What comes to mind when you hear the term “steel frame home”?
For many, they envision tall commercial buildings that are constructed in the middle of cities.
However, steel frames are becoming much more popular for homes for numerous reasons.
Here’s what you need to know if you’re contemplating this method of construction for an upcoming residential building project.
1. What is a steel frame home?
A steel frame home is a non-standard construction.
It’s a strong, accurate, stable, and durable framing alternative to traditional wooden homes; however, it’s not often obvious that a home is built with steel.
The steel is hidden behind cladding – either external brickwork or rendering.
2. What should you expect from your steel frame home?
Steel framing is known for its ability to withstand common causes of deterioration.
It’s low maintenance by nature, which means you can anticipate little to no maintenance, to begin with.
However, if you do notice damage on your steel home, you should address it immediately.
When you properly maintain your home, it lasts even longer.
3. What are the pros of steel frame homes?
Are you wondering why you should consider steel for your cozy family home?
Here are all the benefits.
Did you know that steel weighs less than wood?
Most people think of this high-quality, durable material as being extremely heavy.
Yet, with steel, you can build lighter-weight homes with just as much durability.
Unlike wood, steel doesn’t warp or expand.
It can also withstand extreme weather events like earthquakes and hurricanes.
It bends, but it doesn’t crack, which makes it a great solution for housing.
Furthermore, the lifespan for steel framing — even when exposed to higher humidity and external pollutants — is estimated to be 100 years or more.
Wooden frames feed the fire while steel is inflammable.
It doesn’t burn whatsoever.
That said, you should note that steel loses strength once it reaches over 600 degrees Fahrenheit, and house fires can reach up to 1,100 degrees Fahrenheit.
In these scenarios, steel will only retain 50 percent of its normal strength.
If you’re worried about wood rot or mold, steel is the way to go.
It’s highly resistant to water damage.
Although rust can be an issue, you can use galvanized steel or zinc coating treatments to increase its resistance.
Steel components can be made quickly and transported to any site for fast assembly.
Normally, they’re manufactured with pre-punched holes to run piping and electrical wiring, which helps minimize time and effort.
Steel frame homes are customizable for the homeowner.
Here are the various ways you can create the look you want using this building method.
Exterior: Most homeowners want a traditional exterior for their home.
Any exterior finish can be used to customize a metal building.
Here’s the list of finishes you can use alone or combined to complete your exterior.
- Fiber cement board
- Steel panels
- Concrete block
- Faux rock and stone panels
Roof: The best roof for a steel frame home is a simple, low-pitched gable roof ending flush with the sidewall.
However, if you don’t love this look then you can opt for a variety of modifications.
- Eave extensions
- Endwall canopy
- Increased pitch of the roofline
- Hip roof
- Slope or vertical fascia
Windows or doors: Depending on the look you want, you can install residential or commercial windows or doors.
Building profile: If you want your home to look more unique than the classic rectangle home, consider switching it up.
Metal frames have extensions that fit perfectly along sidewalls or end walls.
Awning: If you want to create a shaded, porch-like area for your home, consider customizing your home with a metal awning.
Many manufacturers offer the ability to add a canopy to wide doors, and this could be a perfect addition to your backyard.
There are three primary reasons that steel is an environmentally friendly option.
One, it isn’t made of hazardous chemicals.
Two, it doesn’t require additional processing when it’s reused.
Three, all steel products are 100 percent recyclable.
The steel industry is the single largest recycler in North America.
If you opt to use steel, you’ll significantly reduce building waste from your construction site.
In some areas, steel-framed homes have lower insurance fees because of their other benefits (such as fire and moisture resistance).
4. What are the cons of steel frame homes?
Steel does have a handful of drawbacks you should be aware of…no material is perfect!
Steel frame homes can be more expensive to construct than a traditional stick-built home.
According to one source, it costs $1.50 per square foot more to build a steel house.
Steel-framed houses, when not designed properly, can have low energy efficiency.
This is because steel conducts more heat than wood and reduces the insulating properties by 60 percent because of thermal bridging.
Overall, these factors can result in higher energy costs.
As a homeowner, you can counteract this problem by wrapping insulation boards around the steel beams and adding normal insulation between studs.
You may also consider using hybrid wood/steel frames.
This combines the steel and wood’s strength, durability, and support benefits.
Chat with an insulation contractor near you to decide which solution is the best fit for your home.
Steel framed homes have limitations when it comes to roofing designs.
Unlike wood roofs, metal-framed roofs rarely have high pitches or dormers.
You can circumvent this problem by adding a wooden frame for the roof of a steel-framed home if you want a particular design.
Steel is fairly immune to damage as far as fire, rot, and rodents go.
However, rust can become a real problem with steel.
If your metal is exposed to a leak for long periods of time and left untreated, then rust can impact the stability of your infrastructure.
