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17

CHAPTER

Light-Gauge Steel
Construction

CHAPTER OUTLINE
17.1 LIGHT-GAUGE STEEL FRAMING MEMBERS
17.2 LIGHT-GAUGE STEEL FRAMING IN LOAD-BEARING APPLICATIONS
17.3 ADVANTAGES AND LIMITATIONS OF LIGHT-GAUGE STEEL FRAMING
17.4 NON-LOAD-BEARING LIGHT-GAUGE STEEL FRAMING

Light-gauge steel has a long history of use for the framing of


interior partitions and backup exterior walls of commercial
buildings (shown here). The use of light-gauge steel for the
framing of load-bearing walls, floors, and roofs of residential buildings is relatively new, but it is gradually gaining in
popularity. (Photo by MM.)
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PART 2

In the previous chapter, the shapes, sizes, properties, and applications of structural steel
were covered. This chapter is devoted to the use of light-gauge steel in buildings.
Light-gauge steel framing has long been used in commercial buildings for non-loadbearing walls. More specifically, light-gauge steel is used extensively for interior partitions
and exterior non-load-bearing walls in Types I and II construction, where the building
codes mandate the use of noncombustible materials (see Chapter 7 for the definition of
Types I and II construction). Because light-gauge steel is both lightweight and noncombustible, it is the material of choice in these applications.
More recently, the light-gauge steel frame has begun to compete with wood light frame
(discussed in Chapter 13) in some areas of the United States. In this application, light-gauge

MATERIALS AND SYSTEMS

A 3-digit number is used to indicate the depth of the


member. Dividing this number by 100 gives the depth
of the member in inches. Thus, "600" means a 6 in.
deep member. "362" means a 3.625 (3-5/8) in. stud,
implying that the fourth digit is omitted in the
designation.

A 2-digit number is used to indicate


the sheet thickness in mils. Since
1 mil = 1/1,000 in., 33 mils = 0.033 in.
Note that "gauge" number is not used
in SSMA designation system.
Material thickness is the base metal
thickness. The term "base" has been
used to indicate that thickness is
that of sheet steel. The thickness
of zinc coating is disregarded.

600 S 162-33

The letter indicates the type of


member. "S" is used for stud,
"T" for track, "U" for bridging channel
and "F" for furring channel.

STUD/JOIST DEPTHS

SHEET THICKNESS
18
27
30
33
43
54
68
97

A 3-digit number is used


to indicate the flange width
of member. "162" means that
the flange width = 1.625 in.

25
22
20 DW
20 STR
18
16
14
12

1-5/8 in.
2-1/2 in.
3-1/2 in.
3-5/8 in.
4 in.
6 in.
8 in.
10 in.
12 in.

Stud/joist depth

FIGURE 17.1 Designation system


for identifying light-gauge steel
members, established by the Steel
Stud Manufacturers Association
(SSMA).

Lip or return
Flange
width
Stud/joist cross-section,
generally C- shaped, as shown

48 in.
Both 30 mil and 33 mil thick members
are referred to as 20 gauge members

FLANGE WIDTH Return

30 mil is generally used for interior


drywall partitions and 33 mil in load
bearing (structural) walls.

1-1/4 in.
1-3/8 in.
1-5/8 in.
2 in.
2-1/2 in.

Studs are available with or without punchouts.


When provided, punchouts are spaced 48 in. on
center. Punchouts permit the passage of pipes
and wires, as shown in the following photograph.
They also allow bracing of the wall with U-shaped
channels, as shown in Figure 17.3.

Punchout
Stud

Bottom track
A stud with punchouts
FIGURE 17.2 Cross-sectional profile, thickness, and depth of light-gauge steel studs and joists.

406

3/16 in.
3/8 in.
1/2 in.
5/8 in.
5/8 in.

steel is used in load-bearing elementswalls, floors, and roofsin the same way as wood
light frame is used.
One region that has seen an increasing use of light-gauge steel in load-bearing applications
is the western United States, where the higher strength, greater ductility, and lower dead load
of light-gauge steel gives it an advantage over wood frame in resisting seismic forces. Other
areas of growth are warm, humid areas that are infested with termites and/or susceptible to
mold growth. Durability against termites is the primary reason for the popularity of lightgauge steel in the structural framing of homes in Hawaii, Florida, Georgia, and Texas.

