Steel Framed Homes: The Lowdown


Steel-framed houses have been around for a good long while now.

Many think of them as a relatively new concept in modern housing in Australia, but the fact is that steel is one of Australia’s most popular construction materials and has been for a long while.

History Of Steel Framed Construction

The use of steel in building construction throughout the world goes back to before the 20th century. Churches, train stations, and other public buildings were some of the first places that made extensive use of steel in their construction. A shortage of timber and other materials in Australia in the post-World War II period resulted in the development of the Econosteel wall framing system.

An estimated 300 houses were built with economic steel in the ACT. A Gold Coast builder produced 50 steel framed homes in the 1960s as the start of the Australian boom in steel frame construction. Sydney began a new era in galvanised steel construction In 1968, with the use of 1.2mm thick galvanised steel.

Steel has dominated construction for over a century. There are countless applications for steel in the built environment today.

Modern Developments In Steel Framed Construction

There has been an increasing demand for steel-framed homes over the past few years due to the many benefits it offers to homebuyers and builders.  A steel frame home has several advantages, including:

The versatility and creativity of steel are unsurpassed.  There is no limit to how you can design steel frame homes.  Timber framing is not able to offer the same level of creativity and flexibility as steel framing.

Steel resists cyclones well. Many homes across northern Australia meet cyclonic wind loading requirements through the use of steel framing.

Steel is an environmentally friendly material. There is no environmental impact associated with steel since it is 100% recyclable. Pesticides and other chemicals are not needed to treat it, so it is chemical-free.

The energy efficiency of steel-framed houses is excellent.  Homes constructed with steel frames are thermally more efficient than those built with timber or brick.  Thus, their summers are cooler and their winters are warmer. Steel-framed homes can be heated and cooled for less money.

It is maintenance-free material. Steel does not need to be treated against pests or mold like timber does.  The products used in steel framed construction do not require any sort of maintenance, which makes up a large part of an efficient design process.

Timber Frames vs Steel Frames Comparison

Frames are the backbone of a building, so they need to be strong and secure. In addition to cost, longevity, sustainability, and flexibility of construction, both steel frames and wood frame structures offer advantages and disadvantages.

Steel frame houses, also known as metal frame houses, allow less movement than timber frame houses due to steel frames’ lack of bending, warping, shrinking, and buckling, whereas timber frame houses are more malleable to their environment.

To help you determine which material is right for your home building needs, we have listed the advantages and disadvantages of each type of frame material.

Advantages Of A Steel Framed House

You can build a steel-framed home at a lower cost and with greater durability than a timber-framed home. Your roof, ceilings, and walls will remain straight and smooth because steel frames resist flexing and warping.

Termite Resistance

Termites are a serious threat to many homes. There is often termite damage to Australian timber frame homes that aren’t covered by insurance. These repair costs can be in the thousands. Needless to say, termites can’t eat steel.

Fire Resistance

Non-combustible steel can withstand temperatures much higher than timber and will maintain its shape. When you add this with a Colorbond roof, the risk of fire is dramatically reduced.

Solid Foundations

Steel is the strongest residential building material currently available, in terms of strength-to-weight ratio. Because of this, the foundation can withstand stronger winds, fiercer storms, and even an occasional lightning strike.

50 Year Structural Warranty

Home frames made of steel will last a long time. It is a smart investment to build a steel frame house. A 50 year structural warranty is provided by some manufacturers to ensure that your home will stand the test of time.

100% Recyclable

The BlueScope Steel used for some steel frame homes is 100% recyclable, exceeding best environmental practices. Steel frames don’t require toxic chemicals to protect against pests and hazards–some timber frames do.

Disadvantages Of A Steel Framed House

Steel is always the more expensive option due to the raw materials involved in its production. Tradies charge more when dealing with steel compared to timber due to its labor-intensive nature. Steel frame homes will, in general, be more expensive than wood-frame homes, both in terms of material costs and building costs.

Additionally, steel production requires a large amount of energy, which has an adverse effect on the environment. Steel mills leave a large carbon footprint throughout every step of the steel production process, making it one of the leading polluters on the planet.

Coastal environments are particularly risky for steel frames. A combination of wind, rain, and sand can negatively affect the steel framing because steel is highly corrosive. In spite of the fact that damage can be sustained, its negative impact may be minimized by performing regular building inspections and being proactive.

Steel Framing And Stumps Compared To The Alternatives

Even though timber is considered an old-fashioned material for construction, it is still a great choice when it comes to building frames for your house. Wood is a natural building material. It is non-toxic, which means that it does not leak chemicals and is safe to touch. The ease of obtaining and assembling timber on site means that you can work on your project faster, saving you both time and money.

Steel Frame Construction Process

Structures are erected by assembling steel components into frames on site. In this step, components are lifted and placed in position, and then they are connected. Bolting is the most common method, but sometimes welding is done on-site.

Steel Stumps

Wood stumps don’t last as long as steel stumps. Due to their galvanized steel construction, galvanised steel stumps are virtually maintenance-free.

Cost Of A Steel Framed House

As we all know, when it comes to new homes or a home extension, costs are all important. And generally, when comparing steel frame vs timber frame cost, a steel frame house will cost more. That’s because timber is easy to source and there’s plenty of it about. But there’s more to that steel frame vs timber frame cost than you might imagine. That’s because while the steel frame is mainly prepared off-site, the cost of timber may actually end up about even because of extra on-site labour.

Steel Frame Kit Homes

Kit house manufacturers have now mastered steel framing technology that has caught up to timber framing.

Steel frames for kit homes can now be cut and prefabricated with computer technology, making them more cost-effective and versatile.   This has led to kit homes being more affordable, easier, and more reliable to build thanks to fasteners like screws, nails, and joining systems.

Some of the manufacturers of steel-framed kit homes are Imagine Kit Homes, Prestige Kit Homes, and KITOME.

Conclusion: Steel Frame Decision For Framing

Like most things in life, timber and steel frames have both positives and negatives. What is particularly comforting to know is that when it comes to the negatives associated with using steel framing for a housing project, none are so severe that it could cause a house to experience extreme structural damage such as what can occur with termite infestation of a timber framed house.

That been said, when choosing between timber and steel it is important to remember that both materials are quality foundations upon which to construct a house. At the end of the day, the choice comes down to what works best for your location and budget.

But steel framed houses are very durable and hard to damage which can save you a ton of money in the long run because it means that your house won’t have many maintenance costs for years or even decades. They’re also incredibly strong which is great if you live somewhere where there are harsh weather conditions such as cyclones, severe storms, or earthquakes since they will hold up much better than other types of construction would under these circumstances.

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