When it comes to framing for drywall you really only have two options: wood and metal. Wood has reigned high and mighty for decades as the go-to framing material. However metal, particularly steel, has come into favor recently especially as cost has lowered. Indeed, metal framing has some distinct advantages over the competition. Which is truly better? That all depends on what you’re looking for.
Price Vs. Value
Cost is always a major concern when it comes to construction. Taking price into consideration on the surface, wood is always less expensive than metal. However, wood has several disadvantages that can make metal a more sound investment.
Durability - Wood can fall victim to numerous hazards that metal does not. Insect damage, such as termites, is always a concern for wooden studs. Fires and floods can also warp and weaken wood frames where steel is far more capable.
Uniformity - Because it’s a natural material, wood is more susceptible to warping and breakage in handling due to irregularities and defects. Damage to metal frames occurs far less frequently, meaning there is less chance of having to pay for replacements before installation.
Longevity - Since wood is more affected by environmental factors such as moisture, it can become soft or rot over time. This is particularly true in bathrooms. Homes built in areas with high humidity or floodplains will typically degrade faster when wood frames are used.
While metal may be the more cost-effective solution in the long run, it does have some significant disadvantages when compared to wood. The majority of these problems have to do with the difficulty of working with metal itself.
Technical Knowledge - Wood is a more “forgiving” material to work with, especially for the typical DIY home renovator. It is easier to drive drywall screws into wood, where metal requires a much higher degree of precision. Trying to cut metal studs is also far more dangerous and requires the use of special tools and safety precautions.
Lack of Choice - The metal framing you can find at the local hardware store usually comes in standard sizes. This means you will be limited by what sizes are most popular, unless you are confident in your ability to cut metal on your own. Since metal is less malleable than wood, it’s harder to cut and mistakes are more common, meaning you may have to buy more.
Insulation - Metal transfers temperature more readily than wood. This means that cold temperatures from one side will be more easily drawn into rooms you might want to keep warm and vice-versa.
Metal framing is ideal for standard construction or small drywall projects that don’t require a lot of creativity. It will likely last longer and is less prone to damage than wood. On the other hand, wood is very forgiving and perfect for complex or creative projects. It’s an ideal material for the at-home renovator that does not possess professional-level technical skills. Of course, the final decision is always up to you!