The words “structural steel” usually conjure up images of skyscrapers under construction. However, architects and home builders use structural steel in smaller buildings, including residential buildings. Learn some pros and cons of structural steel in residential construction.
Pros of Structural Steel in Residential Construction
Structural steel is strong. Steel construction can withstand greater forces than wood frames. It can also bear more weight with less volume, making it possible for architects to create larger open spans and spaces within the home.
Steel has a much higher strength-to-weight ratio than other materials like wood. It can support itself without many additional materials. Steel beams ultimately make the entire structure lighter than wood or concrete, with a lower overall load to be borne by structural elements.
Metal fabricators can bend and shape steel to meet the needs of an imaginative design without compromising its strength. This makes it possible to construct homes with unconventional designs that include curves and angles builders can’t easily make with wood.
When properly treated, steel lasts a long time. It’s essential to treat steel with paint or other coatings to prevent rust. Fortunately, steel doesn’t rot like wood, and it won’t harbor mold. If steel is manufactured carefully to ensure quality and maintained appropriately, it will resist cracking and fatigue, which could cause a structure to fail.
Insect and Mold Resistant
Unlike wood, steel beams don’t attract insects. They can’t eat it, and although you may find the occasional spider web attached to a steel beam or support pilar, insects can’t damage it in the way they can devastate wood.
Cons of Structural Steel
While steel itself doesn’t burn easily, it does conduct heat effectively. If steel gets hot, it can set any flammable material that touches it on fire. This is one of the reasons building codes require fireproofing materials.
Obtaining the right kind of steel for homebuilding can be expensive, adding to the overall cost of the project. Because steel conducts heat so effectively, steel-framed homes may also require more insulation to make them energy efficient.
Steel also requires maintenance. If exposed to the elements, or stressed by perpetual bad weather and high winds, steel requires refreshed paint or coatings. A structural engineer should inspect the building from time to time to ensure it maintains its integrity.
Difficult To Modify On-Site
One benefit of wood frame construction is that workers can modify wood components on-site. If a wall stud or a beam is just a bit off, they can trim, file, or sand it to fit.
Steel, however, will be delivered according to the specifications given to the metal fabricator. Changes in design mean starting from scratch with new measurements to fit alterations.
Professional Experience Is a Must
When considering building a steel or steel-framed home, it’s critical to work with builders who have experience and expertise in building with steel. Make sure to check references and former clients, and ask about the pros and cons of steel home construction. Talk to knowledgeable professionals like architects and designers about the builders you are considering.