17.1 LIGHT-GAUGE STEEL FRAMING MEMBERS


Light-gauge steel (also called cold-formed steel ) framing members are made from sheet steel
and are virtually always hot-dip galvanized. Four types of light-gauge steel framing members are commonly used:
Studs and joists (symbolized by S in the SSMA designation)generally C-shaped
Tracks (symbolized by T in the SSMA designation)U-shaped
Bridging channels (symbolized by U in the SSMA designation)
Furring channels (symbolized by F in the SSMA designation)
The Steel Stud Manufacturing Association (SSMA) uses a standard designation system to
identify its four products, as shown in Figure 17.1.
Light-gauge steel studs are available in several depths, flange widths, and gauges, Figure
5
17.2. Interior partitions commonly use 3 8 -in.-deep studs (20 or 22 gauge). Deeper and
heavier studs may be required for load-bearing walls and exterior non-load-bearing walls.
Light-gauge steel tracks match the studs so that the studs fit within the tracks, Figure 17.3.
The tracks run at the top and bottom of the studs, simulating the top and bottom plates in

CHAPTER 17
LIGHT-GAUGE STEEL CONSTRUCTION

NOTE
Gauge Versus Mil as Sheet
Thickness of Light-Gauge
Steel Members
In specifying sheet thickness
of light-gauge steel members,
SSMA encourages the use of
mil instead of the old gauge
number. However, both units
are currently used. Figure 17.2
shows the conversion from mil
to gauge.

Top track screw attached to studs

Stud
Bridging channel (generally 4 ft on
center, when used), screw attached
to clip angle

Clip angle screw


attached to stud

Bottom track screw


attached to studs

FIGURE 17.3 Typical framing of a


wall using light-gauge steel members. Note that bridging channels
can be used only with punched
studs. They are used to brace a nonload-bearing wall but do not provide
adequate bracing for a load-bearing
wall.

407

7/8 in. or 1-1/2 in.

(a) Hat channel


Commonly used as a furring section
over CMU walls, see Figures 26.16
and 26.19(b). Thicknesses of 18 to
43 mil are available.

1/2

in.

(b) Resilient channel


1/2

in.

A resilient channel is commonly used for


increasing the sound insulation of a wall
or ceiling (see Chapter 8).

FIGURE 17.4 Two commonly used light-gauge steel furring channels.

wood light frame construction. Light-gauge steel bridging channels can be used with punched
studs to brace the wall, similar to blocking in wood frame construction. When required, they
are generally provided at 48 in. on center.
Two types of furring channels are in common use: (a) hat channels and (b) resilient
channels, Figure 17.4. A hat channel is generally used on the interior face of a masonry wall
with drywall finish (Figure 26.19). A resilient channel is used to increase the airborne
sound insulation of a wall or floor (Chapter 8).

PRACTICE

QUIZ

Each question has only one correct answer. Select the choice that best
answers the question.
1. A load-bearing light-gauge steel frame structure is generally lighter
than a comparable WLF structure.
a. True
b. False
2. Because steel is a strong material, light-gauge steel frame walls
in load-bearing applications do not require bracing and blocking.
a. True
b. False
3. The amount of corrosion protection required in light-gauge steel
frame members is generally
a. G30.
b. G45.
c. G60.
d. G90.
e. none of the above.

4. The yield strength of light-gauge steel used in load-bearing


applications is generally
a. 33 ksi.
b. 40 ksi.
c. 50 ksi.
d. either (a) or (b).
e. either (a) or (c).
5. Punchouts in light-gauge steel studs are generally spaced at
a. 48 in. o.c.
b. 40 in. o.c.
c. 24 in. o.c.
d. 16 in. o.c.
e. none of the above.
Answers: 1-a, 2-b, 3-c, 4-e, 5-a.

17.2 LIGHT-GAUGE STEEL FRAMING


IN LOAD-BEARING APPLICATIONS
Load-bearing light-gauge steel frame (LGSF) construction is far more recent in origin than
WLF construction (in use for nearly two centuries). In its present stage of development, it
is almost identical to and is modeled after WLF construction. A one-for-one equivalence
generally exists between the framing members of WLF and LGSF structures.
Beyond the structural frame, however, both LGSF and WLF systems are identical; that
is, there is no difference in sheathing materials (for walls, floors, and roof ), exterior and
interior finishes, or in the installation of service and utility items between buildings using
one or the other system. Thus, plywood and OSB are used as wall sheathing, subfloor, and
roof sheathing in structures framed with light-gauge steel in the same way as they are used
in wood frame structures. (When LGSF is used as structural frame in noncombustible constructionType II Constructiongypsum sheathing is used instead of plywood or OSB.)
Figures 17.5 and 17.6 show the exterior and interior views of a typical load-bearing
LGSF, highlighting its likeness with WLF. To a large extent, the likeness is intentional
because it makes it easier for the builders to switch between the systems, increasing versatility and reducing the investment in the training of workers.
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CHAPTER 17
LIGHT-GAUGE STEEL CONSTRUCTION

