How to Frame with Metal
Lightweight, inexpensive, and strong, metal is catching on as a popular framing material. Here's how to use it for your next building project.
Wood is the traditional material for framing houses. But in commercial construction, steel framing is the norm, largely because steel studs are inherently fire-resistant. Steel framing, however, is gradually catching on with home remodelers. It has some real advantages over wood: It is lightweight, inexpensive, and strong. In addition, it won't rot, shrink, or warp. Steel framing is ideal for framing walls in a basement, where moisture can be a problem.
Walls framed with steel are built in place, one piece at a time. The primary fastener is a sheet-metal screw; the primary tools are a power drill/driver and metal snips. You'll need about 1 to 2 hours to frame a 12-foot wall. Prep for the job by planning where the new walls will go.
What You Need
- Tape measure
- Chalk line
- Plumb bob
- Power drill/driver
- Metal snips
- Metal track and studs (four studs for the first 4 feet of wall, three studs for every 4 feet thereafter)
- Pan-head sheet-metal screws
Step 1: Lay Out Wall
Lay out both sides of the wall on the floor with chalk lines. For a concrete floor, predrill 1/8-inch holes and attach the track with concrete screws. Use pan-head sheet-metal screws for a wooden floor.
Editor's Tip: It's always smart to wear safety goggles or safety glasses when you drive fasteners, but it is especially so when driving fasteners into concrete, which easily chips and flies when drilled.
Step 2: Transfer Layout
Transfer the layout from the floor to the ceiling with a plumb bob. If your wall runs parallel to the joists, install blocking to provide an anchor point. Screw the track to the joists with pan-head sheet-metal screws.
Step 3: Splice Tracks
To splice two lengths of track together, cut a 2-inch slit in the center of one piece's web. Compress the flanges and slide it into the adjoining piece. For corners, remove the flange from one of the pieces and overlap the webs.
Step 4: Plan for Studs
Lay out the stud locations on the top and bottom tracks. Cut the studs to length and stand them in the tracks. Friction will hold them in place while you check them for plumb. Fasten them with short pan-head sheet-metal screws.
Step 5: Make Headers
Make doorway headers from lengths of track. Cut the flanges at 45 degrees and bend down the web to form a right angle. The bent part should be 1-1/2 to 2 inches long. Attach the header with a single screw driven through each of the four resulting tabs.
Metal Frame Fasteners
Metal framing relies on various kinds of screws. You'll want to stock some of each. One type of screw is a pan-head sheet-metal screw. For attaching metal pieces together, use screws that are 1/2 inch long. These same screws can be used for attaching the track to a wooden floor and to the ceiling joists. If the ceiling is already covered with drywall, you'll have to use 1-1/4-inch-long screws to reach through the drywall into the joists. For attaching drywall to metal studs, 1-1/4-inch drywall screws are in order; for attaching trim, use 1-1/2-inch (or longer) trim-head screws. Trim-head screws have small-diameter heads that countersink neatly. The resulting holes are easy to fill. Finally, if you have to fasten metal track to a concrete floor, use powder-actuated fasteners or concrete screws. The powder-actuated fasteners are fired from a nail gun you can rent. Get a #3 load with a 1/2- or 5/8-inch pin.