House Framing: Wood or Steel?

When considering building framing, the two primary options are wood and steel framing. These two materials are the most used for residential construction, and they come with their respective advantages and disadvantages. We will take you to take a closer look at what steel and wood framing can offer through a comparison of the two materials in four different areas:

- construction,

- environmental sustainability,

- structural durability, and

- cost

>> Keep reading to learn more about ICFa potential alternative to wood and steel <<


A more traditional choice for framing in the construction industry, wood is generally an easier material to build with, hence resulting in a quicker construction and more efficiency. Wood has not lost its plus points over time as most builders still use wood/timber for framings at present time because of its flexibility that could easily adapt to unpredictable changes on site. On the other hand, steel requires more labour (in terms of the number of people and/or their skill) which is only normal if it demands a larger budget than that of wood.

Environmental sustainability

Steel is often favoured for being 100% recyclable, a direct opposite of wood. Although wood is not recyclable, it is still a renewable resource and a natural product making it non-toxic to the environment. Steel does not possess the latter characteristic due to the high amount of energy needed to produce it. Other advantages of wood compared to steel are its better ability of energy conserving and thermal insulation. However, steel sealing around door and window frames can help reduce the cost and impact of running heating and cooling in the home.

Structural durability

In this aspect, steel is arguably ahead of wood for several reasons. Although wood is denser and has higher resistance to loads but being a natural product, it comes with its own natural risks, like moisture and moulding as well as insects or termites. Wood's trait also causes it to expand and shrink in different environmental circumstances which could eventually lead to surface cracks. A pricey treatment would have to be undertaken to fix these risks at later stage.

Conversely, steel framings stand stronger and last longer even against extreme weather. Its material is completely resistant to termites or other insects. Being solid and sturdy, steel is perfect for plasterboard. The technology for the production of steel is also constantly evolving and being refined to produce stronger yet more lightweight metal framing.


The calculation of cost in the wood vs steel debate is difficult. Wood can seem more attractive with its lower initial cost because it is almost always available in the market. Steel, with a higher initial cost than wood, is on the surface the more expensive option. This high cost is, however, somewhat offset by steel's lower maintenance costs compared to wood. Being less exposed to risks of wear and tear than wood, steel requires less maintenance in the long run.

Steel may also prove to be less of financial risk, as market for it is fairly stable and prices are steady. In contrast, the market for wood is known to be volatile and unpredictable, which diminishes the appeal of wooden framing.


The pros and cons of wooden and steel framings

In summary, wooden and steel framings have their own advantages and disadvantages that should be considered upon building a house. The houses built by 8CON also range from wooden and steel framings. We communicate with our clients when deciding which material to use according to their needs, budgets, and/or preferences. Even when the client is unsure, we stand in the gap to provide professional advice.

8CON's project at Corinella
8CON's project at Scoresby


ICF – an alternative to wood and steel

Insulating concrete form (ICF) construction uses a system of formwork to create reinforced concrete, [...] usually made using a rigid thermal insulation that can stay in place as a permanent substrate on the exterior or interior of a structure.

A markedly more expensive option than both wooden and steel framing, ICF framing is nevertheless worth consideration as in nearly every other aspect outside of cost, it is shown to be a better material for framing. ICF framings have higher energy efficiency, typically requiring 32% less energy to cool and 44% less energy to heat than homes built with wooden framing.

ICF blocks tend to be strong and durable as well, in conjunction with being a lightweight material. It uses less concrete than traditional methods but does not compromise on structural durability.

Of course, ICF framing has its disadvantages. Cost is one of them. Another is its unbalanced insulating capacity—though highly effective in hot climates, the insulative property of ICF framing is rendered virtually worthless in colder weather. The installation of ICF framing can also be an issue. If done well and skillfully, ICF framings can be installed more quickly. However, its installation process can be exacting, and deviation from the process can result in compromising structural integrity, as well as leaning walls.