The decision between steel versus timber frames is not one that should be taken lightly. For a project that demands a considerable amount of time and money, framing is something that you want to get right first time. Each material has pros and cons that you should consider before making a commitment.
Pros of Steel Frames
Steel is a stable and reliable framing material that does not bend or falter during construction. If you want straight walls and sharp corners, you cannot go wrong with a steel frame. The strength-to-weight ratio afforded by steel frames means that less of the material is needed for a sturdy frame. You will get a longer lifespan frame that supports larger windows.
If you want a material that is easy to use, steel is the superior choice. Prefabrication means that a steel frame can be made to exact specifications, with pre-punched holes as an option. As a non-porous material, there is no risk of moisture absorption with a steel frame. This particular property is useful on-site as there is no need to worry about waiting for framing to dry if it rains. In addition, steel does not burn, so should a fire break out at the property, a steel frame certainly won’t help it spread.
Cons of Steel Framing
If you use steel framing, a thermal break is needed to enable insulation. The thermal break is included to help combat condensation that may form when a steel frame heats up. Steel conducts electricity incredibly well, making it a risk around live wiring. You will need to install circuit breakers to address the potential of electrocution. Steel may not burn in a fire but it could buckle, which would result in the need to replace the affected sections of the frame.
Galvanised steel shouldn’t rust but there is a risk if the frame is scratched or damaged in any way. Replacing any section of steel frame is not a simple task as much of the frame is interlocked as part of the manufacturing process.
Timber frames have been used in construction for hundreds of years. As a popular option for building frames, timber is always in demand. As a material, timber is easy to work with and versatile. If you decide to change building plans, it is much simpler to modify a timber frame. As an insulator, you won’t regret choosing timber. There is no requirement for thermal barriers to achieve acceptable insulation needs.
A timber frame will hold up well against some of nature’s most destructive forces, including earthquakes. With the ability to absorb considerable seismic forces, a timber frame should not buckle in strong winds, either.
Cons of Timber Frames
A timber frame may include additional labour costs associated with both time and money. Skilled professionals are needed to build a timber frame, whereas a steel frame can be prefabricated offsite. Pests are a potential problem when you choose a timber frame, with termites being among the usual suspects. Moisture is not a friend of timber, either. If the frame absorbs too much moisture, it may cause expansion. A dry frame, on the other hand, will tend to contract. Given enough time, a timber frame can end up warping or cracking.
Ultimately, the decision between a steel or timber frame may come down to personal preference or cost. Metal work usually comes at a higher premium, often due to the fact that materials are sourced from pre-fabricated supplies that are shipped in and therefore more expensive. Timber, on the other hand, is readily available and can even be cut to fit on site. However, depending on how your framing materials are sourced and the quality of the timber that you intend on using for your build, the cost difference may become negligible.
Before making a final decision make sure to do a price comparison that includes shipping and labour costs. Both materials are tried and tested. So long as you work with reliable contractors, either frame should stand the test of time in your South Australia home.
If you are building a new home in South Australia, speak to Houspect for all your building inspection needs.