A brief history of deck framing
The building industry has used traditional wood framing for centuries—from large-scale commercial applications to residential decking projects. Many home DIYers have tackled deck framing themselves and likely opted for wood simply due to familiarity and availability of the lumber. In the same vein, professional builders have often made similar decisions, selecting wood framing materials due to a lower price per square foot.
Those same builders and homeowners will inevitably see wear and tear of wood deck framing materials. The “living nature” of wood means traditional wood framing lumber may experience twisting, warping, or cracking. If non-treated lumber is used (or treated lumber used incorrectly) then rot may develop as well.
For those same reasons, we’ve seen a shift in the choice of deck surface boards. With the development of innovative decking materials, the decking industry has begun to shift towards manufactured deck boards such as composite or PVC. Many of these composite/manufactured deck boards come with multi-decade fade and stain warranties. These boards are consistent in dimension and quality, which quickens installation. Steel framing also runs consistently straight and true, and with its strength and durability, it’s a great match with deck boards designed to last 25+ years.
Today’s steel framing option
The steel used for deck framing is not the same as the large I-Beams you see at a commercial building job site. Though sharing many of the core properties of that steel, such as its unyielding stability and heavy-duty strength, Evolution steel deck framing is made with light-gauge steel. This means it’s easier to design with, handle and install.
Steel framing is consistent in dimension. Inherent to wood is a variance in dimension due to moisture content. While wood joists may have slight variances between each other, each steel joist has the same dimension. This means all joists can run off a ledger at the same height and the deck boards that follow mount level too – particularly composite deck boards that curve and flow over variances in joist height.
It’s an easy switch to steel components from traditional lumber. If you know how to frame with wood, you can frame with steel – even on curves. Steel ledgers, beams, joists, and rim joists have similar dimensions to wood framing and install with self-tapping screws, as well as traditional methods that don’t require buying or renting any specialty tools.
How do the components fit together?
The Evolution framing system is easy to assemble and uses the same elements as wood, such as ledgers and joists. Better yet, these pieces fit together precisely using the included hardware and fasteners, so there is not the extra cost of joist hangers and other framing metal.
Advantages of steel and wood deck framing
To help you make a fully informed decision about the framing material that will best serve your next project, let’s look at some benefits of steel deck framing as well as traditional wood.
- Fortress Evolution Steel Framing is lighter and stronger than wood. Less material is needed to support a deck (compared to wood) and there’s less weight to lift and support while it’s being fastened.
- Steel is much more dimensionally stable—compared with wood that changes more with weather.
- Steel is resistant to mold, insect, and other animal damage.
- Steel framing may be enclosed whereas wood requires ventilation.
- Steel can better withstand natural disasters such as earthquakes or hurricanes.
- The initial cost of wood framing material is less.
- Wood framing provides a better R-value, or insulating capacity
- Wood framing is more familiar and more commonly stocked at lumberyards.
Traditional lumber is the common choice familiar to many, and steel framing offers an alternative system of uniform pieces that are easy-to-use, long-lasting, safe, and straight.
Steel framing solutions
Whether you’re a professional builder or a DIYer, the framing for your deck is no small consideration. Steel framing may have seemed inaccessible or cost-prohibitive in the past, but thanks to advances in technology, manufacturers have begun to address some of the primary drawbacks. For example, powder-coated finishing allows steel framing to withstand rust and offers increased corrosion resistance for any climate. Additionally, steel framing comes ready to assemble and saves builders crucial time and labor. In conclusion, there’s nothing inherently wrong with using traditional lumber, but steel framing offers an easy-to-use, long-lasting, safe, and complete system.
Considering jumping on the steel framing bandwagon? Dunn Lumber offers a selection of category-leading steel frame decking systems that make builders’ lives easier.
Thanks, Toby! Stay tuned for Part 2 of this series to learn even more about Evolution steel deck framing. For more information on deck framing as a whole, see our blogs on how to frame a deck and proper ledger board connections.