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Metal Studs versus Wood Studs

The Pros and Cons of Wood and Metal Studs

By Mark J. Donovan

Metal studs have a number of advantages over traditional wood studs. Metal studs, for example, are much lighter than wood studs, making them much easier to transport and carry. They’re also perfectly straight, unlike wood studs, which is key to building straight and plumb walls. To further appreciate this advantage, just go to any large home improvement center and try to find a couple of dozen perfectly straight kiln dried wood studs from the wood crib. Good luck, as you’ll certainly need it. I think of pretzels every time I sift through the crib for straight wood 2x4 wall studs. Metal studs, unlike wood studs, also won’t burn and are impervious to insects.


Wood Studs Sturdier than Metal Studs

This said, wood studs are much sturdier than metal studs and will support more weight. This could be an important factor if for example you want to hang a heavy item, such as a flat panel TV or mirror, on the wall. You certainly wouldn’t want to hang cabinets on walls fabricated with metal wall studs. Also, if the wall requires plumbing you’ll want to use wood studs. In addition, attaching baseboard trim, crown moulding and chair rail to walls constructed using metal studs is more challenging. Moreover, doors or windows require wood studs to be used around their openings so that there are nailing surfaces to attach them. Consequently combinations of metal and wood stud walls may be necessary in some situations.


Metal Studs are Straighter and Won’t Rot

Metal studs, versus wood studs, also won’t warp or rot, thus ensuring long lasting straight walls. Metal studs also effectively do not expand or contract with temperature changes. Wood studs on the other hand experience significant expansion and contraction. The expansion and contraction of wood studs inevitably results in popped drywall nails and screw heads, and joint cracks at corners and seams. Metal wall studs can rust, however, thus it is important to install a moisture barrier when using metal studs.


Metal Studs Have Pre-Cut Openings for Running Electrical Wires

Metal studs also come with channel openings in them to allow for electrical wires to be drawn through them. However, electrical boxes for metal studs cost more than the ones available for wood studs. In addition, plastic grommets must be inserted in the metal stud openings to prevent chafing and damage to the electrical wires.

Metal Stud Framing is Easy

The installation of metal studs is also easy. Vertical metal studs are attached to metal floor and ceiling tracks, akin to bottom and top plates associated with wood stud framing. The metal wall studs are cut to size using aviation snips. The metal studs are fastened to the tracks using pan head screws. To ensure the walls are built perfectly plumb, a plumb ball should be used to make sure the top and bottom tracks are perfectly aligned with one another.

Here is a home being framed with traditional 2x4 and 2x6 wood studs.

Photo By Mark Donovan

Metal Studs are Good Conductors of Cold Temperatures

Heat transfer, or should I say cold transfer, is another negative with metal studs. Metal studs are more thermally conductive. Thus cold temperatures can easily transfer through them, which can lead to moisture problems, which in turn can lead to potential rust concerns. In cases where metal studs are to be used on outside walls, polystyrene insulation should be used between the outside wall and the metal studs to provide a thermal barrier.

So when undertaking a new home construction or remodeling project, take a close look at both types of wall studs. Each has their unique advantages, and pricing can similar depending market conditions.


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- Metal Studs versus Wood Studs -

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