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:
Photo Credit iStockPhoto File # 4166193
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.
By the way Dan uses wood for studs- no metal.
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..
When using the screws you could use a tread locker that would not allow the screws to back out. There is two types of thread locker one that can be released with high torque or a second that is much more permanent and resquires high heat to remove.
Thread lock compound will NOT work with thin metal studs.
there is not enough threads in contact with the stud.
If you want to use metal stud- tack in a 1/2 inch wood furring strip inside of the metal for the screws to grab onto.
Use rivets with a river gun if ur worried about screws coming loose
The metal studs sold at the typical home improvement center are indeed meant for non-loadbearing interior partitions only.
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 .
Right on, Les, thank you!
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,
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.
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.
I agree Tim. With a good design and a good plan you can address these issues at the time of construction. If you are constantly on the go and pulling your tiny home and subjecting it to a lot of vibration certainly you need to fortify your design. Many tiny home owners prefer to settle in one spot to a point where the home becomes semi-permanent. Just remember to plan your tiny home out structurally.
afaik welding galvanized metals (which steel studs will largely be) produces some very toxic gas so research appropriately before welding.
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.
Great advice, Mark, thank you
Two posts in a row about welding and the fumes. The welding of metal framed structures is quite common and VERY advantageous. YES, the welding of the studs does produce some VERY HARMFUL gases (For a better word). However, In order for these fumes to KILL you, You must be in a confined space with zero ventilation. And you’d literally have to breathe them for hours and hours even weeks to cause DEATH. As a professional Welder I have welded many galvanized structures. With NO ill effects. Proper safety equipment and ventilation will keep the “DEADLY” fumes at bay. If the self welding scares you. Hire a competent CERTIFIED Welder to do your work for you. $75.00 @ Hour should give you peace of mind that you are “SAFE” from the deadly fumes. And of course, the job will be quicker and PROFESSIONALLY accomplished.
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.
Interesting. Thanks, Jim!
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.
Thanks for the insights Steve!
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:
I AM SERIOUS CAN I HAVE THIS SMALL HOUSE BUILT WITH THESE STEEL WORK STUDS?
MY EMAIL IS [email protected]
Again please respond. I am ready to build…..eigther a permanent or mobile Tiny House.
281 917 1754
Hey Tommy, check this site out. It’s for trailer plans if you’re going to go mobile. I’d get the scoop on that before you order the metal because I’m not all the way sure.
So I found some trailer plans. There’s more to check out, too, if you search “utility trailer plans” and “utility trailer axle kits”.
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.
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.
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.
Looks great so far Greg! Nice modern look to it. Looking forward to keeping up with your progress. Thanks again for stopping by.
Please direct me to Greg’s blog. I would like to see his pics of his use of metal studs, etc. Thanks.
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.
Greg. You are right on spot!
I am a commercial construction contractor and over the yrs I have built almost anything you can imagine with metal studs. When i stumbled on here i was researching the weight of various types of metal studs. For weight calculations to build out and enclose a boat slip. Due to the weight requirements to follow the criteria and specs ofthe corp of engineers. If the requirements are exceeded, extra flotation material is needed and it’s extremely costly.
Back to the subject. If the correct flathead screws are used and not stripped when installing you should not have any problems. I helped a friend build a small teardrop off-road camper 2 yrs ago and it has been put through the wringer. The only thing we did different was double screw each stud at each adjoining point. Once the Sheathing was cut to fit glued and secured for the interior, we wired for outlets, lights, both inside and out added pex water lines, used spray foam insulation and installed the outter Sheathing which he covered with metal. He pulls it with his jeep to places that I wouldn’t attempt. He has damaged the outter skin and patched a few places but it’s still solid as a rock. Doesn’t squeak twist or wiggle in the least. I’m talking OFF ROAD USE! Conditions no one even consider for a tiny home. We used 20 gauge 2.5 inch wide studs. Double screwed each side near the edges of the stud with studs cut tightly to adjoining members. For a tiny home I’d use 3 5/8 or 2.5 inch 20 gauge studs for exterior and 25 gauge 2.5 inch studs interior walls and line the holes in the studs evenly for wiring and electrical boxes fit great and you’ll be fine. Glue and secure your Sheathing with screws or add a small strip of wood to each stud to accommodate nails if want to nail and glue your exterior siding on. An 8 ft wood stud weighs from 13 – 20 lbs kiln dryed opposed to treated. A 3 5/8 – 25 gauge 8 ft metal stud weighs approximately 3.2 lbs. 20 gauge slightly higher but still less than half the weight. Go Greg!
