A Serious Alternative to Wood Framing
An alternative to wood for use in partitions in basements and other floors of the house is metal wall framing. Normally, frames are built of either 2″x4″ or 2″x6″ wood studs. Metal wall framing consists of U-shaped galvanized sheet metal studs instead. There are benefits and drawbacks but on the whole, metal studs are very worth considering when planning an expansion or remodeling of the home.
The basic process of metal wall framing is very similar to wood wall framing. First the floor, ends, and (if necessary) ceiling is freed of carpet and drywall to expose the floor substrate and attaching wall studs and ceiling joists. Make a chalk line on the floor denoting the position where the floor length will be installed. The metal floor stud is marked and cut with either a power saw or a pair of straight metal snips. Metal snips are far easier to use but of course require some hand strength. If more than one stud is going to be cut at once to save time and effort, a carbide-blade power circular saw is needed. This entails supporting both ends of the studs on a pair of saw horses to provide clearance for the saw blade.
Once the floor length is cut, it is attached using appropriate fasteners depending on the type of floor. Now attach the top plate to the ceiling using the same methodology. Be absolutely sure that the two are in exact alignment. It is then time to cut and attach the wall studs. These are easier to install than the wooden variety in that self-tapping screws are used to fasten them at the bottom. These drive in very easily with a screw gun. If a mistake is made in placing them, they are just as easily removed so that the stud can be repositioned.
Once each metal wall framing stud is attached at the bottom, use a carpenter’s level to make sure that it is perfectly vertical. Then simply fasten it at the top to the top plate using the same self-tapping screws.
Metal wall framing is resistant to the warping and twisting that occurs over time with wood framing. Metal studs are ideal for basement finishing because termites will not eat them. Because of the galvanized finish, rust is not an issue in the moist underground environment. This also makes metal wall framing a good choice for green rooms in areas where the wall is not load-bearing, which ironically brings us to one of the drawbacks of metal wall framing. Wood has the best compression characteristics of the two, by far. Wood also forms a much stronger frame overall. This means that metal wall framing should not be used when the wall supports weight (as in a load-bearing wall) or when heavy cabinets or other fixtures need to be attached to it.
Two main factors should be considered when choosing the frame type – weight and moisture. If the wall will be required to support weight, metal wall framing should not be used. They are very good for partitions on which lighter objects such as pictures and hand tools will be hung, but nothing more. If the weight factor is very small or nonexistent and the wall will be subjected to a moist environment, metal wall framing is the ticket.