Here’s Why Steel Beams Are Better Than Wood Beams for Your Home Build

Steel beams pile up on a building blueprint.

Building your dream home is not an overnight project. There are lots of things to consider when it comes to choosing the right crew and heavy-duty products for a residential building.

The design decision between wood and steel beams affects your residential project’s overall build. These materials make up your flooring structure, so when your floor starts to slope towards the middle of your home, you might be facing an issue with the main beam.

In general, the three common types of beams used in construction are concrete, wood, and steel beams. Among these, steel is the most popular given its many benefits. However, considering factors like design goals, budget, construction benefits, and environmental sustainability, there are always some disadvantages to every material.

If you are considering replacing a wooden beam with the same material, it might be worth looking into the advantages of using steel beams instead.

Steel Beam vs. Wood Beam: Cost

Wood beams can be either engineered or dimensional lumber. The latter can be made on-site to avoid more costs. Laminated veneer lumber (LVL), which are layers of glued plywood, usually come ready-made from factories and are usually less expensive than structural I-beams.

Wood beams do have their disadvantages. For one, dimensional lumber is prone to shrinking as it dries, and this is a frequent occurrence in the arid climate of Colorado. When this happens, it will detach from floor joists and cause problems like floors squeaks and drywall stress fractures. LVL, on the other hand, does not pose the same problem, but it can be more expensive than dimensional lumbers.

Steel beams of the same size are considerably heavier, which then require special handling procedures that add to the building cost. Still, using this type of beam is cheaper compared to wood and concrete beams. Like LVL beams, there are PFC steel beams that are pre-made and constructed with a specific design and shape. Thus, you won’t incur more labor costs for an on-site rework.

Steel Beam vs. Wood Beam: Strength

One of the most recognized benefits of steel beams is their overall strength and durability despite their slimmer profile.

Wood beams, on the other hand, offer support for a shorter time span, and you would need to use more to get enough structural support compared to steel framing.

Simply put, steel offers more open space with fewer columns than the wooden alternative. Even in fewer quantities, steel beams can carry heavier loads.

Steel Beam vs. Wood Beam: Architectural Flexibility

Steel beams allow for more creative designs and floorplans that may not be feasible using wooden materials. They can even be pre-made based on your preferred design and style. Thanks to its flexible feature, steel can be molded into any size and shape without compromising its quality. Plus, it is safer to recycle.

Because of their weight-bearing strength, steel beams require less vertical support. With it, you can build cantilevers or roof lines extended beyond exterior walls and wider balcony areas without needing extra vertical support below.

Steel Beam vs. Wood Beam: Environmental Sustainability

Wood is biodegradable. Given that it decomposes in the long run, wood is less durable. At its worst, it is prone to termite infestation and burning.

Meanwhile, structural steel, even though it is prone to rust when exposed to moisture, is not combustible. It can deform with long, intense heat, but with sufficient coating and galvanization against rust, a steel beam’s lifespan exceeds that of wood beams.

Steel beams may not appear to be environmentally friendly, but they are. Steel is recyclable, and it lasts longer compared to wood. Interestingly, much of the structural steel used in the country are composed of 93 percent recycled materials. When a residential building is demolished, 98 percent of its scrap structural steel is turned into new steel materials.

Planning to Start Your Next Residential Building Project?

Although wood beams are sustainable for your home, steel beams offer more extensive benefits that can support your long-term building goals. Note that all types of materials do share their own set of pros and cons, but considering the different factors discussed, steel beams offer more utility in many areas of construction.

If you would like to learn more about the benefits of choosing steel beams for your next residential building project, consult our experts for steel fabrication in the Boulder area – at Flawless Steel Welding. We will find the best solutions and help you make the right choices for your next building project. To reach us, call (720) 638-7289 today!



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