The result of this is a costly repair.
To prevent this occurrence, consider barrier coatings and paints that isolate your steel frame from the water, sun, and oxygen to help it withstand corrosion.
5. How long have steel frame homes been around?
Steel frame homes are a fairly recent phenomenon.
They first appeared in the 20th century.
Factories have made it possible for steel frame homes to thrive in the construction industry.
Now, steel frame house kits can be distributed to self-builders after they’re created in a factory.
6. How have steel frame homes progressed and changed over time?
Steel homes have increased in popularity in recent years because of their advantages to builders and homeowners.
Here are the improvements they offer over other options.
They are versatile — offering flexibility and creativity. Whatever you want to build with them you can!
They are cyclone strong, which is helpful in areas impacted by severe weather.
They are environmentally friendly and 100% recyclable with minimal site impact. Steel is also chemical-free — there’s no need to treat it with pesticides and other chemicals.
Today, many steel framed homes are more energy-efficient than timber or brick homes. They are cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. This means the owner saves money on heating and cooling.
Steel is maintenance-free and doesn’t require mold or pest treatments.
7. How do steel and timber frame homes compare?
A frame serves as the backbone of any structure.
When constructing any building, it’s important to use a material that’s secure.
Both timber and steel have their own advantages and disadvantages, including cost, longevity, sustainability, and flexibility during the construction process.
Generally speaking, steel frame homes tend to allow less movement because steel doesn’t twist, warp, shrink, or buckle.
On the other hand, timber frames are malleable to their environment.
8. Are there steel frame home kits?
Yes, there are steel frame home kits.
Here are a couple of examples of kits you may be interested in.
9. How should you decide what material to use for your home?
It can be difficult to decide which material to use for your frame.
Both materials have advantages and disadvantages, so it really comes down to your needs and preferences.
Your location can also be a big factor in which is the better option.
All that said, none of the disadvantages associated with either will cause a house to collapse on its own — so either way you go, you’re safe!
10. What are the cost savings of a steel frame home?
Did you know that steel frame homes can save you money once they are built?
Because these buildings use high-quality metal, you can remain confident in your home for years to come.
They withstand normal wear and tear as well as harsh weather conditions.
In the coming years, your steel frame home won’t succumb to the challenges that traditional homes face like wood rot, pest infestation, mold, mildew, and fire.
This is because the exterior of a steel construction won’t need as much attention as the exterior of a timber building.
Therefore, even though a steel frame home may have a higher upfront cost, it can be more cost-effective in the long term.
11. What other building materials can a frame be built from?
In this blog, we’ve talked about timber and steel to build homes.
In general, wood, engineered wood, and structural steel are the core framing materials.
There is an alternative to framed construction called mass wall construction.
This occurs where horizontal layers of stacked materials (log building, masonry, rammed earth, adobe, etc.) are used without framing.
12. Can you get a mortgage on a steel-framed home?
Unfortunately, in the past, steel frame homes have gained a reputation with lenders due to their record of variable quality.
As a result, it can be difficult to get a mortgage on them, resell them, or get insurance in certain scenarios.
We recommend reaching out to a mortgage broker to help you find a lender.
13. How easy is it to insure a house with steel framework?
Because of the uncertainty surrounding steel frame homes, it can sometimes be difficult to find insurance.
Some companies offer lower rates because of their benefits while other companies approach potential homeowners with skepticism and high premiums.
14. How can you identify steel in a property?
Are you going house hunting?
Are you wondering if you’ll be able to spot a steel frame home with your naked eye?
Most steel frame structures are evident based on their loft space and roof.
Yet, if you’re not getting up into the attic during your tour, then this may be a difficult way to tell.
We recommend checking for parts of the frame at the following locations:
Meter entry points into a property
The back of cupboards
Areas of corrosion
You can also ask the realtor that you’re working with.
They may be able to tell you or find out more information on your behalf.
This is incredibly relevant information if your mortgage or insurance rates depend on it.
Compared to wood, steel frames win!
They offer countless benefits over old-fashioned wood frames.
With the right precautions, they aren’t susceptible to water or insect damage, and they can also help you avoid severe weather events.
Wood frame construction continues to present challenges to contractors and building owners.
Its only benefit is that it’s the status quo.
No mortgage lenders or insurance companies will bat an eye if you tell them you’re purchasing a wood-frame home.
Steel frame homes, on the other hand, are still working hard to become the norm.
This has brought a wide variability in quality, and thus, it’s not quite as trusted.
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Disclaimer: we are not lawyers, accountants or financial advisors and the information in this article is for informational purposes only. This article is based on our own research and experience and we do our best to keep it accurate and up-to-date, but it may contain errors. Please be sure to consult a legal or financial professional before making any investment decisions.