In today's construction of single-family homes or high-rise structures, there are two types of materials used: wood or steel. Residential construction is often post beam and primarily comprised of wood members for ease of building, and commercial construction uses steel for strength and rigidity.
Wood Beam Uses
Wood beams are used in construction to make wide-open spaces, normally requiring vertical support beams or posts. Large exposed beams are readily visible in churches and were introduced into the retail construction sector in the late 1960s.
Advantages of Wood Beams
Wood beams use mortise and tenon connections, so they don't require any special connectors. They also create beautiful and magnificent open areas with a rustic look and appeal.
Disadvantages of Wood Beams
Wood beams are susceptible to fire- and wood-eating insects like termites. They are also unable to span great distances without support columns. Wood beams cost significantly more than standard wood framing members due to the size, density and quality of the wood.
Steel Beam Uses
Steel beams are used in commercial construction, particularly in high-rise structures. Lighter-weight beams are used in residential construction to span distances beyond wood capabilities.
Advantages of Steel Beams
A steel beam is less likely to warp or bend and will not be eaten by insects, nor do they burn. Steel structures take up less space, allowing more room for insulation, electrical wiring, plumbing and cooling ducts. They also require less density to carry the same weight as larger wood beams and give stronger support against strong winds.
Disadvantages of Steel Beams
The major disadvantage of steel over wood beams is that they cost more per lineal foot. They are also much heavier than wood, which make them harder to work with.
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