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Steel vs Timber Frames

A building's frame is its backbone so it's essential that it's safe & secure. Read more about building your home with steel vs timber frames

In the debate on steel vs timber frames, there are many misconceptions and myths that confuse home builders. It is important to understand the options available and the implications that your choice can have on future costs and circumstances for your home, when deciding whether to build your home with steel vs timber frames.

Steel vs Timber Frames

The risks associated with building with timber frames

It is fair to suggest that timber is fast becoming the old fashioned way to build. It allows construction errors to be rectified on-site with a hammer and nail – which is cheap and easy for the builder but not very reassuring for the homeowner. Timber also contains natural weaknesses and is susceptible to damage.

Timber is a natural cellulose material and is milled with all its natural imperfections and inherent weaknesses. Timber frames are susceptible to damage in both termite infestation and internal surface stress fractures, the costs of which can be substantial. In comparison, Supaloc steel frames and trusses, are engineered to be stronger, more secure, and most importantly, termite proof.

According to research conducted by Archicentre, one in five Australian homes will suffer termite infestation within a five year period1. Repair costs are commonly in excess of $40,0002. Termite inspections and preventative treatments cost an additional $830 a year3, with no guarantee of even preventing a termite attack. When it comes to protecting your home from termites, in the steel vs timber frames debate, steel is clearly the superior choice.

Steel vs Timber Frames: movement

Slight movements in house framing can result in what many refer to as ‘creaking’. It is a common misconception that steel frames in particular are ‘noisy’. Most framing products experience some movement at fixing points, however it is important to note that not all frames experience noise. Unlike timber and other steel framing systems, Supaloc steel frames are engineered and fixed with patented brackets and connections. These unique and clever connections eliminate movement, and therefore prevent noise. When deciding between steel vs timber frames for you new home, know that Supaloc steel frames are expertly engineered for silence. You can read more about how the Supaloc system works here. In contrast to Supaloc being riveted and bolted into place, timber frames are butt jointed and fixed with nails. As the product reacts to atmospheric moisture, heat and cold, it shifts and warps, allowing movement and therefore noise.

Another common problem caused by frame movement is the cracking of plasterboard. Being a water-based cellulose product, timber shrinks and expands according to environmental conditions. It does so at a rate that directly conflicts with plasterboard, causing the lining surface to crack, the peaking of ceiling joints and cracked cornices4. Unlike timber, Supaloc steel frames are backed by a 50 Year Warranty* and do not warp, twist or shrink, providing a solid and true frame for plasterboard. This eliminates the surface splitting and cracked cornice problems associated with frame movement. In the debate on steel vs timber frames, Supaloc steel is the smart choice for keeping your walls straight and true.

Steel vs timber frames in environmental impact

Environmentally aware home builders often ask the question, “Are steel or timber frames better for the environment?”. Using steel frames conserves forests and prevents the need for the demolition of natural vegetation to make way for plantations. Furthermore, the precision design and manufacture of Supaloc steel frames ensures that there is very little waste product during the manufacture or building process. Whereas, due to the imperfect nature of timber, wastage must occur when cutting timber pieces to the desired length, and to remove flawed areas. Supaloc steel frames are 100% recyclable and are made from a percentage of recycled steel. Conversely, timber frames are non-recyclable and are created from new trees every time.

It is also environmentally important that your home is energy efficient in the long term. Supaloc steel framing creates better seals around windows and doors, and when combined with Thermaloc insulation, creates highly efficient thermal regulation. This reduces the amount of heating and cooling required in your home, dramatically reducing your long-term energy consumption compared to timber frames. When deciding on steel vs timber frames for your new home, keep in mind the long term cost of energy bills on the environment and on your wallet. For more information read our page on Environmental Impact.

References

1 Archicentre.com.au – termites and borers

2 CSIRO Call for the immediate declaration of all municipalities (metropolitan Melbourne & regional Victoria) as regions where homes, buildings and structures are subject to termite infestation 13 January 2005

3 Figures based on research into the South Australian termite treatment and inspection industry; costs based on retail averages and correct at time of print, 5 February 2009

4 Coefficient of Thermal Lineal Expansion, Shortley and Williams, 1965

*Click here to read details of the 50 year warranty.

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