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A Comprehensive Overview of Metal Stud Framing in Commercial Construction

A Comprehensive Overview of Metal Stud Framing in Commercial Construction

Talk about a revamp to the conventional wood framing from the 1950s and you have the smart innovation of metal stud wall framing. The much in demand method gained its claim to fame because of its versatile properties of smoothness, straighter walls and a more resilient finish. Metal stud framing is also known as light-gauge steel framing and although the conventional methods do have ample plus points, metal stud frames outdo the wood framing method since it has several aesthetic and functional perks. 

Structural Framing in Commercial Structures

Structural framing in commercial buildings involves assembling planes and walls with steel elements. The primary components of metal stud framing include the stud and the track. For walls carrying loads or for structural purposes such as exterior walls, it’s advisable to employ heavy gauge metal studs. Conversely, lighter gauge metal studs suffice for non-load bearing structures like partitions, half walls, and interior walls. 

The techniques employed for fitting metal studs closely resemble wood construction methods, and metal framing studs are available in dimensions, much like wood studs. Typically, screws are used to secure metal studs in place. Additionally, fixed clips offer contractors flexibility in bypass framing. In areas susceptible to seismic activity, deflection connectors are commonly employed. These connectors allow for independent movement between a stud wall and its substrate. Stiffening plates are often added to openings to reinforce connections.

Analyzing the Expenses of Commercial Metal Stud Framing 

The installation expenses for metal studs within an average 2,000 square foot commercial area range between $19,000 and $25,000. This fluctuation in cost primarily stems from the varying prices of steel over time, causing material expenses to either rise or fall.

Despite the fluctuations in steel prices, labor costs typically remain stable, averaging between $5 and $10 per square foot. The project’s geographical location, the complexity of the architectural design, and the unpredictable nature of the steel market are the three main factors influencing the budget for framing.

Moreover, nearly all metal studs incorporate a portion of recycled steel content. Consequently, most studs contain sufficient recycled material to earn Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) points, a significant consideration in commercial construction endeavors. As steel is recyclable, many contractors opt to sell waste generated from metal stud framing projects to recycling facilities or back to steel manufacturers, thereby further reducing project costs.

Breaking down the expenses:

Estimation based on size: With steel studs, the size does not significantly impact costs. Due to their hollow construction, producing studs of dimensions 2×2, 2×4, or 2×6 necessitates only a marginal increase in steel usage. Consequently, regardless of wall thickness, labor expenses remain consistent.

Estimation based on steel gauge: Although labor costs remain steady, material expenses vary. Estimating costs according to the gauge of steel employed (i.e., the thickness of the metal) averages between $2 and $5 per square foot. Load-bearing walls typically utilize 16 or 18-gauge studs, while interior walls are typically constructed using 20 or 25-gauge metal studs.

How Much Do Contractors Charge for Commercial Metal Stud Framing? 

Contractors typically determine their fees for commercial projects based on the length of the project when providing estimates. Customers can anticipate charges ranging from $5 to $10 for every square foot of the undertaking, or $10 to $30 for each linear foot. Generally, the expense per unit decreases as the size of the project increases. While the type of structure seldom influences labor quotations, material expenses fluctuate significantly, particularly for factors such as heavier steel gauge, multilevel constructions, and thicker walls.

Is Metal Framing More Economical Than Wood?

In earlier times, wooden studs prevailed as the primary choice for framing construction. However, nowadays, it’s rare to encounter new constructions employing them. What sparked this shift? Below are the factors driving most commercial contractors towards metal stud framing, despite its higher cost: 

– Wood is susceptible to rotting or warping when exposed to moisture. 

– Metal stud framing proves cheaper than wood. 

– Installation of wood studs demand specialized skills.

Opting for commercial stud framing with metal offers several benefits over wood, making it a financially savvy choice. Steel studs remain unaffected by warping and are impervious to water damage and termite attacks. Moreover, steel is environmentally preferable, eliminating the need for tree felling. 

Could metal stud framing represent the future of construction? Highly likely. With the diminishing supply of quality wood and ongoing advancements in steel solutions, the advantages of metal stud framing will become increasingly evident. 

An Example of Metal Stud Framing Procedures

To exemplify metal stud framing techniques, we’ll explore a practical scenario. Let’s consider the construction of a basic non-load-bearing wall within a basement, positioned perpendicular to overhead joists.

This demonstration highlights the significance of construction practices in commercial settings. Hence, every metal stud framing necessitates the expertise of a professional capable of executing the task with utmost accuracy.

  1. Foundation: Bottom Track Installation

Before framing commences, any required vapor barriers or wall insulation should be in place for foundation walls. The floor track is tailored to fit, initially snipping its flanges. Subsequently, one flange is bent back, facilitating the cutting of the track web.

