I got an email this morning from one of our readers, Kevin, of CozyHomePlans.com.

Lots of folks think about using metal studs for the construction of tiny houses because of the weight advantages.

Although it’s becoming well-known that the screws can come loose when you tow your tiny house due to the vibration.

So there are some disadvantages to consider, as we’ve learned, and Kevin does a good job of summing it up for us.

Here it is for those of you who are interested in this issue.

Thanks Kevin! I’m passing it over to him:

using metal studs for tiny house construction versus wood   Drawbacks of Using Metal Studs versus Wood for Tiny House Construction

Photo Credit iStockPhoto File # 4166193blank   Drawbacks of Using Metal Studs versus Wood for Tiny House Construction

Hey Alex,

Was catching up on THT this morning and saw the discussion on metal studs. Here is my comment but I was not sure if this was the right location for it.  Is Dan is using metal or not?  Just wanted to get your opinion first.

I am certainly not an expert with using metal studs. In my limited experience they would definitely not be my first choice, especially for the beginner builder of a tiny house. The metal structure is actually kind of flimsy, the sheathing “typically drywall” becomes an integral part of its stabilization during the whole building process. Unless you plan on using large pieces of wood for the interior/exterior siding, there will be no stabilizing core to hold the metal studs together. I have only used and seen metal studs in non load bearing applications, so look into using heavier gauge material for the overall frame. Fine thread screws will hold any material to a metal stud, but extra pressure needs to be applied because these are not self-tapping screws. Then you will have aesthetic issue of screw heads to deal with both inside and out.  Another question would be in the insulating of the home.  Due to the shape of the metal studs having a hollow center, additional consideration needs to be taken in the framing and filling of this cavity. All electrical should be run in flex conduit or at the minimum be shielded from the metal when running through and along the walls. This is a much more expensive and difficult way to run electricity, even in a tiny house. Do your homework because the expense and liability could easily outweigh the weight of wood.

Thanks, Kevin

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   Drawbacks of Using Metal Studs versus Wood for Tiny House Construction

Alex

Alex has been living in small spaces for more than 7 years, he's the founding editor of TinyHouseTalk.com and the always free Tiny House Newsletter, and has passion for exploring and sharing tiny homes (from yurts and RVs to cabins and cottages) and inspiring simple living stories. Send in your story and tiny home photos so we can share and inspire others towards simplicity too. Thank you!

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{ 46 comments }

  • Alex February 1, 2012, 9:01 am

    By the way Dan uses wood for studs- no metal.

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    • Patrick August 19, 2012, 6:25 pm

      I have been considering using metal studs to build a slide-in camper. I used them building both exterior and interior walls of a hospital in the 80’s. I have not worked with them since. Here is my question. If one uses heavy gauge exterior studs and then laminates/glues and screw the studs on the outside and inside with plywood or some kind of like sheeting, why would screws come looses? It seems to me that this would become a sandwiched, very strong unit. Is there actual testing that proves the “screw looses” comments or is this theory. Thanks for the consideration of my questions..

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  • frank February 1, 2012, 1:20 pm

    The metal studs sold at the typical home improvement center are indeed meant for non-loadbearing interior partitions only.

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  • Les February 1, 2012, 2:30 pm

    There are heavier ” light metal framing ” available from most Lumber Yards which would be fine for a stationary Tiny House. Metal Studs screwed together are not good on a trailer .

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    • Alex February 6, 2012, 4:35 pm

      Right on, Les, thank you!

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  • Victor February 2, 2012, 12:19 am

    The tortoise shell homes use metal studs. And they seam to be well made, maybe using metal studs are not the best for do it your self tho. I do like the ideal of being less weight,

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    • Alex February 6, 2012, 4:35 pm

      Good point Victor. I’ve thought about them, too, and remember they use them. I am sure they find some way of preventing the issues associated. It’d be interesting to know how.

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  • Tim February 2, 2012, 7:29 am

    Certainly light gauge metal studs sold in most of the big box stores would be a poor choice for structual walls. However 16 or 18 gauge metal studs from a commercial construction supply house are an excellent choice if planned for and fastened correctly. They can not only be connected with fastners but can also be welded. The most important part of any build is having a good plan. With a good plan you can introduce most any material to a build.

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  • Mark February 4, 2012, 12:59 pm

    Simple solution for using heavy “load bearing” type metal studs–use bolts instead of sheet metal screws. A little more expense, and labor due to pre-drilling each hole, but you get a stronger structure. I would avdvise against trying to spot weld them as the galvanized coating will vaporize and give off toxic, sometimes fatal gasses. And, it creates an immediate site for rust formation.

