Wood Vs. Steel Support Beams

Updated April 17, 2017

Wood has traditionally been the building material for most support beams in home construction. However, with steel proving itself as an excellent building material in large buildings, it is slowly replacing wood construction in conventional homes as well. This is due to many factors, from price and availability, strength and durability, and the elimination of misconceptions. Although wood remains important in home construction, steel provides many advantages. Steel buildings can even be pre-engineered to speed construction and efficiency.


Fortunately, wood and lumber is a renewable resource. Unfortunately, the rate of its needs versus how fast it is replanted is much higher. This means lumber prices can fluctuate. Steel, on the other hand, is readily available in large quantities. It is also recyclable. Steel prices, although historically higher than wood, is now on par with wood. The pricing of steel is usually consistent.


Steel support beams have very high load strength and can handle stress much better than wood. Aside from being one of the strongest building materials available for home construction, it is a manufactured metal, meaning its strength isn't dependant on things like knots, twists, or defects that may be found in wood.


Steel is very durable and is more likely to survive natural disasters like hurricanes, earthquakes, and fire. Steel also does not rot, mould, or dry out. It is not subject to infestation and will not shrink or warp in different weather conditions. Steel supports, walls, and frames stay straight and flat through construction and during its lifetime better than wood.


Steel can be pre-engineered or prefabricated, meaning the construction is done beforehand. This can save time and money and is generally an easier way to construct a building. This is done by constructing certain parts, bodies, or pieces in a factory before they are shipped to a construction site.


Both steel and wood have claims to being green, or environmentally-friendly. Wood grows naturally so the energy needed to process it is little. Iron on the other hand must be dug from the ground and then processed in large factories. This can create large amounts of greenhouse gases and pollution. However, while wood is a renewable resource, it is dependant on the time it takes to grow a tree and whether or not enough trees are growing. Steel is not a renewable resource, but it easier to recycle than wood. In fact, a great deal of steel in the United States is recycled.

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About the Author

David Kennedy attended Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. After graduating with a Bachelors of Arts in creative writing, he has continued his writing career through online freelance work with Demand Studios. Kennedy writes informational articles related to health, medicine, industry, computers and education.