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Builders Guide/13.04.22

The Difference Between Steel Frames vs Timber Frames

If you’re becoming familiar with the home building process or are taking an interest in the construction side of things, you may have heard some discussion about house frames and how it plays its significant role in keeping your home secure and standing. 

In the more recent years, many builders have swapped from using timber to steel frames for a variety of reasons; however, many people are still apprehensive about whether they really are better than wooden frames which have built homes for as long as we can remember! We’re here to tell you everything you need to know about the difference between steel frames vs timber frames, and answer the ultimate question – which is better?

Steel Frames vs Timber Frames

Steel framing emerged not too long ago in the 1980’s and was introduced as the foundation for constructing buildings and infrastructures. They are ultimately designed to last longer and serve to be more secure, as they are bolted into place to assemble steel columns and beams to support the rest of the build. The material used is lightweight steel and has proven to weigh lighter than timber frames, making them durable and cost-effective.

Timber frames on the other hand have always been more popular in Australia for residential construction. They are generally made from pine, making them also lightweight, non-toxic, and easily sourced. Many builders have long relied on timber framing for its efficiency, maintenance, and sustainability; however, the question remains… does this outweigh its disadvantages?

Timber Frames

Pros of Timber House Frames

  • Easy Maintenance
    Timber frames can be easily repaired, making them much more durable and withstanding over time. More people are versed in working with timber and renovations are much easier to undertake. If erected properly, timber can withstand high impact earthquakes and weather conditions.

  • Cost Effective
    Timber is ultimately cheaper than steel frames but not necessarily worse in quality. It takes a significantly shorter time to construct, meaning that the labour costs are also lower. Additionally, it is more readily available than steel frames and provides insulation, making the house conserve heat and save costs on heating in the future.

  • Environmentally Friendly
    Because timber is a natural and renewable resource, many environmentally conscious people prefer to build their house with ethically sourced timbers. It also retains carbon dioxide, meaning that it is less energy dependent than steel.

Cons of Timber House Frames

  • Termites
    The main issue that affects timber frames is termites. Without installing a proper termite resistant system, this can cause termite infestations which are very expensive to rectify. If you were to build with timber frames, you need to ensure that its construction is executed perfectly.

  • Susceptible to weather conditions
    Timber frames are a lot more susceptible to damage in hot weather conditions. Timber runs the risk of catching on fire in high temperatures and if constructed poorly. Additionally, timber can expand and shrink in different weather conditions, or run the risk of developing mould in humidity.

  • Soundproofing
    Although timber insulates heat effectively, sound insulation serves to be poor through wood. To avoid transmitting sound through the house, you will need to implement additional sound proofing system

Steel Frames

Pros of Steel House Frames

  • Strength and Versatility
    Steel frames are most advantaged for their tensile strength, security, but also their capability to change shapes and mold into custom designs that are not possible with timber frames. Expansion and Renovation are much more possible with steel frames.

  • Weatherproof
    Unlike timber frames, steel frames aren’t combustible and can retain its shape at high temperatures. They can withstand extreme weather conditions and don’t run the risk of developing damage in humidity or wet weather.

  • Pest-Free
    One of steel frames biggest benefits is its avoidance of pest infestations. With this, they are much easier to maintain and don’t run the risk of repairs that can cost up to thousands of dollars.

Cons of Steel House Frames

  • Higher Cost
    Ultimately, steel serves to be more costly due to the materials and labour associated with its construction. Steel requires more intensive labour and the materials used to support the insulation of steel walls increase the overall cost.

  • Environmentally Unfriendly
    The production of steel requires large amounts of energy and remains one of the major polluters on the Earth. Steel mills leave a huge carbon footprint throughout the process and requires more energy to get it sourced for construction.

  • Thermal Conductivity 
    Because steel conducts a remarkable amount of heat, this means that insulation must be prioritised to counteract the effect of this. When heat is conducted by steel, the steel wall insulations is compromised meaning that the building is unable to retain energy efficiently

Which is Better?

The golden question remains… Are steel frames or timber frames better? Both undoubtedly have their pros and cons; and are relative to the builders’ costings, environmental considerations, and the construction design. Ultimately, both framing systems are most effective at building homes and will serve its purpose – so you don’t need to worry about any collapses!

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At Domaine, we implement a hybrid framing system to give our homes the best of both worlds! This system is engineered to allow the flexibility of timber to work hand in hand with the rigid strength and precision of steel. This innovative framing system creates straighter, stronger homes that you’ll only get from us. Additionally, we are that confident in the quality of our homes that we also provide a Lifetime Structural Guarantee – giving you the ease of mind that your home will withstand until the end of time!