Analysts find little for steel framers to cheer about

Nov 01, 2009 | 05:33 AM |

Steel-framed houses beat their wood-framed competitors hands down in terms of durability, among other factors, but steel framing has been unable to make significant inroads in the housing sector, in part because there just aren't enough trained workers to go around.

Steel framing accounts for less than 1 percent of all houses built in the United States. Steel used in single-family housing totaled slightly less than 100,000 tons in 2007, the most recent year for which data was available, down about 20 percent from 125,000 tons in 2005, according to Mark Nowak, president of the Steel Framing Alliance, an industry trade group that promotes the use of steel framing in residential and commercial construction. He noted that the figure declined because residential builds have been depressed.

Steel frames are stronger, straighter, fire resistant, termite proof and can withstand the beating of an earthquake and tornado much better because the structures don't move, shrink and expand like the traditional wood-framed house. In addition, the majority of the construction uses a lightweight galvanized product that doesn't rot, warp, rust, crack or split and has a longer lifespan. Besides being "green," there are savings associated with steel-framing—in high-wind areas, for instance, insurance rates can be reduced.....

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