The traditional choice of materials for framing houses is wood. 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 create problems).
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 drill/driver and metal snips.
To frame a wall with metal studs, expect to spend about 2 to 3 hours for a 12-foot wall. You'll need to plan the wall location and measure the height of the wall in several spots before you begin.
Lay out both sides of the wall on the floor with chalklines. For a concrete floor predrill 1/8-inch holes and attach the track with masonry screws. Use pan-head sheet metal screws for a wood floor.
Transfer the layout from the floor to the ceiling with a plumb bob (you can use a chalkline). 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.
To splice two lengths of track together, cut a 2-inch slit in the center of one piece's web and compress opposite flanges slightly as you slide the pieces together. For corners remove the flange from one of the pieces and overlap the webs as shown in the illustration on slide one.
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.
Editor's Tip: Metal framing requires a variety of specific screws. Panhead sheet metal screws 1/2 inch long are used for fastening metal pieces. These screws can also be used to attach the track to a wooden floor and ceiling joists. If the ceiling is already covered with drywall, use 1-1/4-inch-long screws to reach through the drywall into the joists. Drywall screws 1-1/4 inches long are used for attaching drywall to metal studs. Attach trim with 1-1/2-inch (or longer) trimhead screws; their small-diameter heads countersink neatly, making it easy to fill the resulting holes. To fasten metal track to a concrete floor, use power-actuated fasteners or concrete screws. The power-actuated fasteners are fired from a nail gun you can rent. Use a No. 3 load with a 1/2- or 5/8-inch pin.
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 about 1-1/2 to 2 inches long. Attach the header with a single screw driven through each of the four resulting tabs.
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