  1. Aligning the Structure: Top Track Placement

The upper track of the frame is then affixed parallel to the lower track. This is conveniently achieved by employing a plumb-adjusted stud to position the upper track accurately

  1. Crafting Studs to Size

For minor projects, metal studs are tailored using aviation snips. In contrast, larger-scale undertakings necessitate the use of power tools like chop saws or circular saws. However, this process emits sparks, generates noise, and produces smoke, mandating the use of protective gear for eyes and ears. 

  1. Erecting Studs

Ensuring vertical alignment and straight knock-out openings is crucial during stud installation. Initial studs are inserted into the top and bottom tracks, clamped with C-clamps, and securely fastened to the steel stud base using No.8 self-drilling screws.

  1. Implementing Drywall

The installation of drywall for metal studs mirror that of wood framing, albeit with some nuances. It may require practice to ensure proper screw penetration into the steel. Applying substantial horizontal pressure while driving the screws with a drill facilitates this process effectively.

How Are Metal Stud Walls Constructed?

Metal stud walls that are non-structural or non-load-bearing serve a distinct purpose in construction. Unlike their load-bearing counterparts, these walls aren’t designed to support axial loads from elements like roof rafters or floor joists. However, they are engineered to endure the dead weight of standard wall finishes such as plaster or gypsum boards, while also providing resistance against normal transverse loads within the structure. It’s crucial to note that the lateral loads these walls can sustain shouldn’t exceed 10 lbs. per square foot.

The light-gauge steel framing employed in numerous commercial interior partitions comes in various thicknesses, finishes, shapes, and sizes. Each element of a metal stud wall plays a vital role in the wall assembly’s functionality. Selecting the appropriate size of these components depends on factors like the spacing of framing members and the wall’s height.

For typical commercial interiors, stud spacing commonly falls within 12″, 16″, or 24″ intervals. However, when determining the ideal spacing for metal studs in wall construction, other considerations come into play, such as impact resistance and the composition of the wall finish. Additionally, whether the finish is applied to one side or both sides of the wall influences spacing decisions. Generally, interior walls in commercial public spaces, such as restaurants or stores, require higher impact resistance compared to those in private offices.

Door Opening Installation Using Metal Stud Framing

When dealing with metal-studded walls and incorporating door openings, the process is straightforward: 

  1. Selecting the Door Placement: Begin by determining the optimal position for the door within the wall. This spot should align naturally with the room’s layout, ensuring convenient access without any hindrances.
  1. Taking Measurements: Accurately measure the dimensions of the door, including its frame. Document these measurements. Additionally, measure the wall’s location from the initial step to account for the entire opening.
  1. Locating Studs and Adjusting Door Position: Utilize an electronic stud-finder to pinpoint the studs within the designated opening area, marking each one. Then, adjust the door’s position to align it centrally between the studs.
  1. Removing Drywall and Unwanted Studs: Employ a hammer to eliminate the drywall or sheetrock between the metal studs. Remove the necessary studs to create space for the door. Mark the height of the opening on both jam studs using a level.
  1. Installing Header Braces: Install header braces onto the jam studs using four number 8 framing screws/studs on each clip. Place the header into the header clips or braces, securing it with an additional four No. 8 screws. Install cripple studs 12 inches from the center using four screws per cripple stud.
  1. Preparing the Frame for the Door: Cut a 2 by 4 to fit into the metal frame’s track, providing a suitable surface for the door to be installed. Maneuver the door into the opening with a slight twist for easier insertion. Attach the frame to the opening, adjusting it as necessary through repeated opening and closing motions.


Metal stud framing stands out as a foundational element for both commercial and industrial constructions. These studs overshadow wood counterparts in strength and eco-friendliness, ensuring not only sturdiness but also environmental responsibility. Additionally, they provide crucial support for load-bearing walls, contributing significantly to the structural integrity of commercial edifices.

Moreover, the adaptability of metal stud framing is noteworthy. It caters to various structural elements such as ceilings, soffits, interior walls, and exterior walls. Serving as the primary framework for most contemporary commercial constructions, it plays an indispensable role in every building project.


What is metal stud framing?

Metal stud framing is a construction technique that uses steel elements instead of wood to build walls and structural frameworks in buildings.

How is metal stud framing different from wood framing? 

Metal stud framing is stronger and more durable than wood framing. It also allows for smoother walls and straighter structures, making it a popular choice for modern construction projects.

Why should I consider metal stud framing for my building project?

Metal stud framing offers several advantages, including strength, durability, and environmental friendliness. It provides reliable support for walls and ceilings while ensuring a resilient finish that lasts longer than traditional wood framing.

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