Benefits of Using Steel Vs Wood When Building a House!
Monalisa Patel is a Structural Engineer who has earned her Master’s degree (ME) from the L.J College of Engineering and Technology Ahmadabad in 2018. She is an Engineer (Civil) at SDCPL – Gharpedia. Helping people to solve their queries about construction is her passion. Apart from being blogger, she also participates in structural design at SDCPL. She is reachable on LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram & Facebook.
It is evident that in old times homes were built with clay, stone and timber. Gradually then came a time when houses were built of bricks and concrete. In olden day when steel was not even discovered, wood was a popular building material. Later, the industrial revolution that took place all around the globe explored technological innovations, methods, and products. With the discovery of materials like cement and steel, a revolution simultaneously took place in the field of architecture. As a resultant, the modern buildings we see around today are made of concrete, wood and steel.
Building a structure necessitates us to use the right materials. The two most common materials used in building a structure are steel and wood.
Steel is resilient and sturdy. Thus, you can rely on its long-life performance for any building project. On the other hand, wood facilitates in building any structure faster as compared to bricks or concrete. So, the question that arises is – should one use steel or wood for building a structure?
In this article, you will learn the benefits of using steel over wood while constructing a house.
Benefits of Using Steel in Building
01. Steel is Eco-Friendly
Many people would think that wood is more eco-friendly than steel as it is a natural material sourced from the trees. However, with the rise in population, there is dearth of trees and these days they are not easily available as it used to be in the past. Climatic change is one of the obvious disastrous result of cutting trees for construction and other building projects.
Steel on the other hand, is a more eco-friendly material because it can be reused and recycled over and over again. Also, steel structures are significantly lighter as compared to concrete. Moreover, they require less extensive foundations which reduce the building’s environmental impact. One more advantage is – Being lighter in weight, the transportation of steel becomes easier and convenient. The fuel consumption is thus less as compared to concrete and wood, which ultimately reduces the carbon footprint.
Steel is amongst the most recyclable building materials in the world as compared to wood and concrete. Use of recycled steel saves the natural resources as well as the energy, which ultimately reduces the cost of manufacturing new steel products. On the contrary, wood can be partly recycled as compared to steel.
To get a better idea, read 6 Ways That Steel Building Structures Are Eco-friendly to understand in detail why steel buildings are more eco-friendly than wood.
02. Strong and Durable Structural System
Steel is a very strong material and has huge compressive, tensile as well as flexural strength. The structural frame of a building made with steel would be strongest and lightest. Apart from that, steel is equally good for supporting floors or roofs.
Thus, a steel structure can, to a greater degree withstand severe forces or harsh weather conditions such as strong winds, heavy snow and, natural calamities like earthquake, hurricanes floods etc. Steel structures are rust-proof and they are neither affected nor harmed by termites, pests, mildew, mould and fungal infection unlike wooden structures. Additionally, steel structures are better fire-resistant as compared to wooden.
In engineering, a structural system is composed of a substructure and a superstructure.
A substructure refers to the part of a house or structural system of a building which is found below ground level. It also includes the foundations and the columns below ground level.
Superstructure refers to the part of house that is found above the ground level. Thus, it includes the whole structure except anything built below the ground level columns above the ground level, bridge deck, slabs and beam, trusses, and pier above ground.
For your ready reference, here is a comparison guide of steel vs wood which will guide you while you plan to construct your home or structural system of a building.
- Unlike wood, steel do not rot, mold, warp, crack, split, or creep.
- Steel is not vulnerable to pests and insect damage like nuisance termites.
- Wood tends to contract or expand with moisture content, whereas steel does not.
- Factors like temperature, age and environmental humidity can make wood warp/crack.
- Moreover, wood structures are highly susceptible to damage during flood.
- Steel is not flammable and combustible, whereas wood can be fire hazardous.
- Steel can better withstand natural disasters like hurricanes, earthquakes and tornados since it is sturdier than wood.
Steel is amazingly a protean material as it can be molded into almost any shape, making it preferable or rather a first choice for both commercial as well as residential buildings. In addition, for the adaptability to the versatile design of large and clear span structures like terminal buildings, airport, halls, auditorium, agricultural buildings, warehouses, and indoor areas, there are hardly any substitutes to steel structures.
04. Steel is a Flexible Building Material
Steel houses and buildings have exorbitant resistance capacity. Steel construction also does not engage the labour cost as much as wood or concrete construction, so particularly in western countries where labour cost is very high, it is beneficial. Steel construction is also preferred because of its additional attributes like – flexibility and strength.
A steel building, as compared to a wooden structure, is not prone to destruction or collapse, thus is safe. Wood construction material can easily break down or collapse.
Flexibility is one of the biggest benefits of the steel structure; it means that it can be designed as per the requirement. This helps designing steel structures in such a way that it can withstand an earthquake or heavy winds.