FIGURE 17.5 The exterior of a


residential structure in which all
load-bearing and non-load-bearing
walls, floors, and roof are framed
with light-gauge steel members.
Observe the similarity of framing
of this building with a wood light
frame building. (Photo courtesy
of Dietrich Metal Framing.)

Steel strap X-bracing


for interior shear walls

Sheet metal
gusset plate

Temporary
bracing

FIGURE 17.6 The interior of a


dwelling with light-gauge steel
frame. In this structure, interior shear
walls have been provided by using
20-gauge steel straps fastened to
sheet-steel gusset plates, which in
turn, are fastened to studs. Lightgauge steel framed building generally requires interior bracing of
walls, whereas a similar wood
framed building may not. (Photo
courtesy of Dietrich Metal Framing.)

If the construction process and framing details were vastly different, it would have discouraged builders, who have been used to and trained in WLF, from attempting the use of
LGSF. This would have increased the cost of LGSF and also impeded its development. As
the builders get familiar with LGSF, its use will increase. This should encourage the development of new applications that are uniquely suited to LGSF.

C ORROSION P ROTECTION AND


OF F RAMING M EMBERS

Y IELD S TRENGTH

As per the International Residential Code, the minimum corrosion protection required on all
LGSF members is G60 (see Chapter 16 for the meaning of this designation). The minimum
yield strength of steel for LGSF members is 33 ksi. Generally, 33-ksi or 50-ksi steel is used.

WALL F RAMING

IN

L IGHT-G AUGE S TEEL

Figures 17.7(a) to (c) show various stages in the framing of the walls of a light-gauge steel
structure. Like WLF, LGSF walls are assembled on the floor and tilted into place. Even
though the organization of LGSF is similar to WLF, connections and fasteners are quite different. Generally, the studs are fastened to the top and bottom tracks with screws.
The screws used in assembling light-gauge members are self-drilling, self-tapping screws.
Self-drilling implies that the screws drill their own holes and self-tapping implies that they
form (i.e., tap) their own thread.
The International Residential Code provides prescriptive design tables, which can be
used to select the size of studs for given loads and the buildings length and width.
Manufacturers of LGS members also provide similar tables in addition to providing typical

NOTE
Stud Size and Spacing for
LGSF Residential Framing
As explained earlier, 350S162
means a 312-in.-deep stud with
a flange width of 185 in.
Dimensionally, this is similar
to a 2  4 wood stud.
Similarly, 550S162 is similar
to a 2  6 stud.
Sheet thickness of steel used
in light-gauge studs is 33, 43,
54, or 68 mils (i.e., 20, 18, 16,
or 14 gauge) depending on the
gravity and lateral loads on the
wall. The spacing of light-gauge
steel studs is generally 24 in.

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PART 2
MATERIALS AND SYSTEMS
See Figure 17.11 for
blocking of studs

See Figure 17.8 for


anchorage of bottom
track to foundation
FIGURE 17.7(a) A preassembled
wall is tilted up and plced over foundation anchor bolts. Other wall
assemblies, seen in the foreground,
will be similarly placed and
anchored to the foundation. (Photo
courtesy of Dietrich Metal Framing.)

FIGURE 17.7(b) This image shows the progress in framing of walls of the structure shown
in Figure 17.7(a). (Photo courtesy of Dietrich Metal Framing.)

