How Good is Light Gauge Steel Construction?

Light gauge steel construction is very comparable with the wood framed construction in principle - the wooden framing members are replacing with thin steel sections.

The steel sections used here are known as cold formed sections, meaning that the sections are formed, or given shape at room temperature. This is in difference to thicker hot rolled sections that are shaped while the steel is molten hot.

Cold formed steel is shaped by guiding thin sheets of steel through a series of rollers, each roller changing the shape very slightly, with the total result of changing a flat sheet of steel into a C or S-shaped section.

The steel used here is coated with zinc (called galvanized) or a combination of zinc and aluminum (called zincalume or galvalume by some) to defend it from corrosion. The width of this coating can be diverse to suit a range of environments. Typically, marine environments need the most protection and dry, dry regions the least.

The width of steel used here range from about 1 to 3mm for structural sections, and 1 to 2mm for non-structural sections. The members are sized to roughly correspond to wood members: 2"x4" and 2"x6" are common sizes.

Like in wooden framed construction, a frame of steel members is initially constructed, and then dressed with dry sheeting on both the sides to shape a load bearing wall. Construction with steel follows the platform frame system of house building. Connections between members are made with self tapping self drilling screws.

Contractors will typically order pre-punched sections - sections with factory-made holes in them - so that wires and plumbing can be with no trouble passed through the walls. The gap between members is filled with insulation.

This form of construction can also be used for non-structural framing, such as interior partitions or external dressing. In fact, this form of construction was initially developed for interior partitions in offices.

ADVANTAGES OF LIGHT GAUGE STEEL CONSTRUCTION: Light gauge steel structures have many of the benefits of light wood framed structures -

  • They are light, and permit rapid building without heavy tools or equipment. Every component can with no trouble be carried by hand - a house is like a carpentry job on a larger scale. The main tool is a light, handheld screw gun. Since steel is strong, LGS structures are lighter than wood framed structures of equal strength.
  • Their higher strength permits greater spacing between members when compared to wood frame construction: about 24" (600mm) for LGS vs. about 16" or 20" (400 or 500mm) for wood. Fewer members translate to earlier construction times.
  • It is able to shape itself to any form, and can be dress and insulated with a wide range of materials.
  • It is trouble-free to change or modify this construction at any point in its lifespan.
  • There are a great range of systems and products catering to this type of construction.

Additionally: Light gauge steel structures will generally not catch fire, which is a code requirement for some types of structures. Since steel loses its strength in fire quite easily, it must be protected from fire with fire rated sheeting.

Light gauge steel structures do not rot, shrink, warp, or decompose like wood structures, and can be used in areas where there is a probability of termite attack.

Disadvantages: Light framed structures permit the passageway of sound more readily than the more solid masonry construction. Light gauge steel will lose strength in the advent of fire. Adequate fire protection must be used. The easiest form of fire protection is to clad the steel with fire rated sheeting or drywall. See those youtube videos to get more knowledge.


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