often have mandatory fire rating and shelter building requirements. Metal studs offer fire resistance, allowing for your walls to have higher fire ratings. Metal stud framing is becoming popular in all US Gulf Coast regions due to high wind resistance as well as the ability to deal with the humid climate.

Why Cold-formed Steel construction?

Sustainable materials provided quickly and efficiently are the way of the future in the building. Faster build times, reduced costs, more versatile design alternatives, and a durable, practical solution to buildings may all be achieved using a Cold-Formed Steel (CFS) platform.

Is it cheaper to build cold-formed steel (CFS) vs timber or concrete?

While material price is typically comparable on the front end, there are substantial advantages of using CFS, which results in the whole project being developed at a lower cost. These are speed of set-up, reduced labor, and lower insurance premiums.

Can cold-formed steel be used to construct multi-story structures?

Yes, buildings up to five stories tall can be constructed solely from cold-formed steel.

Why aren’t metal studs used in residential construction?

They are used, just not as frequently. Metal studs are less commonly used in residential construction compared to wood studs due to factors like cost, craftsman familiarity, weight, sound transmission, thermal conductivity, and customization. While metal studs offer benefits like fire resistance and durability, wood studs are more cost-effective, lighter, and easier for builders to work with. However, metal studs may be chosen for specific situations, such as regions with strict fire codes or design requirements, or for their durability and termite resistance.

Is steel durable?

Galvanized steel is resistant to cracking, shrinking, splintering, creeping, splitting, warping, swelling, and rot. Termites and other wood-destroying insects cannot eat steel.

What are the problems with steel framing?

Steel almost always ends up being the pricier when compared with wood. Working with steel also requires more labor, so tradespeople charge more to work with steel compared to timber. This means that, generally, building a home with a steel frame will cost more than using wood, both for the materials and the construction.

Additionally, the significant energy needed in steel production has a harmful impact on the environment. The steel production industry is one of the major contributors to pollution worldwide, and the steel mills leave a carbon footprint at every stage of the steel production process.

What are the environmental incentives of using steel framing?

Steel has the highest total recycling rate of any industry in the world, at 86 percent, making it an environmentally friendly option for home framing. Steel framing scrap is a valuable resource that should never be thrown away.

Compatible exterior cladding options metal studs?

Exterior cladding options for buildings with metal studs are diverse, and the compatibility of the cladding with metal studs depends on various factors such as the type of metal studs, building codes, climate, and design preferences. Here are some common exterior cladding options that can be compatible with metal studs.

  • Fiber Cement Siding: Fiber cement siding is a popular choice for cladding over metal studs. It is durable, fire-resistant, and available in various textures and colors. It can be installed using appropriate fasteners and techniques designed for metal framing.
  • Vinyl Siding: Vinyl siding is lightweight and easy to install. It is commonly used with metal stud construction. Ensure that you follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for attachment and consider the impact of temperature changes on vinyl siding.
  • Wood Siding: Wood siding can be used with metal stud framing, but it’s important to consider proper waterproofing and ventilation to prevent moisture issues. It may require additional steps for attachment compared to wood framing.
  • Brick Veneer: Brick veneer is often used as an exterior cladding over metal stud framing. A support system, such as metal ties or clips, is used to attach the brick veneer to the metal studs.
  • Stucco: Stucco can be applied over metal stud framing with the use of a suitable moisture barrier and a metal lath to provide a secure attachment surface. Proper installation is essential to prevent cracking.
  • Stone Veneer: Stone veneer is another option, but it may require additional support and attachment methods to ensure it is properly secured to the metal studs.
  • EIFS (Exterior Insulation and Finish System): EIFS is a lightweight cladding system that can be used with metal stud construction. It includes insulation and a finish coat, offering energy efficiency and a wide range of aesthetic choices.
  • Metal Panels: Metal panels, such as steel or aluminum, can be directly attached to metal studs. They are durable and often used for modern and industrial designs.
  • Composite Panels: Composite panels, which consist of various materials like metal, wood, or plastic, can also be used as cladding with metal stud framing.

It’s crucial to consult local building codes and regulations, as well as the manufacturer’s installation guidelines for both the cladding material and the metal stud system. Proper installation, moisture management, and thermal insulation considerations are essential to ensure the longevity and performance of the exterior cladding system. Additionally, consulting with a structural engineer or architect can help ensure that your chosen cladding is compatible with your specific metal stud framing design.

Frequently asked metal studs questions