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Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Is Steel Deck Framing Worth it?

The experts at the popular home and garden media outlet, The Spruce, named their top outdoor living trends for 2024. No surprises here… outdoor kitchens with luxurious features (think custom pizza ovens) and functional seating areas (goodbye, uncomfortable plastic patio furniture) that help seamlessly blend a homeowner’s indoor and outdoor living areas are at the top of the list.

But here’s the thing. These sought-after outdoor features need to be supported by a sturdy, long-lasting deck structure that can handle enormous loads. So, that poses the question – what kind of deck framing material is up to the challenge? In Building Products Digest’s review of the latest deck framing materials, steel stood out as a proven solution that’s giving old-school pressure-treated wood frames a run for their money.

While steel framing is known for its superior strength, we understand that there may still be some hesitancy around making the switch from time-tested lumber to steel. After all, building a deck is a major investment and legacy of work is at stake. That’s why it makes sense that some contractors are still asking – is steel deck framing worth it?

Steel frames support stronger, bigger and better decks

Steel's inherent strength is undoubtedly a huge advantage when it comes to framing today’s bigger and better deck scenarios. The material’s yield strength is about 10 times greater than wood, which means that it’s capable of handling much heavier loads. To put the strength of the building material in perspective: while building code requires residential decks to support 40-psf live loads, steel frame decks can handle about 50 to 200-psf live loads.

This load-bearing capacity has a direct correlation with steel’s ability to extend to greater spans. For example, select manufacturers offer engineered steel joists that can span up to 20 feet between supports, which means fewer intermediate posts and more usable space underneath the upper-level deck.

Steel deck framing is a durable, low-maintenance solution

But strength is only half the battle when it comes to constructing a safe and sturdy deck – durability is the other half of the equation. Steel framing offers proven performance in outdoor spaces. It is resistant to most tangible threats and can sidestep common issues that plague traditional wood frame decks, such as deterioration after long-term exposure to moisture and warping as a result of extreme changes in temperature. In any condition, steel profiles are sure to remain straight and true over time. This makes for an enduring, dimensionally stable deck framing solution that keeps surface boards flat and smooth underfoot. Top of Form

 Level on steel deck framing to show how straight the deck framing is. Above view of  black steel deck framing.

Comprehensive framing systems offer a straightforward installation process

To leverage the proven benefits of steel framing, contractors can turn to comprehensive, ready-to-assemble framing systems like Evolution from Fortress Building Products. No specialized tools required, the game-changing framing system includes an intuitive ledger and convenient joist lengths for an installation process similar to lumber. In fact, some contractors argue that building a steel frame deck is actually easier than a traditional wood frame deck. There’s no playing in the lumber, no grading the lumber, no taping, and no painting the end cuts.

Taking direct feedback from contractors who have used Evolution for years, the advanced framing system now features 5.5” x 5.5” posts that are 20 feet in length. This feature makes it possible for contractors to deliver a tall, dependable two-story deck structure that is sturdy, strong and safe. To increase its safety factor, Fortress® Evolution has a Class A fire rating through Intertek, indicating its superior fire performance.

 Half of a light colored deck installed on steel framing with yard in the background.Underneath view of deck with steel deck framing and sunlight peaking through the cracks.

Yes, steel deck framing is worth it

So, ask us again – is steel deck framing worth it? Absolutely. Want to extend the benefits of steel framing to your next project? Check out Evolution steel deck framing, which is backed by a 25-year limited manufacturer warranty for ultimate peace of mind.


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