From an Engineering Standpoint: Why Cold-Formed Steel is Better than Wood Framing

May 2023

Cold-formed steel framing (CFS) is gaining momentum in the construction industry due to its exceptional durability and strength. It serves as a prime alternative to conventional wood framing, and what sets it apart is its unparalleled engineering capabilities.

In this blog, we will explore why cold-formed steel framing outperforms wood framing while considering cost-effectiveness, sustainability, and structural resistance.

Advantages of Cold-Formed Steel

Advantages of Cold-Formed Steel


Cold-formed steel is a smart choice for structures requiring significant load-bearing support while reducing overall weight. Its malleability allows for flexibility in meeting different load requirements, making it a perfect choice for mid-rise buildings and other applications where the load-to-weight ratio is critical.

Cold-formed steel gains its renowned strength from being shaped through rollers at low temperatures, resulting in a thinner yet stronger material. As the steel is compressed during this process, the lower temperature involved in cold forming, as opposed to hot forming, ensures a more robust and durable steel product.


Comparing cold-formed steel framing to wood framing can sometimes be deceptive. In plain dollars and cents, wood may initially appear comparable in cost to using cold-formed steel. However, once considering the overall cost-effectiveness and longevity of CFS over other framing materials, CFS is clearly the smart-money choice.
Steel framing saves a significant 25% on labor, insurance, and maintenance expenses, particularly given the rapidly increasing wood costs.

While wood framing may have a lower upfront cost for certain construction projects, it’s important to note that cold-formed steel construction is the preferred option due to its unparalleled strength, resistance, longevity, and overall structural integrity.
And then there’s the question of durability.


Hands-down, cold-formed steel is more durable than wood framing for mid-rise construction projects! CFS is lightweight, strong, and fire-resistant, making it a popular choice in construction, particularly for low-rise and mid-rise buildings.

CFS lasts significantly longer than wood, reducing the need for replacement materials throughout the life of a structure. As we’ll see, it is also impervious to corrosion, rot, mildew, and pests.

Disadvantages of Wood Framing

Vulnerability to Rot and Pests

In mid-rise construction, wood framing can be particularly susceptible to rot and pests, which can thrive in the moist environments that are often present. This problem is compounded for projects situated in particularly humid climates, as the wood structures can readily absorb moisture, creating fertile breeding grounds for mold and fungi.

Unfortunately, wood framing also serves as a beacon to numerous wood-devouring pests – carpenter ants, termites, wood-boring beetles, and other like-minded critters that are all too eager to make a meal out of untreated wood.

Limited Availability of Lumber

The shortage of lumber has greatly affected construction projects, causing delays in completing projects on time as builders need more resources.

Many builders have turned away from using traditional lumber due to the difficulty in sourcing expensive and rare materials and have opted for the more readily available option of cold-formed steel framing.

Limited Design Potential

Wood framing can limit the design potential of mid-rise construction projects. One way wood framing can limit design potential is by restricting the height of the building. If a floor-to-floor height of 10 feet is assumed, then a mid-rise building would be between four and ten stories, or 35 to 85 feet tall. Wood framing is typically limited to a building height of just 65 feet.

On the other hand, the industry standard allows CFS load-bearing studs to frame structures up to 10 stories, making it an excellent choice from an aesthetic or architectural viewpoint.

Disadvantages of Wood Framing
Benefits of Cold-Formed Steel from an Engineering Standpoint

Benefits of Cold-Formed Steel from an Engineering Standpoint

Flexibility of Design

From an engineering perspective, cold-formed steel is superior, enabling innovative construction and design while meeting economic and building construction code requirements.

Unlike wood framing, CFS can span larger rooms while bearing greater loads. In mid-rise structures, engineers look for a framing system that is energy-saving and sustainable.

Easy Installation

The installation process of cold-formed steel is conveniently uncomplicated and necessitates a minimal amount of labor and few specialized tools. The material can be altered through cutting, drilling, bending, and shaping using rudimentary shop tools and connectors.

Walls made of cold-formed steel are accessible in prefabricated panels that can be installed with minimal exertion.

The lightweight composition of cold-formed steel also aids the transportation process to the construction site and subsequent installation. Unsurprisingly, the elementary installation process of cold-formed steel makes it a go-to option for construction projects of moderate elevation.

Fire Resistance

Cold-formed steel’s fire-resistant properties make it an excellent choice for mid-rise construction projects. With the ability to withstand temperatures up to 2,000°F, well above wood framing’s 1,100°F limit, cold-formed steel is a much safer option for construction projects.

In addition to being non-combustible and not emitting smoke, it offers an extra layer of safety and security to any building. Furthermore, its structural integrity remains unaffected even during a fire, thus minimizing the damage caused by such disasters.

It’s little wonder why construction companies are gravitating toward cold-formed steel. All in all, CFS is one of the most useful and versatile materials for the construction industry.

Summary of Advantages of Cold-Formed Steel

• Durability: Cold-formed steel is more resistant to fire, moisture, and pests than wood, making it a more reliable choice for structural support.

• Strength: Cold-formed steel is much stronger than wood, reducing the need for additional support materials.

• Flexibility: Cold-formed steel boasts superior flexibility compared to wood, enabling it to be molded into any possible structure or dimension. Its pronounced malleability makes it an appealing choice for various applications.

• Energy Efficiency: Cold-formed steel is an excellent insulator, helping to reduce energy costs and creating a more efficient structure.

• Speed of Construction: Cold-formed steel allows for swift and efficient installation, ultimately resulting in decreased labor expenses and time investment.

• Versatility: The lightweight design of cold-formed steel allows it to be used in various applications, from walls and ceilings to facades and roofs.

Summary of Advantages of Cold-Formed Steel


In engineering, a building with cold-formed steel trumps wood framing in every way imaginable. Not only is CFS more cost-effective and sustainable, but it also boasts a plethora of structural benefits that wood framing simply can’t compete with.

If you’re selecting building materials for your next construction project, it’s worth considering the countless advantages of CFS over traditional wood framing. To learn more about the advantages of cold-formed steel and how you can benefit from using cold-formed steel products, speak with the team of steel framing professionals at All Steel Mid-Rise.

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