7th Dec 2022 -

If you need a framing system that can support more weight than a traditional metal stud and track wall, you can opt for a steel frame system.  A steel frame system (SFS) is a powerful, lightweight construction material, commonly used in the development of partitioned walls. Unlike a standard metal frame system, a steel framed system is far stronger and can be used for the construction of load-bearing walls. 

What Are Steel Framing Systems (SFS) Used For? 

Steel frame systems can be used for constructing dry-lined walls, but because of their strength, it is also used in the construction of large steel buildings, such as high-rise office buildings, hotels or blocks of flats. 

The steel frame creates the shape of the building and other materials can then ‘fill in’ the steel sections at the top and bottom of the structure. SFS is essentially an outer wall frame for a building.

The principles of SFS do not only apply to skyscrapers, they often form part of the construction of more common types of construction - such as the following:

  • Extensions: Many simple extensions to a house will use metal frames, which is a cost-effective way of separating a new space.
  • Outbuildings: Building a barn, greenhouse garden room or other structure will need sturdy support, which steel delivers very well.
  • Commercial buildings: Offices, retail settings and leisure centres will all require a very strong, hard-wearing structure, so SFS works in these areas.
  • Education: Schools, colleges, universities and many other educational settings will commonly use SFS for the construction of their buildings.
  • Healthcare: Large hospitals use SFS but even smaller surgeries will benefit from the steel frames, which will easily handle the activity of a busy space.
  • Hotels and hospitality: Hotels often use SFS, particularly in the larger ones. Hoteliers can decorate the exterior and interior walls easily by using SFS. 

SFS is extremely versatile as you can build a frame before cladding the exterior walls, so you might add traditional brickwork, glass panels and any other materials on the outside of the building. However, it is entirely possible to use SFS for internal wall partitions too.

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What are the Benefits of a Steel Frame System? 

The popularity of steel as a construction material took hold during the 1920s boom years of construction, where cities looked for new and innovative methods of construction. The steel framing technique took great strides during this era, with many iconic buildings in cities like New York popping up in a very short time.

The development and popularity of SFS are due to it having several benefits, such as the following:

  • Fast: The process of construction is amazingly fast with SFS. Although you have to bolt or weld the frame together, all the components come pre-fabricated and will be very quick to build once on site.
  • Strength: Steel primarily is used for its strength, wherever you might see it in construction. You can expect steel to handle a much higher load than timber, which is extremely weak by comparison.
  • Safety: SFS uses non-combustible materials, which is a great boon for safety. Steel can also withstand extreme temperatures, including freezing winters and blistering summers, without any impact on its structural integrity.
  • Durability: Unlike concrete steel does not crack or have any issues with moisture retention. With properly finished SFS you also get corrosion-resistant properties that make them exceptionally long-lasting.
  • Adaptability: You can create a precise steel frame, as you can cut steel to create almost any shape - all with excellent structural support. Steel is so versatile that any later additions or modifications are also very simple to do.
  • Environmentally friendly: Steel can be recycled and is a material that will not degrade over time. Fitting green credentials into large-scale projects can be a challenge, so steel is a very handy material during construction. 

Pre-assembled steel frame system kits are also available, which can speed up construction even more. These kits typically use light gauge galvanised steel so they are not suitable for structural steel as, although they are high-quality, light gauge steel framing is used for non-load-bearing partitions.

What Are the Costs for SFS?

Compared to wood or traditional metal studs, a steel frame system is a more expensive choice of stud wall. A 3000mm length of steel frame system base track costs about £25, compared to around £4.50 for a comparable length of traditional metal stud, and £4.70 for a slightly shorter wooden stud.

Whether or not a steel frame system is worth the extra money depends on what you are planning to do with it. A steel frame system is certainly stronger than other stud walls, giving a sturdier partition to your house and supporting some of the weight from the primary structural frame. It can also be built higher, helpful if you are looking to build a high internal wall.

However, some other factors influence the costs - such as the following:

  • Type of steel: The decision to use carbon steel, stainless steel and other specialist finishes will affect the final cost of an SFS quite substantially.
  • Supplier: Some suppliers are not reliable or have unavailable stock. Supplier issues, such as delays, can easily make project costs spiral.
  • Transportation: A one-floor structure is a simple site to get steel to, but 20 floors up can be a challenge! Costs can often leap due to site access issues.
  • AccessoriesSpecial fixings and other accessories such as bracing straps are necessary for SFS and will contribute substantially to the project costs. 

SFS is an advanced and often commercial-grade construction method, as a result, the costs tend to be higher than for other types of walls. Timber is a much cheaper material and timber framing is a lower-cost method of building - but it does not have the same benefits as steel and is unsuitable for many structures. 

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Installing a Steel Frame System Stud Wall 

Steel frame studs are easy and quick to install. A steel frame system for an internal wall is built from tracks along the top and bottom, and studs, which slide into the tracks to build the wall. Due to the ease at which studs can be installed and removed, you can make sure that your outer borders, both the tracks and the outside studs, fit together perfectly with your walls before you start drilling.

Steel frames can be drilled through, allowing you to affix the top and bottom tracks to brick, concrete, or wood. To insert a stud into a track, insert the stud on its side, and twist it so it snaps tight. Through this, attach the two border studs, using screws after first drilling pilot holes. Then, screw the tracks and studs together at both their top and bottom on both sides, using a flat-headed screw so that it can be easily covered with drywall.

With the structural framing in place you can insert your inner studs in the same way, snapping them into place within both tracks. These studs do not need to be attached with screws and can be spaced at appropriate gaps within the wall, either 400mm or 600mm. Once you have done this, you can fill your wall with insulation, and attach your plasterboards to the studs using plasterboard screws, pre-drilling holes in the studs beforehand.

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Steel framing systems (SFSs) are a popular method of construction for load-bearing walls. Steel buildings are among the strongest structures in the world, capable of withstanding huge loads, weather, fire and the effects of ageing. SFS is also extremely fast and cost-effective. Our trade account managers will be able to source you the exact parts and accessories you need for your next steel framing system project, delivering them to your site at a great trade price.

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