See Figure 17.10 for top track


detail at a wall corner

See Figure 17.9 for stud


configuration at a wall corner
Temporary bracing of walls

FIGURE 17.7(c) Light-gauge steel wall framing showing temporary wall bracing, which is similar
to that used in a wood frame structure. (Photo courtesy of Dietrich Metal Framing.)

framing details. Some of the manufacturers details use proprietary members that are
unique to the manufacturer.
The size of studs commonly used in exterior walls of a typical single-family residence is
generally 350S162 or 550S162 with sheet thickness of 33, 43, 54, or 68 mil (i.e., gauges
20, 18, 16, or 14), depending on the gravity, lateral loads, and yield strength of steel.
The center-to-center spacing of studs may be 12 in., 16 in., or 24 in. However, because
of the high strength of steel, 24-in. spacing is more common.
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CHAPTER 17
LIGHT-GAUGE STEEL CONSTRUCTION

Both flanges of stud screw


attached to bottom track

imu

in
n. m

6i

Bottom track

Stud material inside track for


additional strength and stiffness
Anchor bolt

Foundation

FIGURE 17.8 Anchorage of light-gauge steel frame wall to foundation.

Screws to fasten studs


Sheet steel (gusset plate)
to connect studs

Exterior sheathing

Interior
drywall

FIGURE 17.9 Configuration of studs at a wall corner. Note that a minimum of three studs are
required at a corner, exactly as with a WLF wall. A sheet steel gusset plate is used to connect studs.
In a WLF wall, 2-by lumber blocking is used between the studs for the connection (Figure 13.12).

Figures 17.8 to17.12 provide a few important details of wall framing and connections
between members showing the similarities and differences between LGSF and WLF
construction. Details given here are generic and are merely representative of the system.
Manufacturers details should be referenced for more specific information.

F LOOR F RAMING

IN

L IGHT-G AUGE S TEEL

Figure 17.13 shows the framing of a typical light-gauge steel floor. A major difference
between a light-gauge steel floor and a wood floor framing is that the light-gauge steel floor
joists must align with the underlying studs. This is because the commonly used top track in
411

With one flange of both tracks cut at the


intersection, the webs of tracks are lapped
and fastened together

Minimum 3
studs at wall corner
Stud

FIGURE 17.10 Detail of connection between intersecting tracks at the top of a wall corner.

2 in. wide, 33 mil thick


continuous strap fastened
to both sides of studs

Field-cut track material with web bent and


turned up, referredto as "solid blocking".
Solid blocking is placed at each end of
wall segment, adjacent to wall openings
and 8 ft on center.
4 in. min.

Solid blocking and straps, as shown here,


are generally required at mid height of an 8
ft high wall and at one-third points of a 9 or
10 ft high wall.

NOTE
In-Line Framing
In-line framing is mandated if
the structure is designed using
the prescriptive code provisions. Where in-line framing
is inconvenient, the top track
and studs should be structurally engineered.

412

FIGURE 17.11 Blocking of studs to prevent their rotation and buckling under loads. U-channel
bridging through punchouts (shown in Figure 17.3) does not generally provide sufficient bracing
for studs in load-bearing applications. The detail has been adapted from Dietrich Metal Framing.

a LGSF wall is unable to function as a bending member, unlike the double top plate in a
wood frame wall.
In-line framing (as it is generally referred to in the industry) also applies to rafters and
roof trusses, so that the load from the floor or roof is transferred directly to the studs. A
maximum tolerance of 43 in. between the center lines of studs and joists or rafters is permitted, Figure 17.14.
1
1
1
Joist depths of 74 in., 94 in., and 114 in., which match the depths of standard wood
joists, are available in addition to the depths of 8 in., 10 in., 12 in., and 14 in. Light-gauge

Cripple stud as connector

Infill stud

Header
track

Back-to-back king
studs at jamb
Track piece to close
open side of jamb
Light-gauge steel
clip angle

(a) Header detail


Header track

Back-to-back studs
as header
Boxed jamb with
spot welded studs
Track as sill

Cripple stud
as connector
Infill stud
Cripple stud
as connector
Header
track

Infill stud

Bottom track

(b) Sill detail

Clip angle transfers


load from header to studs

Two stud
members as
Boxed header

(c) Alternate header detail


FIGURE 17.12 Details of a window header and sill in a load-bearing wall. Door header detail is similar.

steel joists typically include holes in their webs to accommodate HVAC, plumbing, and
other utility lines, Figure 17.15.
Once the floor joists are in place, the plywood or OSB subfloor for the next floor is laid
in exactly the same way as in a WLF building. After the completion of the subfloor, the
walls for the next floor are erected, Figure 17.16.