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    • Alex February 6, 2012, 4:36 pm

      Great advice, Mark, thank you

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  • jim sadler February 4, 2012, 9:48 pm

    I like angle iron as one can also build rafters and weld all together as a unit. That way if a wind storm hits real security is at hand. It can also frame a door such that it is very difficult to violate the door by a thief.

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    • Alex February 6, 2012, 4:37 pm

      Interesting. Thanks, Jim!

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  • SteveR February 4, 2012, 11:59 pm

    Steel, of course is also a non-renewable resource, now usually produced overseas and uses a lot of energy in its production. Steel conducts heat and cold far better than wood so you would have a harder time keeper your home cool or heated. And wifi signals have a harder time penetrating steel cages.

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    • Alex February 6, 2012, 4:37 pm

      Thanks for the insights Steve!

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  • Tommy Schmitt February 5, 2012, 1:34 am

    Will you metal trailer frame steel work for the mini house. Your Steel Works studs are information from your tear drop trailer ad from your following web site:
    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000BD5IBM/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=tinhouliv-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B000BD5IBM

    I AM SERIOUS CAN I HAVE THIS SMALL HOUSE BUILT WITH THESE STEEL WORK STUDS?
    MY EMAIL IS t.l.schmitt@att.net
    Again please respond. I am ready to build…..eigther a permanent or mobile Tiny House.
    Regards,
    Tommy Schmitt
    281 917 1754

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  • jim sadler February 9, 2012, 9:59 pm

    The metal studs used in housing are not right for a tiny home. Simple angle iron can work just fine. Weld the shape of the home such that the floor, the walls and the roof all connect to the shape you desire. Apply wood strips to the flat edge of the angle iron to make it easy to attach ceiling or interior and exterior wall panels. Inch and a quarter by inch and a quarter angle iron should be about right. The thickness is up to you or whatever code you are trying to meet. Running half inch conduit for interior wiring requires drilling holes for passing the conduit along. For those used to working with metal this is an easy way to go. Three quarter inch foam insulation all around should be enough in a small dwelling. Easy to heat and cool are important. In camping like areas the ability of a roof to take a hard hit from tree debris or a falling coconut is vital. These days materials cost too much and you want the build to last longer than you will ever need it.

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  • Greg August 13, 2012, 5:19 pm

    I’m using metal studs for my tiny house and so far, I couldn’t be happier. Just wanted to point out a couple things. The screws will likely be under, and against exterior siding, or interior paneling therefore impossible to unscrew or come loose. Additionally, I used construction glue wherever possible, just in case of vibration. My studs are no more than 16″ apart and in many cases, 12″. I’ll also be using in closed cell spray foam insulation, which once hardened will offer additional support and protection against vibration. I only have the exterior finished but already this thing is very strong and doesn’t budge, even when pushed against. In my experience, metal studs offer many advantages when building a tiny house. They’re resistant to mold and mildew and wont break down over time, they’re also fire resistant and recyclable, and, if you make a mistake, just unscrew it and start over. I’ll admit that it took some practice, but once I got the system dialed-in, it was a piece of cake.

    In my humble opinion, metal studs are ideal for building tiny houses and offer many advantages over wood, weight savings being just one.

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    • Alex August 13, 2012, 7:40 pm

      Hi Greg thanks so much for clearing that up. Lots of folks are curious about the screws coming loose due to vibration and I think you did a great job of clearing that up for all of us. Thanks again and wish you best of luck with your build. Looking forward to seeing it sometime, too! Heading over to your blog now.

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    • Alex August 13, 2012, 7:44 pm

      Looks great so far Greg! Nice modern look to it. Looking forward to keeping up with your progress. Thanks again for stopping by.

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    • Mike November 13, 2012, 11:53 am

      Nice tiny house Greg. I noticed you are using reused metal studs. Are those non-load bearing studs? I think the usual ones you get at Lowes are 25 gauge which are not load bearing. I also see that you doubled up the studs in the floor. Was that to reinforce it to the same strength as load bearing metal studs? Any further details are much appreciated.

