Why you should build with Steel

Considerable thought and planning go into the building of a new home, and it’s important to get everything right the first time. Selecting building materials for construction is one of the earliest steps in the process. Many builders habitually choose wood without considering the suitability of any other material for the particular project. Steel, for instance, offers several advantages to the build – this article seeks to impart more information about the various benefits of building with steel.

Which building material is stronger?

Steel has the highest strength to weight ratio of any conventional loadbearing framing system. With its strength and robustness, steel can meet the strictest building codes for wind and seismic requirements.

Dynamic Steel Frame had their floor joist system tested for strength by the National Association of Steel-Framed Housing (NASH) and Swinburne University, with test results showing how the floor joists remained linear in their deformation all the way past 40kN, displaying local buckling only at around 30kN – way beyond the failure states of other materials.

Which building material stands up better to a fire?

Being non-combustible and highly resistant to fire, steel is much superior to traditional materials and will not fuel the flames. This attribute makes steel the ideal material for building in bushfire prone regions. Additionally, steel will not release smoke, carbon dioxide or VOCs (Volatile Organic Compound), unlike wood in the event of a fire. This has been confirmed by the Steel Framing Alliance and also recognised by Healthy Home Institute as an important advantage of steel over timber. Traditional materials, when burnt, release asphyxiating gases that are the main contributors to death in house fires.

For instance, an electrical fault can cause a fire in wooden wall cavities. If the fire reaches the ceiling and ignites the wooden trusses, the fire can spread at an incredible rate throughout the rest of the house. In bushfires, ember attack is the major cause of houses burning down. When embers are blown in under eaves or tiles, they can ignite trusses in the roof cavity leading to catastrophic fires. This risk can be considerably reduced with the use of steel framing in the construction of a house.

Bugs and resistance to high levels of water

The use of steel framing in construction eliminates any concern about the house suffering any structural damage from insects or water. Steel frames don’t rust or rot and insects don’t like making steel structures their home.

Termites can still attack the rest of a home, so do steel frames make any difference?

The use of a steel frame in a building ensures the primary structure remains undamaged even if the rest of the house is attacked by termites. When timber frames are used, a termite attack can damage the frame but the damage won’t be visible until it’s too late. In such an event, the costs associated with repairing the damaged frame can be extensive, and may require the complete replacement of other building components including plumbing, plasterboard, electrical, kitchen, bathrooms, painting, tiling, architraves and skirting.

However, Dynamic Steel Frame’s Light Gauge Steel (LGS) frame is 100% termite proof, ensuring that the frame of the house suffers no damage from termites, and once again proving steel’s massive advantage over most other building materials.

Does steel warp?

Steel doesn’t settle, warp, twist or swell over time. Timber, on the other hand, is susceptible to various environmental conditions and may shrink depending on the species of the tree, the orientation of growth rings and changes in moisture content and temperature. Steel will forever remain straight and will not change in size.

Are steel framed homes better for the environment?

Steel is completely recyclable, making steel frames better for the environment than most other frames. Termite-treated wood is non-recyclable, and therefore goes straight to landfill. Almost all other wood can only be down-cycled and not many materials can be efficiently recycled. With its 100% recyclability and infinite lifespan, steel is the most recycled material on the planet. For example, a house frame can be fabricated out of three to four recycled cars.

What looks better when the house is completely built?

When it comes to aesthetics, steel is once again on top with steel framing ensuring the walls, ceilings and roofs of these houses are straight and true without ripples or bumps. Unlike timber framed houses, roofs and ceilings of steel framed houses do not sag over time even under concrete tiles, so the finished job continues to look aesthetically pleasing well into the future. Steel house frames will not change or move over time, so gaps will not open up to allow air in and impact the thermal performance of the house.

Insulating products work by creating a barrier between temperatures. However, when a frame settles and moves, it will create openings and allow air to travel through, rendering the insulation far less effective. But steel will not settle over time, allowing complementing products to perform as specified. Dynamic Steel Frame’s steel is so strong that a home can be designed with larger open spaces without affecting the exterior appearance.

In the end, which material is the best to build with?

Steel frames are much lighter than other home framing options, allowing easy handling, especially in hard-to-reach sites. Despite their lightweight properties, Dynamic Steel Frame’s steel framing systems have a much higher strength-to-weight ratio compared to traditional building materials.

Being lightweight, steel frames can be carried easily without the need for large cranes to install walls, thereby lowering building costs. Steel frames are also ideal for covering longer spans, which may not be possible with other materials.

Precision is another advantage when working with steel framing with its accuracy going into the tenths of a millimetre. As a result, fittings for window and door openings are much easier and faster to install. Since a steel frame doesn’t ‘settle’, there will be fewer instances of doors and windows getting stuck. Steel is constructed to survive the full lifespan of the building.