Wood Framing vs. Cold-Formed Steel Framing in a COVID-19 World

Wood Framing vs. Cold-Formed Steel Framing in a COVID-19 World - iSPAN Systems

Many things are different than what they used to be, but one thing remains the same – cold-formed steel’s ability to deliver significant value for the construction industry. Now, there’s more value than ever before!

Today’s devastating COVID-19 realities have revealed that some products and materials are more volatile. Toilet paper has been hoarded in huge supplies, leaving little left for those who are patient and understanding. The same happened with the supply of lumber, as hardware stores quickly emptied out of this popular harvested material.

With lumber supplies still at critically low levels and prices through the roof, there has never been a better time to explore the leading alternative for mid-rise projects: cold-formed steel. Let’s take a closer look at how wood compares with cold-formed steel, especially in this volatile COVID-19 world:

Cost of Lumber Skyrockets as Steel Remains Affordable

It has been said many times before that when you factor in the many other costs associated with wood framing, such as insurance and maintenance, the overall price has been very similar to that of cold-formed-steel framing.

But the pandemic has resulted in significant spikes of lumber prices, and many general contractors sourcing wood supplies for mid-rise projects are stuck paying much more than they originally budgeted – often exceeding the cost of cold-formed-steel framing!

In fall 2020, lumber prices reached over $900 USD (per 1,000 board feet)! Architects were forced to change plans, general contractors pushed projects to the New Year, and developers were left frustrated with yet another delayed ROI.

Choosing cold-formed-steel framing lowers costs and reduces your stress related to finances.

Reducing the Spread of COVID-19

We are all looking forward to our world returning to ‘normal.’ At this point, the recommended course of action is to reduce our contact with others and social distance when possible.

When you choose wood framing, there can be dozens or even hundreds of people working on a site to raise a building. This can create a volatile situation that increases the spread of this deadly virus.

In the case of iSPAN’s innovative TotalFraming structural system, a small group of fabricators build each component offsite in controlled environments. When the finished materials arrive at the jobsite, an even smaller group of labourers can take on the task of installing the cold-formed-steel wall panels and joists. With less interaction with other trades, and smaller groups of workers than wood framing, choosing steel will create a safer working environment and limit exposure.

Combustibility of Wood vs. Cold-Formed-Steel Framing

Speaking of project safety, while general contractors increase their focus on reducing workforce contact, they must never be lax in other jobsite safety measures, like reducing the risk of fire. Wood framing is highly flammable, and so construction sites have high risk of fire and insurance costs are incredibly high.

Steel has a “type 2” fire rating, meaning it’s non-combustible. Cold-formed-steel framing gives general contractors confidence in reducing safety concerns onsite during construction, while owners also have more confidence in the finished product.

Cutting Virus Exposure by Reducing Installation Time

Erecting a building can take months, but it doesn’t need to go on for ages. Choosing cold-formed steel can result in your building erected up to 50% faster than wood construction – this is because each component is fabricated off-site at the exact size needed. Reducing onsite work cuts time, costs and, in these COVID-19 times, limits exposure to your workers.

Timeless Cold-Formed Quality

As you just learned, cold-formed steel is more competitively priced than ever before, creates significant jobsite time savings and can reduce virus exposure on your jobsite – many would agree that these alone would be enough to ditch wood. But wait, there’s more!

Each piece of wood is imperfect with frustrating knots, grains and bends. Cold-formed steel is and always will be fabricated exactly as it is designed – perfect for your mid-rise project.

How Will Your Business Evolve Because of COVID-19?

Some businesses are thriving, while others are faltering. If you are an architect, general contractor or developer, this is your opportunity to thrive. With prices that are competitive with lumber, improved safety and a superior product, cold-formed-steel framing can provide you many more benefits than wood framing. Learn more about iSPAN’s TotalFraming mid-rise construction solution or our Composite TotalJoist flooring system.

If you have questions, or wish to learn more about cold-formed-steel solutions from a North American expert, please contact the cold-formed-steel leaders today.


Call or email us if you have questions or would like to discuss a Canadian project.


For projects in the United States, reach out to one of our Authorized Dealers.