Sheet metal is the base material for steel framing. Sheet steel is readily transformed into shapes used for framing and galvanized to prevent corrosion.
The primary framing member shapes in residential construction are the C-shaped stud and joist and the U-shaped track.
Steel framing members are typically manufactured at different thickness. These pieces used to be cut with chop saws, aviation snips, or electric shears but newer systems require no cutting or welding on site and are assembled like a mecano set.
Steel framing members meet UK and European established standards of strength, consistency, and dimensional stability, and are manufactured throughout the country. Each manufacturer typically has a network of distributors that sell directly to builders. An increasing number of building suppliers also stock steel framing.
When used in site-built or conventional home construction, steel-framing members typically substitute one-for-one for wood-framing members in both non-load-bearing and load-bearing applications. The C-shaped steel pieces—studs, joists, and rafters—fit into U-shaped top and bottom steel tracks.
Light gauge steel framing is also increasingly used for modular and volumetric construction. Steel framing can potentially provide many benefits for factory built residential housing. The many benefits enumerated by the steel industry include:
Steel framing members are consistently straight and square, resulting in straight walls and square corners.
The consistent material quality is a result of production in strict accordance with national standards.
Pre-punched holes in the framing members simplify the installation of electrical wiring and plumbing.
Because steel can be roll-formed in the plant and/or ordered to specific lengths, less scrap and waste is produced. The waste generated is 100 percent recyclable, and the framing members themselves contain up to 28 percent recycled material.
Steel is up to two-thirds lighter than other framing materials and has the highest strength-to-weight ratio of any major building material. Its light weight imposes less of a load on the foundation, which reduces the chance of a home being damaged by foundation settlement. The lower load may also allow structural changes to the transportation system, thereby reducing costs.
Because steel-framed structures are lighter and have strong connections (screwed rather than nailed), they can better withstand stresses caused by high winds and seismic forces.
Steel is non-combustible; it does not burn and will not contribute to the spread of a fire, but it will lose structural integrity as temperatures increase in a fire.
Steel is dimensionally stable; it does not expand or contract in reaction to moisture in the environment; it does not rot, warp, split, crack, or creep; nor is it vulnerable to termites or any type of organism.
In the UK, steel framing is cost effective compared to traditional building methods. Quality pre-engineered steel structures can now be imported from the Far East.