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  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2003
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    Central Coast, NSW
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    2,956

    Default Steel house frames, question

    Hi. Iím wondering whether steel or timber house frames would be best for our new house build. Beyond the engineering issues, there are a couple of questions in my mind which I am sure can be easily answered by people who have lived in steel framed houses.

    1. Are they really noisy ? Compared to timber framed ?

    2. Is decorating a problem. Iím thinking especially of hanging things on the wall with only that very thin steel to screw into. Is it even possible ?

    Iíd be interested to hear from people who have actually lived in steel framed houses. What did you find.

    Cheers
    Arron
    Apologies for unnoticed autocomplete errors.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2015
    Location
    Wolvi
    Posts
    191

    Default

    Are they really noisy ? Compared to timber framed ?
    Nope. I'm not really in a position to make an actual comparison, however, I can confirm that my house doesn't make any noise.

    Compared to timber framed ?
    I sleep easy at night knowing there is zero chance of termite attack.

    Is decorating a problem.
    Nope, no dramas. I think you've just got to be a little more careful with your stud finder as I believe the steel studs are a bit narrower than the timber ones.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    Mt Crosby, Brisbane
    Posts
    2,302

    Default

    FWIW I wouldn't touch one. I'm a metal worker by trade so I could build it myself, something I wouldn't try with timber.

    I wouldn't have used them when they were cheaper than timber. Now they are dearer absolutely not.

    They _can_ be noisy. Depends on the design.

    Your frame is the last thing a termite will eat especially if it's treated pine, cypress or aged hardwood. No one builds in untreated softwood anymore. Termites eat trims and they will chew out your plasterboard before gobbling up the frame. Ask me how I know...

    Australian steel frames are hightensile thin walled stuff. If you have a fire right beside your house the radiant heat can cause a steel frame to yield before any other damage is done. The whole side of the house will collapse under it's own weight. Bushfire or the neighbors house burning can collapse yours.

    My opinion as always worth what you paid for it.
    I'm just a startled bunny in the headlights of life. L.J. Young.
    We live in a free country. We have freedom of choice. You can choose to agree with me, or you can choose to be wrong.
    Wait! No one told you your government was a sitcom?

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2018
    Location
    Nsw
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    59
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    499

    Default

    I am not a fan and would definitely go timber if you have a choice.
    If you look at all the major project home builders you will see that there is only a couple that choose to use steel frames and they do so mainly as a point of difference for marketing with the scare campaign about termites. You will also see that the ones that do steel frames specialise in single storey homes not two storey as they cannot built with their flimsy steel designs and support a second storey and to beef them up to timber standards they are not price competitive.
    The steel is dearer by the metre than the equivalent timber member so they need to reduce the amount of product to match the price, you will notice that their roof trusses are spaced at 900 or 1200 centres with furring channel to support the plasterboard as the spacing is too big which means you have difficulty later accessing you roof crawl space with the bigger spans.
    I know of a supervisor for one of the steel frame project hone builders in Sydney and when he built his own house he bought a timber frame from the frame and truss company I used to use, I will let you read between the lines on that.

    I am am not saying that the steel homes are bad or that they will fall down or anything but I think that the timber is a better and quieter choice. If steel was the way to go the major volume builders would be all over it

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2011
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    Langwarrin
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    39
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    952

    Default

    Alas, I can't offer an opinion of living in one (sorry) but my thoughts would also be in the futureproofing.....

    Whilst I'm sure it isn't impossible, I would suggest that it would be a lot more difficult to add/remove/change existing layouts or add rooms onto the sides of steel frame houses. I think they are engineered to within an inch of their lives so just popping in extra lintels or changing an opening may prove hazardous in the future.

    As an apprentice I only built one steel frame house, myboss HATED it, and so it is the only one I have come across in 17 years in the trade....

    Steel studs for partition walls and offices certainly have their place, but I believe homes are still better in timber

    Happy to be corrected or if someone has other comments on the points I have touched on I would love to hear opinions
    "All the gear and no idea"

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2016
    Location
    Rockhampton
    Posts
    122

    Default

    I agree with Gabriel. I am nearly finished building a shed using steel stud (same a a steel house construction) i found it just harder to use than timber. Pain to screw into, harder to alter ect. Reason you donít see many steel homes is builders just donít like working with the steel.

