When it comes to building a Tiny House, several different construction methods can be used. There is the traditional method with wood studs. Some use modern SIPs. Today let’s talk about steel frame tiny house construction.
Steel is a great material to use for the framing of your Tiny House. Not only is it much lighter than wood, but it is also straighter, stronger, and more environmentally conscious. There are a few drawbacks to using steel studs. One is the cost is a bit higher than traditional lumber, and there can be issues with heat transfer.
Is a Steel Frame Tiny House Cheaper to Build?
It is less expensive to build a tiny house compared to a regular-sized one. But the products used in your tiny house frame can make a big difference in the overall cost.
When it comes to the wall materials standard wood 2×4 studs are still the least expensive, even with the current supply chain issues. However they are not very eco-friendly,
One way to save money is to purchase a tiny house shell, and then outfit the interior yourself with the bookshelves, cabinets, and other fixtures.
Another way is to get a tiny house kit and assemble it yourself. Both could be good options if you are looking to avoid the higher costs of a traditional tiny house builder.
The construction is the same – put up the steel studs, run your writing and plumbing then place your weatherproof exterior sheathing on the outside. Typically insulation happens at this point, and then your interior walls are formed with drywall or paneling. It’s just like any other build.
Can You Build a Tiny House with Steel Studs?
You can build a tiny house with steel studs. I believe the best option is to use a metal frame for your tiny house framing.
Did you know that metal framing took off in commercial construction first? Although metal had been used before, after world war II there was a lot of destruction in Europe and Japan, and these countries also experienced a shortage of timber. In the US, metal began to take off in the ’50s and ’60s, especially in commercial construction. The reduced combustibility of metal vs wood was also a major factor in its use.
In the context of tiny houses, steel frames can have weight savings over the wood of 20-50%. This is especially helpful because your home is built on a tiny house trailer and designed to be towed down the road. Having a lighter house makes it easier to move (and doesn’t use as much fuel in the process).
The build time is slightly faster with steel as well, or so I have been told in my conversations with experts.
What is Wrong With Steel Framed Houses?
One issue that can occur is thermal bridging. Remember, steel is a conductor – both electricity and heat. Proper code installation of wiring can prevent any issues first. But for the insulation, a high-quality spray foam insulation in all the empty spaces in the walls can help solve this problem. Metal studs are usually placed 16 or even 24 inches apart, and make for some of the highest quality exterior walls possible. They are very strong and light.
Some have complained that there can be corrosion – I haven’t met anyone with a moisture problem – especially if the building materials are high quality and done by an experienced contractor.
One thing to keep in mind is that no welding is required to make this kind of shell. Self-tapping screws are used instead of nails, and metal circular saw blades replace a wooden blade to cut the material. It is like using wood, but with slightly different techniques.
Are Steel Studs Cheaper than Wood?
As mentioned above using steel studs is less expensive than a traditional timber frame build. While a wood frame is very simple to build and there are no real special products needed to completely outfit it, a steel frame kit might be harder to work with if you aren’t as familiar with the process.
While you might not be able to find all the materials at Home Depot, a well-experienced builder knows where to go to get the materials for their steel structure.
Here are all the different kinds of wall frames that can be used.
Advanced Wood Framing
Light Gauge Steel Framing
Structural Insulated Panels (SIP panels)
Therma Steel Panels
Solid Heavy Timber Log Cabin
Light Log Cabin Style
When you make your own tiny house one factor to consider is what building material you will use. I think a steel frame tiny house is a great way to go, especially over non-renewable timber framing. Having a light gauge steel frame in your house makes it easier to move because it is lighter, and is much more fire-resistant. Look into all the different tiny house designs that are out there with steel frames, and I think you will be surprised!