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.
Right On Spot James!
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.
Glad we could help Bob! Thanks! Keep us in the loop on your vacation cabin 🙂
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 !
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).
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.
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.
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.
Im no metal stud expert, as most of my experience is with wood. However, i have worked extensively in florida on pulte projects and i can tell you they they and their subcontractors have a “different” approach to construction. They do the crappiest most slipshod work with non-skilled labor whenever possible. The theory being its cheaper to come back and fix the stuff they get caught on than it is to do it all the right way from the start.
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….
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.
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.
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.
Thanks Jim I appreciate the insights!
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.
Uh, ya, thanks guys, looks like I opened a small can of worms this time. eh?
http://www.singtinyhouse.com/ know anything about this choice of tiny home building?
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.
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
Just finishing our Tiny House with steel framing. I agree with most of the comments here. Steel is lighter and much stronger than wood. When comparing wood to steel, you really need to be looking at Pressure Treated to even come close. Still, PT wood is not fire proof and mold proof. Steel is termite/fire/rot proof. Comes in a variety of strengths (gauge). You can have amazing floor and ceiling spans without increasing the dimension of the joist. My wife and I did all of the construction ourselves. She could easily handle the 2×6 18′ steel studs for the roofing. No way she could have handled these in wood, much less Pressure Treated. Pressure Treated wood also needs to dry completely to reduce shrinkage. That means buying it 30-45 days before you use it depending on the weather. Walls are true and straight when constructed and stay that way. You can also leave it exposed to weather for a much longer period than wood. Took us about 9 months to get ours dried in. Try leaving wood out in the rain for 9 months as you’re building. Steel is also constant in pricing. Same price per foot no matter if you’re using 8′ or 28′. Our supplier also doesn’t charge for custom cut lengths and will provide punch holes for conduit/wiring runs wherever we need them.
Our blog re our build is here. Let me know what you think!
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!
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?
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
I am afraid I would disagree with most here.
I will state why. yes the area needed to support the loft if there is one will need to be heaver gauge structural stud. simply screw them as they should be and then run a bead of construction adhesive where the stud meets the track. Glue and screw 1/2″ plywood on the exterior or 1×4 on 12″ centers if using a 5/8″ sheeting for the exterior. BX cable for the electrical. You gain 1/8″ of insulation since most metal studs are 3 5/8″ x 1 1/2.
A line of lateral bracing can also be run, but would not be needed. Glue and screw the interior Wallboard or the T&G using trim screws ( heads no bigger than an 8 penny finish nail) For those that are really anal retentive you can always stick a tack weld on all the studs. fill the stud centers with wood 2×4 at openings to allow really easy installation of doors and windows.
I have had an office trailer made this way and it has survived more than 10 years and many moves.
I considered using the steel studs to build mine but after some research I found out that an 18 gauge steel weighs (depending on the source) 1.16-1.236 pounds per foot. A wood 2×4 weighs 1.2-1.28 pounds per foot. There is almost no weight difference when looking at structural steel studs vs wood. I believe the 20 gauge were .89 Lbs which might be strong enough. And according to the engineering charts I found they should be able to support the weight of anything that would be called a tiny house. But those charts are not for something that will be in motion. So is the .4 Lbs per foot worth the risk, is the question.
I work with metal studs on a daily basis.
A. Structural studs – 30 mil and heavier – are not going to save much weight vs SPF or White Wood studs.
B. Drywall studs – 33 mil and lighter – are indeed lighter than wood. That said, they are pretty useless for load bearing situations – even the roofs of tiny house weigh something.
C. If you do use them, you will need to use minimum of 1 1/2″ metal strapping attached diagonally on each face of the studs, if you want to keep your wall from racking (same goes for wood studs, unless you are using plywood sheathing on the walls).
D. You need to use 5/8″ drywall on metal studs – not 1/2″ or 3/8″
E. Use self-tapping panhead screws for putting the studs and track together – then use a small dab of any decent construction adhesive on the inside of the track to keep the screw from vibrating loose.
F. If you use them in a load bearing wall, remember that joists &/or rafters MUST line up directly over the stud. The same applies to wood studs if you use only a single top plate.
G. Because steel studs transfer heat/cold much more efficiently than wood, any insulation between the studs will be much less efficient that when used with wood framing. Exact numbers vary with thickness, and type of insulation, but an insulated wall built with steel studs will be only about half as efficient as a wood framed wall. Please note that that does not include any exterior wall sheathing, the reduction is only for the insulation within the stud wall itself.
Good comment. that was basically what I found.
