Pros & Cons- Wood Beams vs. Steel Beams

Wood and steel are the two most popular choices for structural support beams. Both kinds of beams present different pros and cons. Before deciding whether wood or steel beams are the right choice for your building project, consider the benefits and drawbacks of each carefully.

Pros of Wooden Beams

Design: Many people prefer the look and feel of wooden support beams. It is easy to work the appearance of wooden beams into open outdoor or cozy indoor spaces. Wood beams can also help maintain the aesthetic integrity of older structures.

Options: There are many different kinds of wooden support beams which can be easily customized. Paints and stains add to the wealth of options available.

Connectors: Wood beams are easier to connect to existing structural pieces. The centuries-old technique of tenon and mortise connections contribute to this ease of installation.

Cons of Wooden Beams

Environmental Impact: Wood support beams require that trees be cut down. Deforestation has a serious impact on the environment. Even recycled wooden beams represent a less than eco-friendly building material.

Wear & Tear: Wood is sensitive to the elements, such as weather and bugs. Continual upkeep is necessary in order to maintain this kind of support beam. Also, wood is vulnerable to fire and flood damage.

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Pros of Steel Beams

Size: A steel beam can provide adequate support to a structure while taking up dramatically less space than its wooden counterpart. Support pieces that take up less space will give you more room to design the space as you see fit. This will also make installing HVAC components and electrical wiring much easier to accomplish.

Wear & Tear: Steel beams require much less maintenance. They are not vulnerable to insect, fire or water damage and can withstand strong wind and other inclement weather conditions.

Eco-Friendly: Recycled steel support beams make a much smaller impact on the environment. This will also lower the overall cost of the steel pieces, as recycled steel is less expensive than brand new materials.

Cons of Steel Beams

Cost: Compared to wood, steel beams are more expensive. For larger projects, this can deplete a lot of the budget. While the pros of choosing steel justify this higher price, it can prohibit those on tight budgets from purchasing the material.

Weight: Steel support beams are very heavy. The increased weight of the steel building materials makes it harder to handle, which can lead to needing to hire more laborers to complete the work.

Steel and wood support beams each offer different pros and cons. Consider these carefully prior to committing to a building support material.

Jim is a designer of metal commercial buildings.  He often writes articles to inform people of the differences between wood and steel buildings.

Photo source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ligynnek/6876963982/

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