R OOF F RAMING

IN

L IGHT -G AUGE S TEEL

Figure 17.17 shows the framing of a typical light-gauge steel roof and Figure 17.18
shows the framing detail at an eave. Although the roof can be framed using individual
413

PART 2
MATERIALS AND SYSTEMS

FIGURE 17.13 Layout of floor


joists in a typical light-gauge steel
structure. (Photo courtesy of
Dietrich Metal Framing.)

Joist

Track piece screw attached


to joist as web stiffener

Rim joist

Top
track

Top track

Joist to align with underlying stud.


Maximum tolerance between center
lines of studs and joists = 3/4 in.

Stud

FIGURE 17.14 Detail showing floor joist supports, web stiffening, and in-line framing.

Plywood or OSB subfloor screw


attached to floor joists

FIGURE 17.15 Floor joists with


extruded holes allow water supply,
plumbing, and other utility pipes.
(Photo courtesy of Dietrich Metal
Framing.)

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CHAPTER 17
LIGHT-GAUGE STEEL CONSTRUCTION

FIGURE 17.16 A worker erects the


second-floor walls in a light-gauge
steel structure. The wall is erected
over a plywood or OSB subfloor in
exactly the same way as in a wood
frame building. (Photo courtesy of
Dietrich Metal Framing.)

Plywood or OSB
subfloor

FIGURE 17.17 Use of light-gauge


steel roof trusses. (Photo courtesy
of American Residential Steel
Technologies.)

Steel joist as
rafter

Ceiling joist

Light-gauge steel
clip angle anchor

Top track

Track material with


top flange modified
to roof slope

Stud
Steel joist
soffit framing

FIGURE 17.18 A typical eave detail


in a light-gauge steel stick-built roof.

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PART 2
MATERIALS AND SYSTEMS

rafters and ceiling joists (stick-framed roof-ceiling assembly), builders find it more
convenient to use light-gauge steel trusses because of the ease with which they can be
fabricated.
Being lighter than corresponding wood trusses, light-gauge steel trusses can generally be
placed in position without special lifting and hoisting equipment. Additionally, the joints
between members of a light-gauge steel truss are more rigid, so that the trusses are easier to
handle and more forgiving during their placement.

17.3 ADVANTAGES AND LIMITATIONS


OF LIGHT-GAUGE STEEL FRAMING
Because LGSF and WLF systems are similar, they share several attributes and characteristics
with each other:
Both are dry systems of construction.
Both systems provide spaces between framing members that allow infill insulation
and passage of utility pipes.
Both systems are lightweight, which eliminates the need for heavy construction and
hoisting equipment.
Both systems require simple, inexpensive tools for connecting the members. Welding
is generally unnecessary in LGSF structures.
Both systems accept the same interior and exterior finishes.
In addition to the shared characteristics, a LGSF structure has several advantages and
disadvantages vis--vis the WLF structure.

A DVANTAGES
Lighter weight: LGSF members are much lighter than corresponding WLF members, reducing workers fatigue.
Higher strength: For the same overall cross-sectional dimensions, steel frame members are stronger and more ductile than WLF members. Higher strength and ductility
is the reason for the increased use of LGSF for residential framing in seismic and highwind areas.
Dimensional stability: Steel is not subjected to dimensional instabilityshrinkage,
swelling, twisting, and warpage caused by moisture changes. Steel frame members are
straight and true.
Uniform quality: Unlike wood, steel is a manufactured material with uniform and
consistent properties.
Durability: Steel is not subject to fungal decay or termite attack.
Noncombustibility: A major advantage of steel as compared to wood is steels noncombustibility.
Waste recycling: LGSF manufacturers generally provide framing members cut to size
to reduce on-site labor and waste.

NOTE
Dust Marking
If a light-gauge steel frame
structure is not properly
detailed, a phenomenon
known as ghosting, or dust
marking, may occur due to the
temperature differential
between the framing members
and the rest of the wall. The
phenomenon, which generally
occurs in cold climates, creates dust deposits on the interior drywall, highlighting the
framing members.

416

L IMITATIONS
Corrosion: Although LGSF members are galvanized, they can be subjected to corrosion in a highly corrosive environment. A thicker than G60 zinc protection (e.g.,
G90) may be needed in some areas, which increases cost substantially.
Thermal bridging: A major disadvantage of LGSF is the low R-value of framing
members, which reduces the effectiveness of infill insulation. Although this is offset
somewhat by a 24-in. center-to-center spacing of studs and the use of an insulating
exterior sheathing, it increases the cost of the building.
Bracing and web stiffening: Because LGSF members are thin and lightweight, a
greater number of bridging and bracing lines and web-stiffening measures are
required to prevent twisting and buckling of framing members.
Cost: The cost of materials for an LGSF is comparable with that of a WLF.
However, an LGSF has a higher labor cost due to the use of screw guns instead of the
pneumatic nailing used in a WLF. The development of improved fastening systems
for LGSF may, however, change the situation in the future.