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  • james March 14, 2013, 7:44 pm

    I like your site. I would like to chime in on the subject on metal stud use. I have worked exlusivly in commercial construction as a carpenter and a superintendent and disagree with some of the comments. Metal framing is great, almost all commercail buildings are framed with them including the structural exterior skin. USG has charts that can be referanced for sizing and spans. Metal studs can be ordered in more variety of lengths and guages and can be cut with snipps or a metal chop saw of mitre saw with a metal cutting blade from a box store. They usually have to be purchassed through a commercial drywall and framing supplier. Structural guage screws are used and it can also be welded and welds touched up with galvanized paint. If it is inside the wall it should not get wet anyway. It is lighter and actually streight (something you won’t find in wood studs)and comes in many sizes like 2 1/2” studs. Once you are done with the studs they can be recycled into new metal parts.

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  • Bob DiNovo March 29, 2013, 3:58 pm

    To every one! Thank you so much for your info and topic of steel stud use on tiny homes on wheels. You have answered a lot of my questions. My mind is made up I’m going to build my own tiny house. it will be used as a vacation cabin for the time being.

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    • Alex March 30, 2013, 8:38 am

      Glad we could help Bob! Thanks! Keep us in the loop on your vacation cabin :)

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      • george rieder June 2, 2013, 2:11 pm

        Hi All – I have a new home in Florida ( about 6 yrs old now) that was built by Centex, now Pulte (Del Webb community). First metal stud home we ever had. Every day we get loud snaps or ‘pops’ form the 3 or 4 interior walls that are all steel stud (I believe non-load bearing). The sounds are often very loud and alarming ! Sounds like a small caliber gun being shot inside the wall ! I have recorded the sounds for Pulte Warranty management and the Rep came and heard it (recording) and seemed very surprised. Pulte is supposedly looking into it, but nothing back yet. (note: there is no evidence of settling or shifting or cracks, etc, so we think that can be ruled out).
        Can the metal studs possibly be loose from the sheetrock, and expansion and contraction be causing the intermittent pops ?! Any other thoughts ?? Would forced insulation into those walls (from the attic) possibly help absorb the temp changes and expansion and loud pops ?
        Appreciate ANY help ! Thx !

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        • george June 4, 2013, 11:48 am

          Hmmm .. no replies from anyone (disappointing).
          You mean to tell me that NO ONE has any thoughts at all on what could be causing loud ‘pop’ sounds, several (variable) times per day, from certain walls ??! (seems to be the ones with metal studs).

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          • SteveR June 4, 2013, 4:29 pm

            I have no direct experience with metal studded walls ( I would never build one for many reasons), but my guess would be expansion/contraction. Metal roofs do that and that I do have experience with those.
            Since you’re in FL, there would normally be a large temp differential between outside and inside and there may be a insulation issue somewhere causing a lot of movement. You should note inside and outside temps when the noises happen. You might find a correlation.

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          • George June 4, 2013, 9:31 pm

            SteveR,
            Thx for your reply. I appreciate your thinking on that subject. That info makes sense and might possibly help. I’ll look into that further plus try to convey more of that concept to my Pulte rep too.

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        • Patrick August 6, 2014, 8:11 pm

          I will chime in here. I am a insurance adjuster and depending where you live ( especially Florida) you may want get some void testing under the slab of your house. It could possibly be sink hole and the cracking you are hearing is the slab. I have been in homes and have heard the sounds you speak of. Don’t know if that is it but could be.

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  • Barb July 26, 2013, 4:33 pm

    Glad to see this discussion…Am considering building a tiny house type camper and weight is a “BIG” deal…one word came to mind…”Airstream.” They’ve been building top notch all metal RV/Trailers for years. Of course I will have to have some instruction before beginning the project, but I have high hopes….

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    • Patrick July 29, 2013, 11:49 am

      After much research I ababdoned the idea of my own as if I built one in the manner that I would want it would be alot more time and money than good trailers of Class C s can be found on the market. I found and purchased an Avion for less than what I would have invested both in time and money. I found many retirees/widows etc that just could’nt do it anymore and were willing to sell at very reasonable prices. I hope my research into this matter and response to your post helps.

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  • David Ridge October 29, 2013, 3:09 pm

    I had some home buying and building courses on the college level; during a fire the metals will melt, whereas with woods you do not have to replace them if there is 3/4 of a stud left.

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    • Jim Peterson October 29, 2013, 3:51 pm

      ==========
      I’m a carpenter by trade so I have my biases BUT any wall assembly using tin can studs will have the R-value of that wall compromised by 50%. Tin can studs are a major energy nosebleed — moving interior warmth or coolth to the exterior quickly. We had some residential rooms on outside corners (steel studs; massive masonry on the outside) of a large residential facility and on cold days, those rooms never hit setpoint. The heaters were on 100% for hours on end. The rooms never did warm up. A 50% compromise of your R-value is significant. For that reason alone, I would NEVER frame up a tiny house with steel. You already have high ratios of exterior surface to floor space to contend with. To the extent your home is long and skinny works against you as well. Those two issues alone are bad enough. Using steel studs only makes the shell twice as hard to heat or cool.
      ==========

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      • Alex Pino October 29, 2013, 10:01 pm

        Thanks Jim I appreciate the insights!

