21st Nov 2022 -

Stud partition walls are a great way to break up a large space, whether you are creating more bedrooms, an en-suite bathroom or additional offices. When it comes to choosing stud materials, you will find the two most frequently chosen options are timber studs and metal studs. But which type is the best to use? In this guide, we will explain the differences between metal stud framing and wood stud walls, the advantages and disadvantages, and help you make an informed decision on which type is the best for your project.

Planning permission

Building partition walls can be a fairly easy job. Whether it is a timber or metal frame wall, it is important to know what building regulations to follow and if you need planning permission from your local authority.

If you are installing a partition wall as part of a home improvement project, you may not need planning permission. However, if your stud wall is part of an extension or for creating a business from your home, you will need to put forward a planning application. Although regulations in the UK allow for some extra room concerning the thickness of stud walls, there are some minimum requirements to consider:

  • For a timber frame partition wall, the two common thickness measurements are 75mm x 50mm and 100mm x 50mm. 
  • Think about the thickness of your plasterboard for soundproofing and insulation.
  • National House Building Council (NHBC) regulations outline that spacing for stud walls should not exceed 450mm for 9.5mm boards and 600mm for boards between 10mm - 20mm. 
  • Fire safety and whether the partition wall allows for an escape route in an emergency.

Even if you believe planning permission is not needed, we recommend getting in contact with your local authority to cover yourself for extra peace of mind.

Timber stud walls in new build home

What are metal stud walls used for?

Metal stud walls are versatile in what they can be used for, from basement walls to office partitions, as components in steel frame systems (SFS) or in environments such as distribution centres and factories. They do not split or shrink and also act as good supports for non-load-bearing walls or temporary structures. 

Metal studs vs wood studs

There is a long-running debate about whether metal studs are preferable to timber studs in a structure. While timber stud framing has its advantages, the majority of commercial buildings use a metal stud and track as part of their framing system. Metal stud walls offer significantly greater long-term benefits to a building than timber walls. Before you buy the materials, it is important to know the pros and cons of both. 

Benefits of metal stud walls

Metal studs offer distinct advantages over timber. Here are a few main points to consider:

1. Stability

Unlike wood, metal is a material which is not prone to warping or rotting, and it is not vulnerable to mould growth. While metal is not immune to rusting, making sure a metal stud wall is protected by a vapour barrier or using a vapour-resistant plasterboard will ensure extended stability.

2. Lightweight

Believe it or not, metal studs are significantly lighter than timber studs. This makes them exceptionally easy to transport, store, install and maintain once they have been fully fitted.

3. Easy to install

Metal framing systems are considerably more comfortable to handle than wood. They are lighter, and their components can be easily adjusted or modified given they are fitted with screws.

4. Pest resistance

Ants, termites and other insects can cause substantial damage to wood. The same cannot be said for metal track and stud walls.

5. Fire protection

Metal is a fireproof material, whereas wood is an incredibly volatile material to fire. Metal stud partition walls installed with fire-resistant plasterboard will offer higher levels of protection than standard timber.

6. Cost-friendly

Metal stud wall framing is much more cost-effective than timber. While metal products themselves are not always cheaper than wood, they offer superb long-term cost advantages. Metal does not warp and nails do not pop like in wood stud walls.

Additionally, you will find much less scrap with a metal track and stud system in place, which can be a huge cost to bear. Also, given that building a stud wall using metal is easier than with timber, you might even find yourself saving on labour costs during installation.

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Disadvantages of metal studs

Although metal studs have many benefits, there are some setbacks which could sway your decision. For example, metal studs are more expensive to install compared to their timber counterparts. If a builder is more familiar with timber, they could potentially charge you more for the project.

Furthermore, metal is much more difficult to cut and shape. You can buy circular power saws, but they are dangerous to use particularly if you have no experience. Metal studs are also prone to rust in areas that collect moisture, such as the base.

Metal stud walls in a new build property

Benefits of timber stud walls

Despite the strength and stability of metal stud walls, timber wall framing is considered to be a more traditional method and is still used to create a solid and durable timber frame structure. Here are some benefits of using timber stud walls:

1. Sustainability
As timber is a natural and non-toxic material, wood studs are a viable option as they do not create a negative impact on the environment. Compared to stud wall metal frame houses, the average timber frame home also saves an estimated four tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2). Most timber can also be recycled and is much more accessible than steel. 

2. Strength
Surprisingly, timber studs are stronger than metal studs. This is because wood is thicker and heavier, so wood is commonly used in load-bearing walls, as well as doorways and cabinets. 

3. Easy to cut
Timber is easier to cut compared to metal. All you will need is a saw which is much easier than cutting metal, which involves using a metal-cutting disc attached to an angle grinder. Furthermore, screwing drywall into metal stud framing can prove tricky. 

4. Better insulation
Metals are brilliant thermal conductors, so steel stud walls are likely to lose heat more quickly. But timber keeps the warmth which is a much better choice for energy efficiency. If you are keen on introducing steel studs, we recommend you add a break or thermal gap. 

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Disadvantages of timber studs

There are a few disadvantages to timber studs which are making builders turn to steel studs instead. For example, mould can grow on timber particularly if the surface is exposed to humidity or water. This can also make the timber swell - when the climate is humid, the timber absorbs the moisture which causes the swelling. However, when the air is dry, timber can shrink as it loses its moisture.

Buy quality timber and steel stud wall supplies

If you want to build a metal or timber stud wall as part of your next project, consider speaking to Building Materials Nationwide. We can offer a vast range of metal stud and track products and carcassing timber at competitive prices. All of these products are from leading manufacturers, which will ensure you are getting a stable, durable system which will make your building job much easier. Give our team a call today. Our trade accounts are also available, offering a great range of benefits to professionals. Sign up through our website now.