17.4 NON-LOAD-BEARING LIGHT-GAUGE


STEEL FRAMING

CHAPTER 17
LIGHT-GAUGE STEEL CONSTRUCTION

As stated earlier, LGSF has virtually no competition for the framing of interior partitions,
suspended ceilings, and exterior backup walls in buildings of Types I and II construction.
Whereas, the interior partitions are used as space-dividing elements, an exterior backup
wall provides lateral load support for exterior wall finishes, such as masonry veneer, stucco,
EIFS or natural stone.

L IGHT -G AUGE S TEEL I NTERIOR P ARTITIONS


1

Figure 17.19 shows the use of LGSF for an interior partition. Generally, 20-gauge, 32 -in.or 4-in.-wide (350S125-30 or 400S125-30) studs are used for partitions. Because steel is a
strong material, the size and spacing of studs for walls is governed by their deflection due to
lateral loads rather than the strength of the studs.
Building codes require that an interior partition should be able to withstand a minimum
lateral load of 5 psf. (This value may be exceeded in seismic zones.) Manufacturers provide
tables for selecting stud size and spacing for a given partition height without structural
calculations.

L IGHT -G AUGE S TEEL B ACK -U P E XTERIOR W ALLS


Figure 17.20 shows the framing for a backup exterior wall in a low-rise building, and Figure 17.21 shows similar framing for a high-rise building. The size of studs and their spacing
in a backup exterior wall is generally based on the wind load. Manufacturers provide tables
to size the studs for a given height of the backup wall as a function of wind load, similar to
the tables for interior partitions. Additional details of LGSF backup exterior walls are covered in Chapter 26.

Top track fastened to floor


(see Chapter 26, Figure 26.28,
if a slotted track is required)

Full-height
stud
Intermediate track
to engage ceiling
and drywall; drywall
terminates here
Interior
partition
Light-gauge
steel brace
Ceiling and top of
wall at same level

Bottom track
fastened to
floor

(b) Studs terminate at


(a) Studs terminate at ceiling height
underside of upper floor
FIGURE 17.19 Two commonly used framing alternatives for a light-gauge steel interior partition wall. The interior partitions in most commercial buildings terminate at the ceiling level, leaving a gap between the underside of the floor (or roof) and the ceiling. The gap allows the passage of HVAC ducts and other utility lines. Such a wall is acoustically more transparent than a wall that extends up to the underside of floor or
roof. (a) One way to support such a wall at the top is to use light-gauge steel braces. (b) Alternatively, the studs extend to the underside of the
upper floor. Intermediate track blocking is required for anchoring drywall and ceiling.

417

Steel shelf
angle to receive
brick veneer wall
finish

FIGURE 17.20 A light-gauge steel


exterior backup wall framing in a
low-rise (one- or two-story) building.
The wall is a non-load-bearing wall,
which functions as a backup for the
exterior wall finish and also transfers
lateral loads to the structural frame
of the building. In this wall, the studs
extend continuously from the ground
floor to the top of the parapet. The
connection between the wall and the
floor (or roof) must be a slip connection to allow the floor (or roof) to
move (deflect) without stressing the
wall (Figure 26.31).

FIGURE 17.21 A light-gauge steel exterior backup wall framing in a high-rise building. The connection of the top of the wall (i.e., at the underside of each floor) must allow the floor to deflect
without stressing the wall (Figure 26.27).

FOCUS ON

SUSTAINABILITY

Sustainability Features of Light-Gauge Steel


Absence of Mold and Toxic Preservatives
Because steel is an inorganic material, light-gauge steel framing (LGSF) does not allow the
growth of mold. Additionally, an LGSF is termite and decay resistant. This implies that,
unlike a wood light-frame building, an LGSF building does not require any toxic preservatives (termicide) in its structural frame that might eventually leach into the soil or end up
in landfills and from there go into the environmentair and water.
Additionally, because of its termite resistance, the structural frame of an LGSF building will remain intact even if the (preconstruction) chemical barrier around the buildings
foundations is inadequate or compromised.

