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  • Writer's pictureignacio gonzalez


Construction costs are a constantly moving target. There are many factors which affect the actual final cost of your complex construction project. We are sharing the following information as a guide/primer and comparison of Metal and Wood framing at this time. Take the numbers with a grain of salt since they are adjusting as we speak. The rate of change is variable the direction of change is ultimately in one direction - up!


(Cost data is based on research by HomeAdvisor.)

Metal Stud Framing Costs

Installing steel studs in the average 2,000 square foot home will run an average of $21,000 with a range of $19,000 to $25,000. Though metal studs currently run in the $2 to $4 per square foot range, steel prices fluctuate over time causing material costs to rise or fall. Regardless of the steel market, labor remains relatively stable at about $5 to $10 per square foot.

Location, complexity of design, and fluctuating markets are the three largest factors in a framing budget. Compared to wood, steel is lighter, fire resistant and rot and insect proof. Conversely, wood is easier to work with, slightly cheaper and you have a larger selection of contractors to choose from for residential work. Consult a contractor to determine the best installation materials and methods for your project.

Average Metal Framing Costs

Average Cost $21,000

High Cost $25,000

Low Cost $19,000

Light Gauge Steel Framing vs. Hot Rolled Structural Steel Framing

Steel ranges drastically between $0.50 and $75 per linear foot and is the only type of metal framing available for both residential and commercial structures. There are two types of steel used - cold rolled light gauge and hot rolled structural beams. Both types are impervious to rot and insects while being nearly fireproof. Steel is flexible while giving incredible durability and longevity. It doesn't swell, warp or shrink. Water is the only real threat. To combat rust, steel is galvanized with zinc or aluminum or a combination of the two.

Hot Rolled Steel Beams: $15 to $75 per linear foot for materials.

Ranges depend on the thickness and width.

Types include I-Beams, H-Beams and S-Beams.

Both high and low-rise buildings and multistory homes use structural beams to carry the additional load of the multiple stories. The more stories, the more need for structural steel, though it's almost always used in combination with light gauge steel.

Light Gauge Cold Rolled Steel: $0.50 to $1.50 per linear foot for materials.

Most residential projects use this type of framing with limited beams for carrying loads in large open concept and multistory homes.

Thicker cold rolled steel - 16 and 18 gauges - is used for load-bearing walls.

Can typically support one floor and the roof. Any more stories and structural engineers begin including structural steel for added support.

This article focuses on the residential application of this lighter gauge material.

Recycled Steel

All steel studs have some recycled steel content in them. Most have enough recycled steel to gain Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) points. Enough LEED points grants a LEED certification, though this is mostly a concern in commercial construction. Since most steel is recycled, any waste from your project should be sold back to a steel manufacturer or recycling plant to reduce your costs.

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Average Metal Stud Installation Material & Labor

Steel framing requires materials beyond just the studs. You'll need plastic ties and grommets, fasteners, and top and bottom tracks. Installing an average wall cost about $1,800 total, including drywall and any electrical or plumbing. Framing a typical 10-foot wall, you'll spend about $50 to $75 in materials. Labor runs an added $100 to $300 for a total cost of $150 to $360.

Steel Stud Framing Cost Per Foot

Type Cost Per Linear Foot*

Studs $1 - $6 per square foot $0.50 - $1.50

Top & Bottom Track $0.60 - $1.90 per square foot $0.20 - $0.50

Fasteners $5 per 1lb box $0.10 - $0.30

Electrical Boxes $1 - $2 per box $0.10 - $0.50

Plastic Ties $5 - $10 per 100 $0.10 - $0.20

Grommet/Bushing $0.05 each $1.50 - $2.50


Total Cost: $5 - $10 per square foot $1.50 -$2.50

*Based on average installations, your costs may vary depending on how many electrical outlets you install, stud spacing, electrical needs and local labor rates.

Stud Framing Calculator

Calculate materials based on the linear feet of the project.

Determine total linear feet of the project. This amount is the total amount of length of top and bottom racks you'll need.

Multiply linear feet by 12 to determine linear inches and divide by 16 to find the maximum number of studs needed. Depending on the location of the wall, you may only need studs every 24 inches.

Locate all electrical outlets and switches. Each requires a box. Estimate grommets based on number of studs wiring must pass through.

Labor Costs for Framing Per Linear Foot & Square Foot

Most contractors figure commercial rates per linear foot as a part of a total projects cost. Expect to pay $5 to $10 per square foot of project or anywhere from $10 to $30 per linear foot. Usually the larger the project, the lower the unit pricing. The type of building rarely makes any difference in labor, but material prices can soar with multistory homes, thicker walls and thicker gauge steel.

Estimating Prices by Size

Size doesn't matter much with metal studs. Since metal studs are hollow, it takes very little extra steel to make a 2x6, 2x4 or a 2x2. Metal studs, much like their wood counterparts, come in a variety of sizes. Labor costs remain the same regardless of wall thickness.

Estimating Prices by Gauge

You'll end up paying between $2 and $5 per square foot depending on the gauge of the metal. Gauge refers to the thickness of the metal. Though labor rates don't vary by gauge, material costs do. Most exterior load-bearing walls use 16 to 18-gauge studs while interior walls use 20 or 25-gauge materials.

Gauge Steel Framing Prices

Gauge Average Per Square Foot

16 $4

18 $3.10

20 $2.25

25 $2

Pairing Installation of a Metal Frame with Drywall

Hanging drywall costs between $1.15 and $2.00 per square foot regardless of the type of stud. Total cost for framing and drywall together runs in the $20 to $30 per linear foot range. Metal frames often seem flimsy but gain exceptional rigidity once a wall covering like drywall or sheathing is attached.

Steel Framed Ceilings for Multi-Story Houses

Steel beams can support more weight over a longer distance than wood – perfect for large open concept homes. Framing a ceiling in a multistory home requires additional supports. Expect contractors to utilize structural supports like I-beams, H-beams and Z-beams and heavier gauge steel supports.

Framing Apartments

Installing steel beams costs slightly less than $3,000. Apartments are low-rise or high-rise structure that often utilize structural steel framing with heavy I-beams and heavy load bearing supports. Structural steel allows more variation and options during the design and engineering of the building.

Working with Commercial Structures & Warehouses

Commercial structures run in the $12 to $40 per square foot range with insulation and wall coverings. They employ structural steel supports in combination with light gauge steel studs.

Tiny Homes

DIY metal framing kits are available for tiny homes that run from $13,000 to $21,000 including the trailer foundation and come partially assembled in framing panels. Tiny homes on wheels often use metal to cut down on weight – necessary with load restrictions on trailer axles.

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Metal vs. Wood Framing Costs

Wood and steel are currently about even when it comes to cost. Steel runs an average of $2 to $6 per square foot while wood is in the $1 to $5 per square foot range. Labor costs are similar at $5 to $10 per square foot, though some contractors boast the ability to put steel together quicker, cutting labor costs. Contact your contractor for specific details or consult our Wood Carpentry Framing Cost Guide.

Steel vs. Wood Durability

Both steel and wood can last well over 100 years with proper care. Many steel manufacturers offer a 50-year warranty while most wood homes only come with a year or two. Steel - if kept dry - is rot and insect proof and much more fire resistant. With rising wood prices making steel an economically feasible option, it's quickly becoming a popular framing choice.

ROI & Other Factors

While there is no significant ROI for either option, steel construction is quickly gaining consumer confidence. Selling a steel framed home imparts piece of mind to the prospective buyer. Steel is also slightly more environmentally friendly with little to no waste and a high amount of recycled content in each stud.

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