THE BIG DEBATE: METAL STUDS VS WOOD STUDS

Basement finishing is something that most homeowners have come to embrace and appreciate. There are only two distinct types of studs that any homeowner can consider when it comes to choosing the framing materials to use for basement finishing: wood and metal studs. Whether you choose wood or metal studs, each type comes with some advantages and disadvantages. Considering the fact that there is a debate of metal vs wood studs, we are here to give you a comprehensive analysis of the pros and cons of using either wood or metal studs as framing materials.

Additionally, we’ll give you a brief guide as far as metal stud construction is concerned. This article focuses on light gauge metal framing widely available in most big box stores, which is designed exclusively for partition walls. It is also worth noting that it doesn’t have any structural strength and as a result, can’t be used for supporting walls. My personal experience stems from using metal frame specifically in my basement renovation.

Wall Strength

The Big Debate Metal Studs vs Wood StudsWhen we compare metal studs with woods studs, studs made of wood are definitely the sturdier ones. Metal seems to be fragile, but after gluing and screwing the drywall, the wall becomes strong and rigid. Additionally, structural support is possible when wood studs are being used, meaning metal studs do much better when used for non-load-bearing walls.

There is also some debate whether or not heavy mirrors and hanging cabinets can be made from metal. Although there are varying opinions on this matter, my preference is adding wood to walls where cabinets will be hung. Additionally, it is better for the cabinet screw to bite into solid wood rather than screw tapping into a thin metal. It is also advisable to use wood studs on walls where drainage and supply plumbing will be run.

Convenience

When it comes to convenience, metal studs are way better than wood studs. Metal or steel studs are lighter than studs made of wood and take half the space of one piece of lumber. This means you can use two metal studs where only a single wood stud can fit. This makes them easier to transport and store.  Metal is cut using aviation snips, meaning there is no sawdust that often cause unnecessary inconveniences.

However, baseboard and casing nails better into wood studs compared to steel studs. Baseboard often pulls away from the walls when they are nailed into steel track, but some contractors glue them to the walls together with trim nails whenever steel studs are used. There are some contractors who choose to cross nail the baseboard to prevent it from pulling away from the wall. This is the main reason why framed windows and doors should be lined with wood studs to ensure that the window jamb and door jamb has something solid and stable for the trim nails to bite into. Lastly, eye protection is necessary whether you are using wood or metal. It is advisable to wear safety glasses.

Cost

Generally, using steel studs is more expensive due to the additional costs of specialized materials, including fasteners. You can take a look at our basement finishing pricing to get an idea of costs.  Nonetheless, metal studs offer many cost advantages in other areas that often offset this price difference. It takes less time to build steel stud walls, which saves on labor costs. Furthermore, steel doesn’t warp, shrink or split, minimizing warranty callbacks. There are also no drywall cracks or nail pops that call for additional fixing after the completion of the basement. The high and consistent quality of steel also reduces scrap because for every 2% of steel scrap there is 20% of a wood scrap. This reduces the costs of having to haul off and dispose of discarded materials. Last but not least, you stand a great chance of enjoying significant discounts on risk insurance if you choose to use steel frames to construct your structures.

If you are still considering all options or possibly starting off your project, take a look at out Basement Remodeling 101 posting.

Ease of Installation

Framing is easier to install due to the fact that steel studs weigh about a third less than wood studs. They can also be installed at 16 inches on center and are attached with screws, making it simpler to move steel studs in case a mistake is done during the installation process as earlier mentioned.  Insects and Fire Concerns Metal studs are immune to insects while wood construction can be damaged pretty easily by carpenter ants. Furthermore, wood burns easily but metal doesn’t. Therefore, a wall built with metal studs can be said to be fireproof.

If you are looking for another great resource for adding studs yourself, check out: Family Handyman’s blog, here.

Stability

The Big Debate Metal Studs vs Wood StudsBasements are known to be more humid compared to other parts of the building. That said, wood studs are not the best materials to use because they are more likely to expand, contract, twist and warp. The expansion in the wood studs causes nail pops over time. Since steel studs do not expand or contract, chances of experiencing nail pops are almost nil.  If you’re planning to hang heavy items such as flat screen television or heavy shelves, woods studs do better. However, if you prefer using metal studs then you should reinforce them with wood studs or block with 2×8 cross supports.

Environmental Concerns

Although metal framing is often said to be more environmentally friendly compared to wood, both materials have their fair share of positives and negatives. Wood comes from trees, but cutting down trees to make wood studs is known to bring adverse environmental consequences. Nonetheless, wood is a renewable resource and nowadays we are much better when it comes to managing our natural resources, forests included. Furthermore, wood scrap is biodegradable and small pieces of wood can be composted, but still wood does not break down easily. On the other hand, although metal can be recycled, the recycling process isn’t good for the environment. Basically, depending on one’s point of view, either material can be viewed to be more environmentally friendly.

The Bottom Line

Based on my experience with both materials, my belief is that both have a fair share of positive and negative attributes. This means your personal preference is what determines which material you choose to use for finishing your basement. Personally, I prefer metal framing due to long-lasting stability. I have used wood studs on several occasions but I haven’t had the luxury of enjoying consistently straight boards.

If you are not actually at the stage of your basement remodel where you need to choose a metal or wood stud, check out another post about starting your basement remodeling project.  For additional information or to schedule your free consultation, contact us here.

 

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3 Comments

  1. James Bergman June 16, 2016 at 9:55 am - Reply

    I think the biggest benefit of using metal to frame a basement or anything else is that they will not warp or rot. It is also worth mentioning that the metal studs are not going to burn in a fire. So, your home will be better protected from that. Besides, I am pretty sure that a lot of newer office buildings are using metal framed walls. Probably because they are easier to install.

  2. Lloyd Claycomb July 25, 2016 at 8:07 am - Reply

    When compared to metal, wood has very little advantage, such as being light weight and a bit cheaper.

  3. Kevin Scott January 24, 2017 at 9:51 pm - Reply

    Well I’m this predicament right now. Going to begin finishing my basement. Metal or wood. The house is 80 years old and would benefit from the load bearing wood would offer. But in heavy rain, water sometimes comes in. I don’t want the wood to rot. What about C [ metal studs on the concrete and framing with wood inside the C metal studs. This would offer better protection to the wood frame next to the basement concrete.

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