Recyclability
LGSF members are manufactured from coils of galvanized sheet steel that have a large
percentage of recycled content (average recycled content for all steel products is 28%).
Because screw connections are used, virtually all LGSF members can be easily disassembled after the buildings useful life. They may be reused, and, if not, they are 100%
recyclable.
According to Steel Recycling Institute*, a 2,000-ft2 ft house constructed of wood light
frame requires wood from 40 to 50 mature trees (covering about 1 acre of forest land).
The same size house made with LGSF requires steel that is equivalent of six scrapped cars.

Construction Site and Fabrication Shop Waste


Almost all LGSF in load-bearing applications is panelized, that is, the wall, floor, and roof
panels are assembled in a fabricators shop and brought to the construction site for installation, generally without the use of hoisting equipment. This is due to the lighter weight
of LGSF members (as compared with wood light-frame members). Consequently, there
is no construction-site waste in LGSF buildings. Additionally, the manufacturing process
of LGSF members allows them to be made to exact, required lengths, so that there is
virtually no wastage even in the fabricators shop. Several LGSF fabricators have in-house,
computerized manufacturing facilities, so that member lengths are customized for the
project.

Thermal Performance
Because steel is highly conducting material, its thermal performance is poor. Thermal
bridging reduces the efficacy of fibrous insulation placed in framing cavities. The use of
insulating sheathing, however, can reduce thermal bridging substantially.
*www.recycle-steel.org

418

PRACTICE
Each question has only one correct answer. Select the choice that best
answers the question.
6. Unlike WLF walls, LGSF walls cannot be assembled on the floor
and subsequently tilted and moved into position.
a. True
b. False
7. The anchorage of the bottom track of a LGSF wall to concrete
footing
a. requires 6-in.-long stud material to strengthen the connection.
b. requires 6-in.-long additional track material to strengthen the
connection.
c. requires 6-in.-long light-gauge furring section to strengthen the
connection.
d. requires no additional strengthening.
8. The corner of a load-bearing LGSF wall requires a minimum
of three studs (similar to a WLF wall).
a. True
b. False
9. The top track in a load-bearing LGSF wall must be doubled in the
same way as the top plate in a WLF wall.
a. True
b. False
10. In-line framing in an LGSF structure means that
a. the studs must be continuous across an intermediate floor.
b. the floor joists must align with the studs in the underlying
supporting wall.
c. the floor joists from two opposite directions of an underlying
supporting wall must be in line, not staggered.
d. floor-to-floor height in a two- or three-story structure must be
the same.

QUIZ

11. The subfloor material commonly used with an LGSF structure is a


light-gauge steel deck.
a. True
b. False
12. Spot welding is the most common method of joining LGSF members.
a. True
b. False
13. The benefit of using load-bearing LGSF instead of load-bearing
WLF in seismic zones is the
a. lighter weight of LGSF.
b. ductility of steel.
c. thermal bridging.
d. (a) and (b).
e. (b) and (c).
14. Per the building codes, interior partitions must be designed for a
minimum lateral load of
a. 20 psf.
b. 15 psf.
c. 10 psf.
d. 5 psf.
e. none of the above.
15. Sheet thickness of commonly used light-gauge steel studs
for interior partitions is
a. 30-mil-thick sheet.
b. 35-mil-thick sheet.
c. 40-mil-thick sheet.
d. 45-mil-thick sheet.
e. none of the above.

Answers: 6-b, 7-a, 8-a, 9-b, 10-b, 11-b, 12-b, 13-d, 14-d, 15-a.

KEY TERMS AND CONCEPTS


Anchorage and
connections

Furring channels

Punch out

Stud

Header

Roof framing

Track

Blocking and straps

Light gauge framing


members

Soffit

Bridging channels

REVIEW QUESTIONS
1. Discuss why the details of light-gauge steel framing used in load-bearing applications are similar to those used
in wood light frame structures.
2. In which regions of the United States does LGSF have advantages over WLF, and why?

SELECTED WEB SITES


North American Steel Framing Alliance

(www.steelframingalliance.com)

Steel Stud Manufacturers Association (SSMA)

(www.ssma.com)

FURTHER READING
1. American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI). Standard for Cold Formed Steel FramingA Prescriptive Method for One
or Two Family Dwellings, 2001.
2. International Code Council (ICC). International Residential Code, 2006.
419