    One thing I worry about is rust. As you line walls ect metal swaf from the tek screws just sits in the wall frame. Any condensation problems or water ingress Iím guessing rust could become a problem. Maybe some research here is worth doing.

    The benefit is the the accuracy of the frames and trusses, all mine were with 2mm.

    Cheers

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jun 2010
    Location
    Bundaberg
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    49
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    My property is a steel framed house built about 20 years ago with brick veneer and a tiled roof, its construction mirrors 70x35mm studs at 600mm centres and the steel is 1.2mm thick, plenty strong enough. Plus the gyprock is bonded to the studs as well as screwed. There is no creaking or strange noises and its insulation is no worse than a timber framed house. If I was building new itís how I would go, and Iím not sure where this idea of only being good for single story houses comes from as double stories are not uncommon. You can even buy a two story cyclone rated home in pre-assembled kit form from Wide Span sheds HERE These are designed for rural self builders are are advertised in Farmers Direct.

    As for hanging things, again Iíve not had any issues. If I wanted to hang a big-arsed TV on the wall Iíd just make sure I was mounting to the studs using Tekscrews. Donít forget, most hanging applications apply mainly vertical loads to the fastenings, itís only things like really deep shelving brackets that will try to pull fasteners out. If youíre worried about hanging a tumble drier or kitchen cabinets off of the wall donít be, they can take it.
    A thief stole my anti-depressants. I hope heís happy now.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Apr 2018
    Location
    Nsw
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    59
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    Default

    Chief Tiff, sure you can build two storey homes out of steel frames, my point was that they are more expensive to do than timber which is why they are not common like timber framed ones.

    Where they do have their big advantages is they are much easier and cheaper to transport than bulkier timber which is great in more remote areas with high transport costs and they are easier for the kit home type builders to erect with less skill level required than timber.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Location
    Alexandra Vic
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    64
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    Default

    Built a steel framed BV house with tiled roof on a concrete slab in 1982/83 and lived in for 33 years before selling the property for development. No issues whatsoever related to the steel frame, floor cracked and moved due to clay ground underneath expanding and contracting, frame stayed intact and moved with it. Had a number of water pipe bursts leaking into the cavities because plumbers kinked copper pipes running them around corners, but no rust issues when the house was demolished for unit development. Had doubled 4x2 hardwood on top of the metal top plates throughout, and hardwood roof framing constructed on site rather than bought in as trusses, tiled roof, ceiling and plaster linings all stable through period of ownership. We are just a couple and didn't create a lot of noise, so did not create issues with noise coupling through the walls, so no valid comments in that area. Had no issues with hanging tapestries, cross stitches, paintings with fairly heavy frames on walls, or attaching cabinets and bookcases etc post build.

    Only real downside that we experienced was that it was difficult to run additional cables through cavities as you need access to the studs to punch holes in them to pass the cables through. Raised this with the company prior to build and were assured that the frames came prepunched so you could feed cables horizontally, but in actual fact, the stud stock was supplied in long prepunched lengths, and cut to required length for studs, so prepunched holes were effectively randomly placed in the frames. Overcome this by pulling any extra cables vertically between the studs and the BV walls on perimeter walls.

    At the time that this build occurred, frame choice was green hardwood which moved a lot during construction and for some time after, steel which could go up straight and stay straight, and untreated ungraded softwood which was not particularly straight and prone to moving during construction and ever after, and a particular favorite for the abundant termites in the area.
    I used to be an engineer, I'm not an engineer any more, but on the really good days I can remember when I was.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Feb 2015
    Location
    Strathalbyn South Australia
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    880

    Default

    Our home is steel framed and there is no noise from movement etc. the only noise we here is the odd cool down from a really hot day to a cold night, one or two creeks and that is it. I canít be sure if itís the frame or the colourbond roof or the combination of both that makes the noise, we also have 8kw of solar panels on the roof.
    Iím currently renovating the kitchen and I have hung upper cabinets on my own to the steel frame easily, one has the range hood in it too.
    I also had an electrician in to put in some power points etc, which were fitted on internal walls, pre punched and rolled holes in the noggins from the factory made it fast to wire up.
    I donít see rust as an issue either as the steel is galvanised.
    I have crawl boards in the ceiling to cover the 900mm spans so it is easy to get from one end of the ceiling space to the other.
    We build the home 12 years ago.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Central Coast, NSW
    Posts
    2,956

    Default

    Thanks for the replies guys. As usual, both steel and timber have their advocates and diametrically opposite viewpoints. which seems to be how it is for every choice in building - leaving the poor purchaser like me not much enlightened. I guess Iíll struggle on, but it seems the two questions asked here are adequately answered (noise and hanging things).

