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WOOD versus STEEL Buildings- Part 2

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April 5, 2016

Natural Challenges Facing Wood and Steel Buildings

Part 1 of this series on wood versus steel buildings covered some of the basic material differences between the two building methods. Now let’s look at how wood and steel performance.

When considering a building system, it is important to think long term.

When Nature AttacksHow safe is the structure? How will it hold up against earthquakes, fire, violent storms, and termites?


WOOD-framed structures invite termites, wood ants, and vermin in for a snack. Wood building owners must pay hundreds of dollars for harsh chemical treatments to hold wood-munching critters at bay— or thousands of dollars in repairs when the insidious termites breach the perimeters and damage the structure.

STEEL: Not even the most determined Formosan termite can make a meal of steel. Steel buildings never attract termites, wood ants or vermin— nor do they need repeated and expensive termite treatments.


Americans pay almost $888 million annually for lightning damage.

WOOD resists electrical current. The moisture content of lumber causes wood framing to detonate when struck by lightning, shooting voltage out to surrounding people or objects.

STEEL is a great conductor of current. If lightning strikes a metal building, the current passes through the steel, dispersing harmlessly into the ground. Properly grounded steel buildings resist lightning damage.


WOOD: Hurricane-force winds usually breach a structure through broken windows or by punching through large door openings, like garages doors. The wind produces lift. The nail and staple connections used in wood framing fail under pressure. The roof lifts and blows off the building. Without the roof, the walls topple.

STEEL: Pre-engineered rigid-steel buildings combat high winds with stronger components and stouter connections. The high-strength steel bolts and nuts uniting steel-framing members withstand greater wind forces than wood structures.


There were almost half a million structural fires reported last year in the U.S. Over 3,200 civilians perished in those fires. When comparing wood versus steel buildings, which one promises greater safety from devastating fires?

WOOD is combustible. Wood framing is the second most likely place for a structural fire to start. Once a blaze is ignited, wood framing continues to feed a fire.

STEEL: Fire-resistant steel framing never becomes the point of ignition in building fires. Nor will steel framing fuel a structural fire.

That is why non-combustible nature of steel framing earns lower premiums with most insurance companies.

Derecho Barn CollageEARTHQUAKES

WOOD: Under the stresses of a seismic event, wood studs snap and connections fail.

STEEL: The heavy-duty steel bolts and nuts joining pre-engineered steel systems create moment frames. During an earthquake, moment connections allow framing to move slightly, absorbing the lateral forces caused by shaking.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) calls steel moment frames “one of the best earthquake resisting systems available.”

Weld-up steel buildings— where the framing pieces are welded together rather than bolted— do not perform well in earthquakes. Welded connections may break during a quake.


No building system can claim to be impervious to natural disasters. However, when examining the facts, it is clear that pre-engineered steel buildings typically perform better under pressure than lumber-framed buildings.

Call RHINO Steel Building Systems today to learn more about the benefits and strengths of prefabricated metal buildings. Talk to a friendly RHINO steel building specialist now by calling 888.320.7466 toll free.

Don’t miss our last installment in this wood versus steel buildings series. In part 3 we will compare the environmental pros and cons of the two building systems.


- by Bruce Brown,
Steel Building Systems, Inc

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