How long have steel framed houses been in use?
When it comes to homes in Australia, many people think Steel Framed Homes are a relatively new concept in modern housing. However, what many people don’t realise is that steel has been used as a building material for homes in Australia for over 50 years.
Looking back even further steel has been used as a construction material all over the world since before the 20th century. One of the first major uses of steel for construction was on train stations. After this, the use of steel expanded to include things like churches and other buildings. After World War II, shortages in building materials such as timber led to the development of a steel wall framing system in Australia called Econosteel.
Econosteel was used in the construction of 300 houses in the ACT. The 1960’s saw a real boom in steel frame housing construction in Australia, during which time, an American builder on the Gold Coast constructed 50 steel framed homes. In 1968, the first ‘new era’ of steel framed homes were built using 1.2m think galvanised steel in Sydney.
If you take a look back in history, you can see that steel has reigned in construction for over a century. Today, steel is used all over the world for nearly every building application possible. Computer technology has made cutting and prefabrication of steel frames for kit homes more cost-effective and versatile. Steel frame and truss manufacturing technology for kit homes have now caught up with timber frame technology. Joining systems, screws and nail fasteners for kit homes have made the manufacture of steel frames easier, cheaper and more reliable.
How have they progressed/changed over time?
In recent years, steel framed homes have experienced a boom due to the many advantages it offers to homeowners and builders. Some of the advantages of steel framed homes include:
• Steel is creative and versatile. Steel framed homes are limited only by your imagination. Steel framing allows for creative and flexible designs that are not possible with timber frames.
• Steel is cyclone strong. At Homefab, our homes meet compliance with cyclonic wind loadings across Northern Australia.
• Steel is environmentally friendly. Steel is 100% recyclable and causes minimal site impact. It is chemical-free as there is no need to treat it with pesticides and other chemicals.
• Steel framed homes are energy efficient. Compared to homes built from timber or brick, steel framed homes are more energy efficient in terms of thermal regulation. So they are cooler in summer and warmer in winter. This means you will need to spend less money on heating and cooling a steel framed home.
• Steel is maintenance free. Unlike timber, steel doesn’t require pest or mould treatment. All products used by Homefab are maintenance free which is an essential part of the overall Homefab design technique.
Steel vs timber frames, how do they compare?
The frame of a building is its backbone, so it’s important that it is both safe and secure. Both steel and wood frames have their advantages and disadvantages, and considerations when choosing between them should include cost, longevity, sustainability and flexibility during the construction process.
Also known as ‘metal frame homes’, steel frame houses tend to allow less movement as steel frames don’t twist, warp, shrink or buckle, while timber frames are more malleable to their environment.
We’ve broken down the advantages and disadvantages of each material for your house frame to help you when making a decision as to which material is right for your home building needs.
Pro’s and Cons of a steel framed house
Your steel-framed home is lighter, more durable, and more cost-effective to assemble than building with timber. Steel frames are more resistant against flexing and warping, meaning your home stays looking like your home with straighter lines and finishes on your roof, ceilings, and walls.
Termites can’t eat steel
Termites, white ants, home-wrecking pests. Whatever you call them, they can be an absolute menace to many homes. Many timber-framed Victorian homes suffer termite damage that isn’t covered by insurance and repairs can cost well into the thousands. Just let these tiny troublemakers try and eat steel.
Steel is non-combustible and retains its shape at much higher temperatures than timber can. Cap your home with a Colorbond roof, which is standard with all JG King homes, and the risk of fire drops dramatically.
Steel can boast the highest strength-to-weight ratio of any current residential building material. This means your home and its foundations can stand up to stronger winds, fiercer storms, and even the occasional lightning strike.
50 Year Structural Warranty
A steel frame home is in it for the long haul. Building a steel frame home is an investment for the future. Some suppliers back it up with a 50 year structural warranty* that your home stands the test of time.
Some steel frame homes are made from 100% recyclable BlueScope steel, surpassing best environmental practices. Some timber frames are treated against pests and hazards with toxic chemicals--steel needs none of that.
Due to the raw materials associated with its production, steel is always the more expensive option. Steel is also more labour intensive, and consequently tradies charge more to work around steel when compared to timber. This means that in general the cost for a steel frame home vs a wood frame home will be higher, both for the materials themselves as well as the cost of building the home.
In addition, the high amounts of energy required in steel production does have a negative environmental impact. The steel production industry remains one of the major polluters on the planet, and the steel mills leave a huge carbon footprint throughout every step of the steel production process.
In a coastal environment, the use of steel frames are particularly risky. As steel is a highly corrosive material, the combination of water, wind and sand can negatively impact the steel framing. While damage can be sustained, its negative impact can be handled by being proactive and conducting regular building inspections.
What other materials can a frame be built from?
Known as the old fashioned way to build, timber is still actually a great resource to use when constructing frames for your house. Timber is one of the few building materials that is a natural product. It is non toxic, meaning that it doesn’t leak chemicals and is safe to touch. With timber being so easily sourced, it can quickly be constructed on site, saving time and increasing the efficiency of the build.
What is the steel frame construction process?
The erection of structural steelwork consists of the assembly of steel components into a frame on site. The processes involve lifting and placing components into position, then connecting them together. Generally this is achieved through bolting but sometimes site welding is used.
What about steel stumps?
Steel stumps last much longer than the old wood stumps. Galvanised steel stumps are made practically impervious to rust, making them superior in every way to any other building stump material.
What is the 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.
Are there steel frame kit homes?
Prestige Kit Homes
Imagine Kit Homes
How to decide what material to use for your frame:
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 or timber, none are so severe that it could cause a house to collapse on its own.
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.