    The other issues I didnt mention actually sway me more towards timber wrt our local climate, nearness to suppliers, nearness to ocean, moderate termite activity and bushfire rating.

    Cheers
    And thanks
    Arron
    Apologies for unnoticed autocomplete errors.

  12. #12
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    May 2007
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    Burleigh Heads
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    66
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    Default

    Proximity to ocean is a significant consideration. I'm not sure of the building regs but we are building with a Project builder who promotes steel frame construction. Because we are within 100m of calm marine they will not specify steel and have 'downgraded' us to a treated timber frame.
    Franklin

  13. #13
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    Apr 2018
    Location
    Nsw
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    59
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    Default

    Just a note on termites and new homes

    Regardless of what you build your home with including full brick. The warranty on your termite treatment is validated by annual inspections from your termite treatment supplier, ( at your cost of course)
    The major termite treatment companies provide the initial treatment for the builder at a nominal fee as they then get the ongoing service inspection fee from the homeowner for the next 20 plus years which is the lucrative part of the deal for them.
    The flipside of course is the homeowner has peace of mind their property investment is being protected
    Treated pine (T2) frames used to be an extra cost if you wanted them but in the last 5 ish years have become a standard no cost option

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Location
    Alexandra Vic
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    Default

    One thing I didn't mention in my previous response was the exterior fabric of the house. Our new build, completed a month ago, deteriorated into a bun fight over cladding and gaps therein. This is Hardy Linea planking on a pine frame, and the frame has to be absolutely straight to properly attach the cladding. Ours was nowhere near straight so the boards went on with typically 2mm gaps in the laps. Chippy did a fabulous job of getting the internal walls straight for plaster, but did nothing for the cladding, figuring that it was the painters problem to caulk and make good. In turn, the painter claimed that he quoted to paint the place, not spend days caulking a bodgy cladding job. This little demarcation dispute took 4 months to be resolved,and delayed us taking possession for that long.

    I viewed some other jobs in progress and spoke to their builders and the ones that went up gap free said that they straighten everything outside for cladding, then straighten inside for plaster. They also use painters that caulk the seams even if no gaps are evident. From experience, the steel frame went up straight and stayed straight for 33 years, even though it didn't have cladding hung off it. The treated pine frame appeared fairly straight when it went up, but was far from straight by the time the roof went on and cladding started.

    I'm not claiming that steel would have stayed straight with cladding hanging off it, as I have no experience of this situation, but it handled the asymmetrical load of plasterboard on one side and nothing on the other quite well, so I suspect that it would handle the extra weight of cladding fairly well with plasterboard on the opposite side as a partial counterbalance. The OP did not suggest what they were considering as an outer fabric, but should probably take this into consideration.
    I used to be an engineer, I'm not an engineer any more, but on the really good days I can remember when I was.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Location
    bilpin
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    2,700

    Default

    The debate between steel and timber frames has been going on since the advent of steel back in the seventies. Not much has changed. In an earlier life I supervised for a large construction company manufacturing frames in every city in Australia. My observations were that there were pros and cons for both products. In other words, horses for courses. Many of the drawbacks attributable to each have been mentioned previously. Some debatable but the majority correct. It would be in the OP best interest to take into account the shortcomings of each and weigh that against the advantages. Follow this with careful consideration of your particular project and the benefits that can be gained from each.
    Important factors : Price, Environmental and climate anomalies, Durability, Movement, Sound, Assembly time, Ease of alteration, Ease of fixing out, External cladding.
    A couple of areas that have come up in previous posts I will make reference to as I consider them to be important. Sound; It has been said by many their steel frame doesnt creak. This very much depends on size. The bigger the house or the larger the rooms the more prone to creak it becomes. If a frame is going to be exposed for a long period steel is your friend.
    For myself I would go treated timber. Easier to work with at all stages in my opinion.

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