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    • Patrick October 29, 2013, 7:30 pm

      As an insurance adjuster, I have to say that if you have studs in a wall 1/4 burnt I am replacing your wall . Assuming of course you would insure your home.

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      • David Ridge October 30, 2013, 12:46 am

        Uh, ya, thanks guys, looks like I opened a small can of worms this time. eh?

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  • robin February 18, 2014, 11:22 pm

    http://www.singtinyhouse.com/ know anything about this choice of tiny home building?

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  • John Voorhees March 17, 2014, 6:36 pm

    Question on the Steel Studs. Instead of screws to lock the studs together, how would rivets work to lock then together? I understand screws for attaching to everything else, but metal to metal.

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  • Jay Merrett June 12, 2014, 1:37 pm

    Lots of good information. Thanks for the discussion!

    In having recently built a tiny house (stationary), we found many advantages to using steel studs, not the least of which was the weight to strength ration. The steel studs can be ordered to any length as they are cut and formed from a large roll of flat steel. this means you can order your studs and rafters at any length that you like. The cost is by the square foot and doesn’t increase with the length. You can order from a variety of thicknesses also ranging from 12 gauge to 18 gauge. These would be considered structural thickness and would suffice for load bearing walls. They are typically sold through Drywall suppliers, not your local hardware store. They also carry the appropriate screws and tools for working with steel. We did discover a solution for a much faster attachment method for HardiBoard and OSB/Plywood. Several vendors make pneumatic nail guns that shoot steel pins for attaching a variety of materials to steel. These are hardened nails that have rifling cut into the pin. they are also very sharp to accommodate shooting into steel. The pins (they get offended if you call them nails :) are sold on coils much like siding nails. They come in a variety of lengths and are available with a protective coating for materials like HardiBoard. We found the screws better suited for putting the structure together. You could screw through multiple layers of steel if needed. You just adjusted the length of your screw. The pneumatic pins worked great though when attaching siding to the steel or when attaching steel strapping as a structural brace. Because of the rifling, they hold as securely as the screws but are HELL to get out if you have to redo them. We did have to dial up our air compressor to 120+ to pin steel to steel. They make pneumatic compressors and guns that will handle up to 400 psi but we didn’t want to invest in all new equipment. All in all though, they made putting up the siding/decking much quicker and easier. We found it easiest to use clamps to hold the sheets of siding in place and make sure it was set correctly before we used the nail gun. As far as flexibility, steel has a huge advantage in structural building. You can have much farther spans with steel than wood by upping the gauge or by screwing /welding 2 or more pieces together to form a beam. The more I use it, the more I like it!

    Steel Pin and Air Gun manufacturer
    http://www.aerosmithfastening.com

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  • Ruth Vallejos August 4, 2014, 2:51 pm

    An additional consideration might be expansion and contraction. Metal, if not protected from the sun, does expand, and the finishes need to allow for that expansion. I would be tempted, if using metal studs, to sheath and insulate the building outside of the stud, as well as between the studs. Yes, it eats up precious inches. But – I’ve heard metal buildings expand (“tick! tick! tick!”) and in addition to annoyance, there is a lack of security that comes from that sound. But that’s me!

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  • coffeewitholiver August 4, 2014, 3:09 pm

    Interesting discussion going on in the comments. It’s great to see the back and forth idea tossing. :)
    It sounds like for some people with the right skill set, a metal framed house is a good way to go. Lightweight, sturdy if built correctly, and apparently not overly expensive, you have more design options since metal is strong and can span longer distances and be shaped in ways wood can’t, can’t rot (I like that one).
    The downside? Not forgiving for new builders, very hard to insulate adequately, more work to run electric and water properly, blocks wifi (that would be a big one for me!).
    So it just depends. One doesn’t sound better than the other, they just have different strengths and weaknesses. Did I miss anything?
    Parker

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  • Paul August 5, 2014, 8:25 pm

    I’ve been thinking out of the square. I’m really considering using metal paperclips and superglue for my framing. Should be super lightweight and easy to apply foam insulation and other stuff. Whatcha think?

    /running, grinning, and ducking for cover… : p

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