Frequently Asked Questions
Q.IS STEEL SLOWER OR FASTER TO BUILD WITH?
A. Frames and trusses are usually supplied pre-assembled and ready to stand on site. Steel frames are approximately 1/3 the weight of timber making them light and easy to carry, and easier for the builder to erect. They are generally simpler to erect than wood systems, require less bracing and erecting steel is not so weather dependent. Once experienced with steel framing, labour time and costs can be reduced compared to wood framing.
Q.DOES STEEL FRAMING COST MORE THAN TIMBER FRAMING?
A. Depending on the design of the house the cost of steel framing is similar to timber. If the design of the house has large open plan living and is pushing the boundaries for timber framing then steel can work out more cost effective. There are other advantages when using steel like having a very structurally strong house, there are none of the chemicals used in timber and steel frames are a lot faster to erect. The final constructed cost will be the same or less for a house of comparable size and quality but have the extra benefits of steel at no extra cost.Steel framing is very competitive on price, particularly when you consider its quality.
Q.HOW MUCH DESIGN FLEXIBILITY DO I HAVE WITH STEEL?
A. Freedom of floor plan and architectural style is practically unlimited. Furthermore, it is possible to produce designs in steel that are difficult with other materials. By taking advantage of this feature you can often build with less expense than by using more conventional materials.
Q.HOW WELL DOES STEEL FRAMING STAND UP TO EARTHQUAKES OR HIGH WINDS?
A. Steel framing can be engineered to meet the highest seismic and wind loads prescribed by the NZ Building Code. Steel has the highest strength to weight ratio of any framing materials and a lighter structure with stronger connections results in lower damage from earthquakes. Steel framed houses in Christchurch suffered only superficial but no structural damage. The stronger screwed connections can withstand greater winds including cyclones.
Q.DO HOMES WITH STEEL FRAMING LOOK DIFFERENT?
A. Yes, they look better. Walls, ceilings, and roofs do not have ripples or bumps in them and there are no “nail pops” in the plasterboard linings. Roofs of steel-framed homes do not sag over time, so the finished job keeps looking good. In fact, because of the steel’s strength, you can design your home with larger open spaces whilst the exterior looks like any normal home.
Q.WHAT ABOUT ELECTRICAL AND PLUMBING SERVICE HOLES?
A. Our frames are manufactured with pre-punched 34mm holes for running pipes and electrical wiring, reducing preparation time for other trades. Additional service holes are easily drilled or can be punched and we supply plastic grommets to protect wiring and plumbing.
Q.CAN I CONVERT MY PLANS FROM TIMBER TO STEEL?
A. If house plans are already drawn for timber-framing, it’s relatively easy to make the switch to steel. Most steel frames are made to the same dimensions as standard timber dimensions and therefore there is no problem in converting your plans to steel. You may be surprised just how competitive it can be, and the additional benefits of steel make it an even more attractive option.
Q.DO STEEL FRAMES MEET THE NEW ZEALAND BUILDING CODES?
A. Yes. All our frames and trusses are designed and engineered to New Zealand conditions and meet all the building codes. They are all supplied with a 50-year durability statement from New Zealand Steel and PS1 documentation from our engineers.
Q.WHY DOES STEEL NEEDS A THERMAL BREAK, WHILE TIMBER DOES NOT?
A. The reason steel needs a thermal break is because of its high heat conductivity. This high thermal conductivity is often portrayed as being a weakness with steel but is in fact one of its greatest strengths. With a thermal break all the steelwork on the inside of the thermal break remains above the temperature at which condensation from moisture in the wall cavity will occur. With timber studs, the outside of the stud will attract condensation during winter, which will result in an increase in moisture content. The increased moisture can create movement that damages wall linings and increase the risk of mold and fungus.
Q.IS STEEL FRAMING A NEW IDEA?
A. Globally steel framing has been used successfully in housing since the early 1950sIn South Australia 30% of new homes are steel and all over Australia the percentage is 15%. In Hawaii it is 40% and Japan builds 150,000 steel homes every year. Today’s framing represents the results of years of research, testing and product improvement and is a thoroughly engineered product.
Q.CAN I USE BRICK VENEER WITH STEEL FRAMING?
A. Yes you can. Steel framing has been seismically tested at Swinburne University in Melbourne to many more times the seismic forces than we have ever had in New Zealand. There was no damage to the structural frames and only minor dislodgement of bricks. This was due to the great flexibility and strength of the steel framing.
Q.WILL THE STEEL FRAMING BE APPROVED BY COUNCILS?
A. Most Councils have had steel framed homes erected in their area and are now familiar with the procedure for consenting steel framed homes. We also provide PS1 documentation from our engineers to satisfy council requirements.
Q.HOW DO I HANG A PICTURE ON THE WALL OF A STEEL FRAME HOUSE?
A. You can hang a picture onto plasterboard using self-adhesive picture hooks or a toggle bolt, which are readily available from hardware stores. For heavier objects such as a mirror or a flat screen TV, they must be fixed through to the metal studs with a self-drilling screw. The studs can easily be found with a magnet or by tapping and will normally be at 600mm centres.
Q.DO I NEED A BARRIER BETWEEN THE STEEL FRAME AND TREATED TIMBER?
A. For H1 treated timber normal building paper will act as a separator and will suffice if the area is closed. If H3 timber is used then a more substantial separator should be used such as window tape.