If we talk about the appearance of houses from Steel house framing or LSTK (Lightweight steel thin-walled structures), they began to be built relatively recently – in the 1990s (about forty years later than in other countries). LSTK started to be used more actively in the 2000s. Until now, there are both fans of this building technology and opponents. Certain stereotypes regarding steel structures guide the less expensive, and they like to compare metal frames with wooden ones.
Frame houses and their features
Frame houses gained popularity in Russia in the early 2000s, when SIP panels, sandwich panels, and mineral slabs appeared on the market. At that time, in the West, construction technology had long been debugged, and frame cottages were considered capital buildings. Moreover, it was possible to live in them all year round, not only in warm regions but also in Norway, Canada, Finland, where the climate is similar to ours.
The classic frame consists of a foundation (usually a pile foundation) and a wooden frame. From the outside, it is sheathed with siding, blockhouse, or clapboard, and the inside is laid with insulation (mineral or basalt wool, polystyrene, expanded polystyrene).
Frame technology is often compared to houses made of SIP panels. They are also called frame-panel or frame-panel. They also have a supporting base made of wood, but the walls are made at the factory and then sheathed with OSB sheets and fixed to each other. This method cannot be called environmentally friendly, but it comes out cheaper than a classic frame house at a cost.
Advantages Of Wood
- Uniformity based on thermal performance. Wood is characterized by low thermal conductivity, which gives it good thermal insulation properties. In other words, wood retains heat better than metal. When building houses using a metal frame, the thickness of the insulation and the cladding will be responsible for the heat level.
- Wood is considered a more suitable material for a sense of comfort inside the home. Supporters of this point of view out that in a building with a metal frame, despite the cladding material (for example, drywall with insulation), magnetization caused by electrical networks and the use of household appliances will be felt.
- Manufacturability of the material. The fact is that if during installation, it was necessary, for example, to violate the integrity of any rack (when laying networks), then you can weaken the desired element (up to ¾) without threatening the entire structure. Such manipulation with metal will turn this element into a weak link in the building.
- Aesthetics. This characteristic is controversial since the metal frame can also be finished with wood.
Disadvantages Of Wood
Flammable and poor resistance to moisture. Of course, if the waterproofing technology is followed and the treatment with unique compounds is carried out, then the wooden house will last long enough. Nevertheless, unlike metal, it will still be susceptible to decay processes, mold formation, harmful insects, etc.
Advantages Of Steel framing
- Short construction time. Of course, the time spent depends on several factors: the readiness of the project and the need to make changes to it (including during installation work), the availability of all the necessary structural elements, the level of qualifications of the builders, the area of the building being erected, etc., installation of a residential building with an average area (50-100 sq.m.) can take from several days to two weeks.
- Affordable price. If we compare the construction of a house from LSTK with construction from other materials, the cost will be about 5-15% lower than frame houses made of wood and much lower than a house made of timber (70-100%) brick. This range is caused not only by the cost of the material but by the pricing policy of different suppliers and manufacturers.
- Good resistance to moisture and fire, pests, mold, and other harmful factors. This advantage will be such, provided that waterproofing is correctly performed and treatment with unique compounds (antiseptics and anti-corrosion protection).
- High level of durability. Even though the structure is considered light, high-quality steel is used in its manufacture, capable of withstanding heavy loads and mechanical stress (provided that it is manufactured by reliable factories with a solid business reputation).
- Possibility of “dry” construction. Houses made of LSTK are assembled according to the principle of a constructor. This is very convenient since it saves workers from problems associated with dampness and, therefore, possible inconveniences during installation and the appearance of mold and mildew in the future.
- Construction stability. Suppose during the construction of the building, profiles of high-quality steel were used, and all the recommendations for installation were followed. In that case, LSTK will last for many years (50 years or more) without deformation. They are resistant to natural phenomena.
- Environmental friendliness. There is practically no debris left during the installation process since if the project is completed correctly, the manufacturer has released only the necessary structural elements. This is very convenient for both builders who are spared from cleaning the territory and for neighbors.
Disadvantages Of Steel framing
- Possibility of appearance of “cold bridges.” So it is customary to call areas of contact with other elements. But there are “bridges” in almost every building built using any technology. This problem can be easily solved by competently carried out work on thermal insulation.