A steel structure is highly recommended for heavy and large span structures which befits all types of industrial buildings. Lower floor to floor heights can easily be constructed using girder slab, staggered truss and castellated beam construction. Extremely long open spans are possible using steel. Such structures are not possible with materials like wood and concrete.
05. Steel Can Save Your Money
Steel is a building block not only in different commercial construction projects but also in residential settings. This durable metal finds its versatile use in residential construction as a solid framing material. Steel construction is popular because of the rising cost of lumber. Steel constructions are encouraged to conserve natural resources, including timber.
As mentioned earlier, the longevity of steel is much more than wood. Wood can mold, rot and get damaged much earlier than steel, which means more money is spent on repairs and replacement. Thus, by using steel you not only save money in the long run but even save yourself from stress and hassle repairing or replacing as in damaged wooden structures. Steel is light in weight compared to concrete/wood, which enables its easy transportation anywhere. This reduces fuel cost and quickens project schedules too. Apart from this, it is energy efficient and can be recycled, hence creates less raw material wastes.
Wood is not much preferred in building work these days due to its high cost. Also, if you consider in terms of per square feet construction, you will need more cubic feet of wood or concrete than steel for building the same area.
06. Great Value for Your Home or Building
By investing in a steel-constructed house or commercial building, you are making a worth investment because it definitely increases the real estate value of your property and yields you a better value whenever you happen to sell it in the future. As steel is known for its unmatched strength, future home buyers or commercial property investors find steel structures more appealing and practical to buy.
Here is how a steel house or a commercial building provide overall great value:
Steel structures are remarkably strong. They not only look attractive but provide strength to the structure from inside by laying a solid foundation.
Unlike wooden structures, there is no need for property buyers to spend money on early repairs and replacement.
Steel structures including chimneys, provide a modern look to your property and reflect the state-of-the-art atmosphere for anyone who will visit your property.
Now let us see the different types of steel used in construction:
(a) Plain Carbon Steel:
It is also called mild steel, which has 0.05 to 0.25 percent of carbon. It is the most common steel type used in building as it promotes sturdy built because of carbon steel.
It is immensely flexible and ductile with amazing plasticity and weldability, enduring harsh environments and calamities, such as earthquakes without causing cracks.
(b) Rebar Steel:
It is also called reinforcing steel, which is made of carbon steel and commonly used as a tension device in reinforced concrete or masonry structure.
Rebar steel holds concrete into compression with immense expansion potential and recyclable tendencies.
(c) Structural Steel
Various shapes can be made out of structural steel that is formed from a precise cross-section. Structural steel has different shapes, including I-Beam, HSS shape, Z shape, L shape or angle, T-shaped, structural channel or C-beam, rail profile, plate, bar, rod, and open web steel joist. This steel type is also fire resistant.
If you further want to know some more Types of Steel used in construction, please refer: Steel Reinforcement Types and their Properties!
Disadvantages of Steel Structures:
01. When steel buildings are exposed to aggressive or severe weather conditions, it gets corroded due to the action of steel with oxygen or aggressive environment.
02. Steel structures require more skilled labour to construct as well as better skilled design.
03. The initial cost of a steel structure is high as compared to wood/concrete structure.
04. They also consume more energy as more skilled manpower is required as compared to any wooden structure.
However, steel structure may not be cost-efficient in all the conditions. As such, the cost of any structure depends on its type and functionality. Hence, if you want to construct a large span building, it is advisable to use steel rather than wood/concrete. The cost of a small structure of steel will probably cost you more as compared to concrete, because particularly in India cheap labour for concrete is still available. However, this must be kept in mind that wood is any day costlier and steel is any day economical than wood.
How to Choose the Best Steel Material for Your Building Project?
Here are some practical tips:
01. Talk to a trusted steel manufacturer or a supplier to find out the best steel material for your home or commercial building project. The steel type would depend on the scope, size, and requirements of your building project.
02. Compare and choose the best steel material with the help of an engineer, a contractor, or a builder to whom you have assigned for the project.
03. Check the specifications of the best steel material appropriate for your construction project. Combining steel with other materials is a good idea to achieve the perfect look and functionality of the structure at a price affordable to you.
Also Read: 8 Tips for You to Buy Steel Bars!
When it comes to building houses or any construction project, steel is much better than wood. Steel is durable, flexible, fire-resistant, and can sustain harsh weather conditions. While wooden houses and buildings are elegant in appearance and are fast to construct, but they are prone to fire accidents as wood is combustible and flammable, especially when exposed to gas. Wood is vulnerable to flood too.
Choosing steel over wood is an eco-friendly way of creating a house or building that will stand strong and will last for years together. Only entrust your steel construction to a reliable steel supplier or manufacturer and a contractor to ensure successful project outcomes.
Hope this article -“benefits of using steel” helps you in choosing the right kind of material for constructing your home or any building project.