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Building a new home can be an expensive proposition, especially considering the current cost of lumber. It is, therefore, no wonder that a lot of people are considering steel frame construction as a more environmentally conscious and cost-effective alternative to conventional wood-frame homes. If you’re thinking about building a new home for your family and yourself, this short read will introduce you to the costs, advantages, and process of building a steel frame house.

Why steel frame homes have become popular

steel frame homes

In 1993, lumber prices in the US almost doubled, and this put the home construction industry in a quandary. They needed alternate building materials to lumber to keep the industry afloat, and steel was the solution.

Since then, steel has remained a cost-effective and greener framing system than wood. There are multiple benefits to choosing to build a steel frame house. They cost less to build, offer great savings, and are easier to maintain than other alternatives.

Let’s take a more detailed look at what these advantages are.

Cost-effective

Steel frame homes come in affordable kits that can be assembled DIY if you don’t want to spend on hiring a contractor. Not only will you be saving on labor, but the overall cost of the home is also less expensive as well.

On average, expect to spend between $40 to $70 per square foot including buying the kit, delivery, foundation, doors, windows, and erection. Add to that an additional $30 to $60 for finishing. Even at that price, steel frame homes will cost you up to 30% less than traditional 2×4 wooden home construction.

Furthermore, since most steel frame suppliers double up as design consultants as well, you will not need the services of architects or engineers, saving you more money in the process.

Open floor plans

With steel house construction, the design by default is clear-span, meaning you will not need to deal with unnecessary columns and support beams. Instead, you have open floor plans and wide-open interiors. 

Added flexibility

Steel frame construction also offers you the flexibility of choosing sizes. You can design small homes of just 500 square feet or monstrous mansions of more than 12,000 square feet.

In addition, you can build your steel home over a basement, over beams, over slabs, or however you choose.

Speed and convenience

Metal frame homes come in easy to assemble DIY kits, replete with instructions. They are easy to assemble, and the construction process does not necessarily require additional labor.

Easy maintenance

Most steel frame homes come with a 30-year paint and 50-year construction warranty. This means, unlike traditional wood construction, you no longer need to bother with repainting homes or replacing rotten boards.

Steel frame homes are also a lot more durable in comparison. You do not need to worry about dry rot. Pests like termites and rodents can’t chew through metal, making these homes pest-proof as well.

Durability

Steel buildings are a lot more durable than wood ones. They are capable of withstanding wind speeds of up to 120 miles per hour, heavy rainfall, seismic activity up to a Seismic Zone 4, and extreme snowfall.

In addition, homes made of steel frames are inherently fireproof. This is not only a great safety feature, but it also reduces your annual insurance premium by up to 40%.

Ecological impact

Metal buildings are ecologically greener than wood construction. For starters, over 60% of the steel used in steel frame homes is recycled. In addition, since the frame comes in kits, there is almost zero on-site waste generated.

Also, if you ever feel you want to tear down your home and build a new one, you can recycle the materials instead of shipping them off to your local landfill.

Energy savings

While metal may not be as great an insulator as wood, steel frame homes still offer up to 40% savings on heating and cooling bills, making them more energy-efficient. This is because they offer more space for insulation. 

In fact, steel frame construction offers enough space in the walls and ceilings for 9-inch R-30 insulation. In comparison, wood frame construction allows only for much thinner R-11 to R-19 insulation. also, homes built with metal frames tend to be a lot quieter.

Technologically superior

Steel frame homes are made using precision engineering. This means the metal studs and joists are lightweight, strong and steel walls are straight. This means that, unlike drywall, there are no pops to fix. 

Wood frames also tend to warp, settle and crack due to changes in weather. Steel frames, on the other hand, remain unmoved, meaning there are no chances of expensive air leaks or energy loss happening.

Customizable exteriors

Building a metal home does not mean it needs to look like an industrial shed from the outside. You can customize the exterior of your home, finishing it with brick, stucco, Hardie plank, and other materials.

Components and costs

steel frame house cost

Here’s a list of the components that you will receive when you order a steel frame home for your building project.

  1. Steel framing members
  2. Roofing materials and metal siding
  3. Trusses for the roof
  4. Framed windows and doors openings
  5. Skylights, windows, and doors
  6. Anchor bolts and fasteners

While we have already spoken about what the per square foot costs of steel frame houses are, let’s take a more detailed look at those costs.

  1. A 1,200 square foot (30×40) two-bedroom home kit will cost you around $11,500.
  2. A 40x 40, 1,600 square foot three-bedroom home kit will cost around $13,200.
  3. A kit for a four-bedroom 40×50, 2,000 square foot home will put you down around $14,700.

These costs are only for the building kits. In addition, expect to pay 5-10% for delivery and 10-20% for windows and doors. The foundation will cost you approximately $4 to $6 per square feet and construction will put you down around $3 to $5 a square foot.

Planning considerations

Steel buildings are compatible with different types of foundations, so choose what you want depending on your needs.

For example, if you’re on a budget and don’t want to spend on a basement, a simple concrete slab foundation that your home can be attached to using anchor bolts is sufficient.

  1. If you feel the need for extra storage space, consider a foundation that includes a basement or a crawl space. You can easily construct your steel home over such structures using anchors and floor joists. 
  2. While storage spaces like garages can be added even after your primary building has been constructed, the structural integrity of both buildings would be better if planned for and constructed simultaneously.
  3. Insulation is an integral part of your home, and the better insulated your home is, the more energy-efficient it is. Keep this in mind while planning the size of your home and the rooms in it.
    Insulation does not normally take up too much space, but if you live in colder climates or are looking for insulation to block out noise, it could get up to one foot thick.
  4. While buying insulation for your steel home, keep in mind that outside noises and even weather phenomena like loud thunder can sound louder reverberating off metal walls and roofs. So make sure you choose insulation that has noise-canceling properties.

Read more: 4 things to consider when planning home addition

Home construction: Building a steel frame house was last modified: September 8th, 2021 by Narayan Shrouthy

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