I am currently building my tiny house. I am using wood studs. I considered using metal straps diagonally across the faces of the walls as I am not using plywood sheathing . But since I am using metal siding (pole building/steel roofing metal) I felt like it would be redundant. Do you think otherwise?
I have not read the full thread but am commenting on your comment. If your tiny house is going to be on a trailer and moved I would brace the corners with 2 x 6’s groved into the studs diagonally. Also if metal is going to be your sheating I would GLUE and screw as the screws will pop over time. I have this sheathing on my houses. I would do the above even if the house is stationary. I am currently building a container home and have learned from others over the years that if you use batt insulation you will have moisture accumulation in your walls. The way I have been advised and what I am going to do after carefuil consideration is use spray insulation. My estimates from contractors have been triple of batt insulation. I am going to research and rent the machines to do it myself as I have watched it being applied and I can do this so that will drop the price by about half. This method should cure any moisture issues. Anyway, my two cents…Good Luck!
I believe that with the current situation (Global warming) we should use construction methods that are eco-friendly, that benefit us at the end of the day…So thank you for your informative blog and ideas.
Thank you for all your comments. I’m in the beginning framing stages of my tiny home and a novice at structural building. If steel is stronger than wood (presuming the gauge you use) would you still need to use the conventional spacing between studs as used in advanced framing (2×6 frame at 24-inch centers), thus cutting on the amount of steel used and reducing weight. I love my truck and don’t want to get rid of it so trying to decrease weight is of highest priority.
I should also add structural integrity and safety is also of highest priority.
You might want to look at Titan Tiny Homes. They use steel frames exclusively and have a great outer wall for them also which is steel. You have to touch it to see it is not wood. I am planning on using them for my framing which they use framecad which is a great machine for making all the studs as needed. I am planning on a 8X30 trailer with 511 sq ft. I am planning on solar pwr, wind pwr and a water generator to make it totally off grid. appliances are fridge, washer/dryer combo, dishwasher, stove, compost toilet, farmhouse 60/40 sink, round bathroom sink shower stall. Bathroom will be either 5 or 6×8, greatroom 10 or 12×16, kitchen 8×12, bedroom 8×16, deck of 8×12 and a porch of 4×8. That is roughing it in.
I build with metal studs daily and FYI 90 percent of the time they are load bearing. There are also several ways to connect the studs together for shear. Way stronger then wood
Thanks for your perspective Dustin!
thanks Dustin. Yes steel studs are 3x stronger than wood and if they are similar in size then they are load bearing as they should be. With faux wood steel siding on the outside and mips on the inside the stability is super strong. With R values from R42 for the walls and R50 for floors and ceilings. You can use flex conduit or use rubber grommets where the wiring passes the stud. cleaning of any chips or flash is always a good idea to check when running the wiring. those same grommets can be used when piping is also run thru the studs. Not a good idea to have propane, liquids or extra electrons running freely around the house. We like them under control for a much more serene environment. Thanks for your comments they are very good.
Since the publication this article, steel framed tiny houses are becoming much more popular, and the type of steel framing utilized is a bit different than the run-of-the-mill Home Depot variety. Check out Volstrukt, as they have an entire section dedicated to Tiny Houses, and even offer packages utilizing popular designs. http://www.volstrukt.com
There is a lot of good and bad info thrown on in this thread. Of course the steel vs. wood conversation comes up a lot in the growing and expanding tiny house industry. 25 G Zinc coated metal studs from any Hardware store should never be used in a tiny. Neither should wood. When is the last time Toyota made a car out of wood? Maybe never.
Tiny Houses are mobile units, it makes no sense to apply static structure building practices of wood and nails to a structure with a completely different purpose. Good news is that there is a newer innovation and solution for addressing the rigors of the road. I came across this system when working production for a tiny house framing company in Austin Tx.
It’s cool stuff and provides the best of both worlds. Both lighter and stronger.
It seems as though the previous poster may have been a customer. Here are some links to the actual CFS machine used to produce those frames.
I have been considering metal studs for a THOW. My thought was instead of using conventional screws to fasten studs to the top and bottom rail, why not drill and use a 3/4″ machine screw with a lock nut?
If you use metal studs you need to, double screw then spot/tack weld the head to the stud after. Nothing ealse will stop slippage over the terrain. I use metal studs to build overland trailers. that extra hour or two of following behind and tacking the screws are 100% guaranteed of sucess.
