Why use steel over timber: A home construction guide

TOUGH STUFF: Steel has the same level of strength everywhere. Photo: Shutterstock
TOUGH STUFF: Steel has the same level of strength everywhere. Photo: Shutterstock

Everyone knows the story of the three little pigs and the big bad wolf.

A house made of straw and another with sticks, both blown over by the wolf's huffing and puffing, until he arrives at the mighty brick house.

Well, if there were a fourth dwelling in this story, the pigs would be wise to consider making it from steel.

Steel plays a massive role in constructing homes, buildings and infrastructure, not only in Australia, but throughout the world.

While iron was imported from Great Britain during the early days of Federation, residential construction in Sydney greatly benefited from the structural steel produced at the newly opened Newcastle steelworks in 1915.

More than 100 years later, modern residential and commercial buildings still leverage off this incredible material, using revolutionary computer technologies to cut and fabricate steel into more robust and intricate shapes.

While other materials such as timber are still used for residential construction, many think there is a clear winner in the battle of steel versus wood, such as Sydney steel fabricators, Steel Builders.

Creating smarter solutions through steel, these guys know a thing or two about home construction, especially when choosing suitable materials for the job.

Here they detail some of the reasons steel is so tough to overlook.

Strength to weight ratio

You're only as strong as your weakest link.

Steel is a manufactured material with isotropic properties, meaning it has the same level of strength everywhere.

Wood on the other hand is anisotropic, meaning its density varies along and across the grain.

This therefore gives steel the highest strength-to-weight ratio of any current building material.

Steel plays a massive role in constructing homes, buildings, and infrastructure worldwide and in Australia.

Flexibility and movement

Thanks to its isotropic properties, steel is much stiffer than timber, allowing for less movement.

CAD (computer-aided design) drafting has also allowed for the production of flexible steel construction, which means much of the labour can be done off-site, making on-site assembly more straightforward.

Termites can't eat steel beams

It's pretty obvious, but one of the clear benefits of using steel is the fact that it's termite-proof.

While these wood-hungry pests can be a nightmare for timber structures, choosing steel means there's no risk of having to make an emergency call to your local pest control companies.

Heat and fire resistance

Throw a bit of timber into a fire and you've got firewood.

Throw a piece of steel into the flames and you've got a hot piece of metal.

In addition to being non-combustible, steel can retain its shape at high temperatures, dramatically reducing the risk of fire and catastrophe.

Steel also makes for an excellent insulator, as heat can quickly radiate from steel roofing, creating a cooler home in hotter climates.

Recycling steel

One fact that surprises people the most is that steel is 100 per cent recyclable, with most structural steel buildings in Australia using 100 per cent recycled steel.

Steel Builders, for example, locally source their materials to meet Australian Standards.

Furthermore, steel doesn't require treatment against pests and hazards, reducing the need for toxic chemicals.