- Corrosion susceptibility. This will not happen if the parts are processed with special protective equipment.
- Thin walls can be easily damaged even by a blow of the hand. This flaw falls into the category of myths.
Comparison of LSTK with wood
People who build a house want it to be high quality, reliable, and last long. Therefore, they are cautious in their choice of technology. On this basis, there are many disputes about which material is better. Myths and legends about this or that technology are born. That is why there are generally accepted criteria for assessing the quality of a house:
1. Service life
The approximate operating time of a wooden frame house is 60-70 years. You can argue and say that there are houses in the villages for more than a hundred years. But what state are they in?
With thoughtful design and high-quality construction of a house made of LSTC, its service life will be approximately 150 years due to the material’s high strength.
2. Designing a house
A well-done project is a guarantee of the quality of the house! And here, the wooden frame is in a winning position. Designing a home from LSTK is a very laborious process, covered in a separate article.
3. Fire safety
The tree is on fire! Of course, special chemicals can slow down the fire, and if you react in time, you may save the house.
LSTK does not burn! The profile is entirely fireproof, and the LSTK frameworks do not freeze (with unique thermal penetrations).
4. House value
The costs for constructing a timber frame house and a house made of LSTK are approximately the same. However, a large foundation is needed for a heavy home made of wood, costing significantly more.
5. Resistance to the biological environment
The frames of the LSTK are not afraid of pests and various chemicals. In a house built using this technology, fungus never forms, mold does not appear. This does not require any special treatment.
Wood is a natural commodity vulnerable to the concerns mentioned earlier, causing it to rot and stink over time. To slow down this process, special chemicals are used.
6. Environmental friendliness
It would seem that here the tree is definitely in a winning position. But in fact, a wooden house is saturated with a considerable amount of chemicals, and the tree itself absorbs toxic substances, dust, and dirt.
LSTK can be easily disposed of. During the construction of the house, there is no impact on the environment. And according to scientific studies, the air in the home made of Allergy sufferers and persons with lung ailments will benefit from laminated wood.
7. Shrinkage of the house
Any wooden house shrinks! This is perhaps the main disadvantage of the material. And the main advantage of LSTK is the absence of shrinkage. Moreover, the LSTK house will never “lead,” thanks to its precise geometrical dimensions.
8. Heat saving.
Wooden houses are considered one of the warmest. However, due to shrinkage, cracks appear over time and, accordingly, heat loss. As for the places from LSTK are mistakenly considered cold and even myths about “cold bridges” arise. True, in reality, metal houses have excellent heat-saving characteristics, and they are achieved due to sound insulation, for example, Rockwool stone wool. We recommend finding out how much people living in metal frame houses pay for heating for those in doubt.
On average, timber-framed cottages last about 40-70 years. It can live up to a hundred with proper maintenance, repairs, regular insect control, and other valuable procedures. For log cabins, 70 years is not old age. The standards say about the service life of 80-100 years, but we all know that the Kizhi ensemble is much older, like the huts in the village of Shuvalovka and many more examples of wooden architecture. So, here log cabins win 1: 0.
Of all the building materials, stone and wood are the most environmentally friendly. Even though the base of a frame house is also made of wood, we would not call it 100% natural. Firstly, expanded polystyrene or mineral wool is used as a heater, while the walls in the log house are insulated with jute tape and, less often, with moss. Secondly, the walls of frame cottages consist of several layers of lathing, protective membranes, and insulation, making them completely sealed. This is not bad, but it is essential to install a high-quality ventilation system in such a structure so that the air does not stagnate inside. A log house is easy to breathe due to the ability of a tree to absorb excess moisture in case of its excess and to give it away in case of lack. That is why it is so comfortable to be in a log house. Besides, the tree emits substances beneficial for the body – phytoncides and emits a unique aroma of needles, for which it receives a second point. The score is 2: 0 in favor of natural logs.
Oddly enough, they are about the same: about 2-4 months. However, the finishing of the log house can be started only after shrinkage, after about a year. He shrinks 8-12 cm in the first year and a little more in the next few years. The frame does not shrink, for which it receives a point. The score is 2: 1.