Hello, I have a friend who works around the country building wind turbines. He moves about every 3 months or so and can be in different climates. He is tired of living out of a hotel and is thinking about a tiny house. However, he works with someone who has gone to a tiny house and has been using it for 3 years. He says it is not holding up very well with all the moving and weather. Do you have any recommendations? What about a shipping container instead of traditional or metal framing? Any ideas would be appreciated! Thank you.
I have a converted bus. Maybe this point I shall describe is something to consider. The frame is hardened steel. The interior is lined with 5mm ply ie walls and ceiling.
Walls and ceiling are insulated between the ribs. On the walls, additionally, I ran an additiinal layer of foam( the 3mm high density type that goes under floating floors). On the ceiling, I installed the ply lining without an extra barrier, but I should have because the ribs (eqivalent to metal tiny house studs) get cold being metal and they condense which is then transferred to my ply lining. It does not occur on the walls as far as I can see…so bottom line, line the inside between interior cladding and the frame if you do go with metal.
It might seem like a no brainer, but it is a minefield online looking at all the theories on how to basically build around/ in a metal shell and this concept is not stressed as a thing to do. From my experience, I reckon you should.
Thank you for sharing your experience!
This article shouldn’t be focused about why you don’t use metal studs, but the questions you have about metal studs. All of the concerns are easily overcome.
Steel walls are used in structural applications all the time. A quick call to a supplier will tell you what gauge you need for your application.
Horizontal stabilizers give steel walls strength, not the drywall; this is a point most amateurs assume and get wrong.
Electrical is exactly the same except you use grommets through the studs. It actually goes quicker since the holes are already there.
One call to an insulation supplier will get you insulation bats meant for steel construction. They are 24″ or 16″ wide and not the typical 22.5″ and 14.5″. You will want to put an exterior foam board with purlins to mount siding to. This prevents thermal bridging of the steel.
It’s not harder, its different. And it IS much lighter.
Well, easier is relative… A mobile structure has some design constraints you wouldn’t have to deal with on a foundation build and space usage is consequently more of a premium. So you can’t just make the walls as thick as you may need and can require more premium products to get the desired results within the allowable size constraints but it may not be as effective.
While there is usually a weight advantage but it should be cautioned that is not always the case, as the framing is only one factor in the total weight, accounting for usually only around 20% of the material used in the build and the rest can more than counter the otherwise weight advantage.
Those building for extreme strength, such as to handle hurricanes or even a tornado and make the framing equivalent to a roll cage, may also opt for tube steel instead of the regular C-channel studs, which of course would add a lot of weight, as another example that would be an exception…
There’s also other factors like DIY, it’s harder to do metal framing outdoors as it’s not really rigid until everything is tied together and can be a issue in windy areas. Wood actually has the advantage when dealing long term with vibrations, flexing, etc. While LVL, etc. options allows wood to be straight too…
Differences can also mean some may find certain options more difficult than others for just how they prefer to work and how it works with their specific skill set and available tools. So people can have a different opinion on those differences…
Steel framing can be otherwise easier than wood framing, especially under factory conditions or otherwise in an enclosed space. Proper tools and procedures allows them to go in very quickly, but you are more likely to need to replace a metal stud if you run into problems and may still need to put in some wood for making it easier to mount things to the walls and not have to worry about using special metal fasteners, especially, if working through other material layers… Though, c-channel can make it easy to include some wood in the framing without it taking additional space.
While, there’s also options like SIPs that arguably have a greater weight and ease of construction advantage, and there are metal structural panel versions too that as they integrate the insulation between the sheets of metal avoids any thermal bridging or weak points in insulation with 100% coverage. While SIP structures have been tested to handle up to over 200+MPH winds and over 9.0 earthquakes, and can be built up to 4 stories before needing additional structural support… So clearly strong enough but without the issues of either metal or wood structures. Though, there is a learning curve and has its own difficulty with making changes and would be harder to remodel, etc.
There’s always trade offs and there are pros and cons to any option but good to point that out for people to better be able to choose what works best for them…
So, if you use metal studs with a metal skin for the outside siding and then use closed cell spray foam for insulation you would basically create a seamless exterior. The spray foam would act as a glue to hold everything together and once cured is about as hard as concrete but much lighter. The spray foam would reduce thermal bridging and air infiltration often seen with wood framed homes using bat insulation and would not allow condensation but actually become a vapor barrier for the exterior walls. Spray foam does not deteriorate over time and is lighter than bat insulation too. I also agree with JMS, electrical is much easier in metal studs and with easily attainable grommets from amazon no worries of the metal studs damaging the wire. I’m using metal studs on a container house build I am doing right now. I also plan on building a tiny house on a trailer at a later date that will use the design above.