The Differences Between Wood & Steel Framing


Whether you’re working on your dream house project or you build houses in a professional capacity, you want to make all the right decisions for the best possible finish. This is particularly true when it comes to building the foundations of a house or structure.

After all, you want the building to be as safe and secure as possible, which often means choosing between a wooden or steel frame.

But if you’re not sure what material is going to be the most beneficial for your structure, we’re here to help. Below, we’ll look at the key differences between wood and steel framing, so you can make an informed decision about which to choose for your build.

The cost of materials

Although the price of materials can vary hugely depending on factors such as choice of supplier, cut of wood, location, etc. it is generally understood that wooden frames are cheaper than steel. This tends to be because wood is more readily available and therefore cheaper to buy.

Not only that but steel frames can be more labour intensive. This means the actual cost of construction can be higher than when using a wooden frame.

That being said, the cost of materials varies and can fluctuate, so don’t take for granted that wood will always be the cheaper option.

The speed of construction

The time it takes to build wooden or steel frames will also vary. Again, wood tends to be quicker to assemble as these are usually pre-manufactured.

However, if you’re using a skilled professional it is entirely possible that they’ll be able to construct a steel structure in a similar timeframe. Just be sure to find out how long the process takes before settling on your chosen material and labourers.

Particularly if you’re having to stick to a tight deadline.

Sustainability of the materials

In a world where people are increasingly becoming more eco-conscious (and rightly so) you need to consider the impact your structure will have on the environment. There are several pros and cons for both materials, which means you need to think about this carefully.

Some of the main differences between the two are that steel can be 100% recyclable and results in less deforestation.

That said, wood is less energy-intensive, requiring as much as six times less energy to make than steel. Plus, the demand for wood means the need for more forests, which in turn encourages the replanting of trees and more ethical and sustainable practices.

Energy efficiency

As well as sustainability, you also want to consider the energy efficiency of your building for both the environment and for your own pocket.

Though there has been a lot of debate around which is more energy-efficient, it is generally understood that steel can provide better seals for windows and doors. Areas where heat can easily escape from.

That being said, if you are considering a wooden frame, this has a slower rate of heat transfer than steel so it is arguably a better insulator, reducing the need for heating and cooling in the first place.

Life span and maintenance

There are also different risks and rewards when it comes to a wood or steel frame. For example, wood can be more prone to ants and termites.

However, whether you’re using wood or steel you should always ensure you properly treat the material beforehand with termite resistant products.

And though both materials are strong and durable, steel can be susceptible to salty air in coastal areas causing it to rust, where wooden frames can rot if not constructed properly.

What’s more, it is generally easier to repair wooden frames rather than steel should something go wrong in the future.

So which should you use?

In conclusion, some of the biggest differences between wood and steel framing include:

  • The cost and availability of materials
  • How long it takes to construct the frame of your building
  • How sustainable the materials are
  • How energy efficient the materials are once constructed
  • The risks and rewards for each material, including maintenance and repair

As such, you need to consider several things before settling on wood or steel framing. This includes the location and climate of where you live, the cost and availability of local suppliers, your own ethical views, your budget and your timeframe. This will help you to make an informed decision about which is best for your structure.

But if in doubt, you can always seek professional advice. We are specialist SFS contractors so feel free to get in touch.