How ICF Solves the Problems of Both Metal and Wood Stud Framing

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Builders in search of solutions to problems with metal and wood stud construction should consider Fox Blocks insulated concrete form (ICF) construction. Fox Blocks ICFs create energy-efficient and durable buildings that are fire-, disaster- termite-, and moisture-resistant. In addition, Fox Blocks ensure a comfortable and safe indoor environmental quality (IEQ) with superb acoustics and no unhealthy volatile organic compounds (VOC) or mold.

For the past 100 years, builders have used high-gauge metal and traditional wood studs to frame load-bearing walls. The cost, ease of construction, availability of skilled labor, and design constraints typically determine whether a builder uses metal or wood studs. In this post, we'll discuss the benefits and problems with metal studs and wood studs in commercial and residential construction. We further discuss how the use of insulated concrete forms (ICFs) provide a superior alternative to both metal and wood studs for framing load-bearing walls.

The Pros and Cons of Metal Studs

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Production of metal studs involves forming the studs from strips of galvanized steel in cold rolling machines. Metal studs used for structural building components utilize heavier gauge metals than the metal studs for non-load bearing walls.

The Pros of Metal Studs

  1. Moisture and humidity do not affect galvanized metal studs, so they do not warp or rot and can remain straight and sturdy for a long time.
  2. The durability and strength of metal stud construction stands up to severe winds.
  3. Termite-resistant metal studs eliminate the need for pest control measures.
  4. Metal studs are hollow and lightweight, which makes them easy to carry and store.
  5. Manufacturing metal studs with steel creates a green product because steel can be recycled.
  6. Metal studs do not emit VOCs.

The Cons of Metal Studs

  1. Cutting metal studs can be difficult and hazardous. It typically requires a miter or circular saw equipped with a metal-cutting blade in conjunction with tin snips.
  2. Limited availability of less popular dimensions of metal studs can slow the construction progress.
  3. Taping a drywall screw into a metal stud requires practice and patience.
  4. Metal studs do not contribute towards energy-efficient structures due to thermal bridging. Thermal bridging allows heat to flow from the inside of the building along the most conductive path, which is the metal studs. Thermal bridging makes a structure drafty and cold. It can also create black staining on the cold portions of the walls.
  5. While metal is incombustible, it loses strength at high temperatures, like during a fire, which makes the metal studs prone to buckling and even collapse. Also, as an active conductor of heat, metal studs can ignite adjacent materials, which may cause flames to spread to other areas of a building rapidly.
  6. When considering only the framing system, studies show that a metal stud framing system can cost 15 percent more than wood stud framing systems.
  7. The acoustics within a metal stud structure produce loud and echoing noises as the sound waves reflect off the hard surface.

The Pros and Cons of Wood Stud Framing

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Many builders (and their employees and subcontractors) are knowledgeable and comfortable with wood-stud construction; which makes them less likely to use other building methods. However, builders should consider the pros and cons of wood stud construction before starting their next new project.

The Pros of Wood Studs

  1. Environmentally-conscious builders often choose renewable wood studs. Also, wood studs require less energy to manufacture and transport than steel. Furthermore, the lifecycle of steel results in 26 percent more greenhouse gas emissions than wood.
  2. Wood studs are readily available products that builders can quickly obtain at locally owned and big box lumber stores.
  3. Over time, it is easy to maintain and repair wooden structures.

The Cons of Wood Studs

  1. Building a disaster-resistant wood stud buildings costs 25–30 percent more than standard wood-frame construction.
  2. Building a fire-resistant structure with wood studs challenges builders because of the combustibility of wood and the difficulty in reducing the spread of flames.
  3. Termites can damage a wood-stud building's durability and cost thousands of dollars in repairs. Protecting a wood-stud building requires a qualified professional and specialized equipment.
  4. Moisture accumulation within the walls of a wood stud building leads to mold. Mold is unhealthy to the building's occupants and can degrade the structure.
  5. Wood-studs may contain chemicals, adhesives, and VOCs that compromise indoor air quality.
  6. For wood-stud walls, construction requires soundproofing features to ensure a quiet and peaceful home.
  7. The low thermal mass of wood studs creates thermal bridging reducing the overall energy efficiency of the whole wall assembly.
  8. The quality of wood studs has diminished resulting in more on-site waste.
  9. Energy codes are driving wood walls to be thicker, even double stud applications to meet insulating standards.

Metal Studs vs. Wood Studs for Load Bearing Walls

Builders commonly choose between environmentally friendly metal and wood stud framing materials based on the advantages they have over each other.

  • Metal studs offer several advantages over wood studs. Metal studs provide disaster-resistance and are not prone to termite or mold damage, like wood studs. Metal studs are also healthier than wood studs because metal does not emit VOCs.
  • Wood has several advantages over metal studs. Wood studs are less expensive and more available than metal studs. Wood studs are also easier and safer to cut, maintain, and repair, over metal studs.

Unfortunately, metal and wood studs share several disadvantages. Neither product is energy-efficient or fire-resistant. Moreover, both building methods require extensive measures to create acoustically pleasing indoor environments.

ICF Solves the Problems of Both Metal and Wood Stud Construction

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Contractors looking for a superior product that solves all the problems of metal and wood stud construction should consider insulated concrete forms (ICFs), like the Fox Blocks. Fox Blocks integrated wall system includes the air barrier, structure, insulation, vapor retarder, and attachment into an all-in-one wall assembly.

Unlike metal and wood studs;

  • The Fox Blocks ICF wall system creates energy-efficient structures. Fox Blocks exceed ASHRAE/ANSI 90.1 energy code requirements with an R-value of 23 and high thermal mass.
  • Fox Blocks provide fire-resistance. Fox Blocks obtain a rating (ASTM E119) of 4 hours for the 6-inch blocks and 2 hours for the 4-inch blocks.
  • Fox Blocks create good acoustics. Sound transmission tests showed that less than a third of sound passes through ICF walls than wood-frame walls filled with fiberglass insulation. Fox Blocks achieve a Sound Transmission Classification (ASTM E90) of 4-inch=STC 46, 6- and 8-inch = STC 50+.
  • One ICF blocks is 5.33 square feet of insulated wall area, expediting construction and minimizing labor.

Unlike wood studs;

  • Fox Blocks contain little to no VOC.
  • Termite-resistant Fox Blocks lack organic material which termites like to eat. However, to ensure protection against termites, Fox Blocks recommends Polyguard Products, Inc. 650 XTM or 650 XTP membranes for below grade walls.
  • Disaster-resistant Fox Blocks resist winds of over 200 MPH, and projectile debris traveling over 100 MPH.
  • Moisture-resistant Fox Blocks provide a solid continuous monolithic concrete wall with a perm rating of less than 1.0, therefore less prone to mold than wood.
  • Fox Blocks mass walls eliminate thermal bridging.
  • Fox Blocks may be designed for below grade and above grade walls, multi-story and tall wall buildings.

Fox Blocks ICF wall systems provide solutions to problems with both wood and metal stud framing methods. Energy-efficient Fox Blocks ICF buildings resist disasters, moisture, and insects. ICF also creates a better IEQ than wood and metal frame structures. For more information on why ICF provides an excellent alternative to wood and metal stud construction, please visit Fox Blocks.