Why do you still recommend using timber frames for a Tiny House?

Iโ€™ve heard that steel frames for tiny houses are lighter than timber. Why do you still recommend using timber frames?

When comparing timber framing to steel framing in a tiny house on wheels, we need to consider the whole wall system, not just the materials. Why? Because timber and steel framing systems are so different that the overall completed wall will determine the weight, not just a weight comparison of the material (timber v.s. steel).

Yes, steel can be smaller in profile and stronger in its span loads than timber. It can also be lighter weight in linear meter comparisons to traditional timber framing (90mm X 45mm). However the base metal thickness (BMT) of the steel specified is crucial and yet can vary greatly.  When the BMT of a 92mm wide steel stud reaches about 1.1mm thickness, it becomes heavier than 70mm x 35mm pine framing.

We also need to consider the frequency of member placement for the two different framing methods. If ordering a steel tiny house frame, have a look to see if the advertised 600mm stud spacings is being followed in practice, or if the framing company is adding a lot of additional studs and noggins that add to the overall weight of your tiny house frame, rather than reducing it. 

While considering the weight outcomes of the two different framing systems, also consider the other factors that may effect a tiny house wall construction choice:

  • Vibration resilience and wind loading for a vehicle application
  • Fastenings for steel vs timber framing in vibrating circumstances
  • Wall width and insulation solutions to reduce thermal bridging
  • If you change your mind part way through building about a window location for instance, how easy is the wall systems to change.
  • Embodied energy (carbon emissions of creating steel vs timber framing)
  • Bracing methodology

Go to Tiny House University and enrol in How To Build A Tiny House – The Australian Online Course for a detailed Unit that covers this complex issue of comparing timber to steel framing in a tiny house on wheels.