Basements give homeowners room to grow. You can turn one into a guest bedroom, home office, media room or man cave. When you make the decision to transform your basement, one of your first choices is whether to go with wood or steel framing. Framing is attached to the existing concrete or cement wall to form studs to create the finished wall. Let your skill-set and budget be your guide to determine which material is best to use.
Wood is a classic choice for framing basements. It’s readily available, affordable, versatile and easy to work with. It’s also more adaptable than steel for framing pre-hung doors, even if you use steel as your main framing material. You will also need to use wood if you are going to install cabinets, vanities or plumbing fixtures because metal is not sturdy enough to support these types of structures. If your basement is below soil grade and you are framing on a concrete floor, use pressure-treated wood. This will minimize the potential for rotting as basements are known for retaining moisture and humidity. Another tip is to leave a 1-inch gap between the frame and the foundation when attaching drywall to wooden frames. This will promote better air circulation and keep moisture out of the wood framing.
Metal framing is a good option if your basement walls and floors are relatively level. The less you have to cut and the less intricate the cuts have to be, the easier it will be to attach metal frames. This is an important consideration because metal frames are straight and not as “forgiving” as wood when it’s time to cut them. However, most residential-grade metal framing studs are lighter in weight than professional and commercial-grade metal framing. This makes them easier to cut with a metal saw blade and tin snips.
The standard size for wood and metal frame studs is 2-by-3 inches, and both types of materials are typically installed at 24- or 16-inch intervals. While spacing the framing studs 24 inches apart may save a bit of money in terms of materials, it can be to your advantage to space the framing at 16-inch intervals so you will have more options in terms of locating studs and hanging objects once your basement is finished. Each requires their own type of screws for installation, such as wood screws for a wood frame and steel screws for a metal frame.
Metal frames are convenient, pre- and post-construction, because they have pre-stamped holes that provide a sturdy and structured format for lining up electrical attachments and conduits. However, if you go with metal framing, you will need two types of materials: the stud and the steel track. The stud framing strips will have to be cut so that they line up with the holes in the tracks installed on the floor and ceiling. This means that measuring and fitting might be a bit more tricky when it comes to using metal frames. Wood studs do not require a special track, and you can shift, move and cut wood without having to line it up as precisely as you would with metal frames. The bottom-line trade-offs are cost and flexibility. Metal will be somewhat cheaper, but wood will provide a bit more flexibility during the construction process.
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