Search The Tool Guru

How to Build With Steel Studs

Download Print
How to Build With Steel Studs

Steel framing is used in most office and apartment construction, and it has several advantages over wood. Steel studs are perfectly straight. They don't shrink or split. They're light and easy to store, plus they resist fire, insects and rot. They are also easier to move/correct for us amateurs.


Attach track to floor and ceiling

Screw lengths of track to the floor and ceiling. Tracks are slightly wider than studs, so studs snap right in.

Use straight snips for cutting

To trim to correct length, cut both side flanges of a steel stud, using straight-cut aviation snips. Then bend one flange up-clear of the snips' jaws-and cut across the stud's web. To cut multiple pieces at once, use a miter saw with a metal cutting blade. For easier electrical and plumbing installations later on, keep all the keyhole knockouts aligned by cutting all studs to length from the same end. Protect your hands with heavy-duty gloves.

Screw stud to track

Join studs to tracks by clamping the two members tightly with a C-clamp locking pliers and driving a 1/2 inch (1.2 cm) No. 8 pan-head screw in the middle where they meet. Drive the screws at medium speed. Choose a clutch setting strong enough to drive the screw home but not so strong that it strips the screw hole and weakens the joint.

Make headers by cutting and bending ends

Fabricate metal headers by cutting the track 2 inch (5 cm) longer than the rough opening width. Cut each flange of the track (on both ends) 1 inch (2.5 cm) lengthwise and bend the web down 90 degrees using sheet metal locking pliers.

Use bushings for electric cable

Secure electrical cable along the center line of each stud with plastic ties screwed to the studs. Pop a plastic bushing into each knockout to keep the cable from rubbing against the sharp edges.

Add wood nailers as needed for doors, windows and cabinets. If your steel stud wall seems flimsy, keep in mind that it gains full rigidity once drywall or sheathing is applied. Hang drywall or sheathing using 1-1/4 inch (3.1 cm) self-tapping drywall screws spaced every 8 inch (20.3 cm) along edges (where two sheets meet on a stud) and 12 inch (30.5 cm) on center elsewhere. Check your local codes, however: they may require screws placed closer together, and you're better off having too many than having to add more after the inspector comes.

The flange on a steel stud is flexible and may deflect when you're trying to pierce it with a drywall screw, especially when two panel edges meet on a single stud. To prevent this, secure the first panel to the open side of the stud (the one that's opposite the web)-to give it rigidity-and then hang the second panel. Grip the back of the stud flange near the screw connection point with your fingers (to give it support) and then drive the screw.
Levels with one magnetic side are helpful when working with steel studs.
Some people find it well worth the little extra money to use 20 gauge studs rather than the usual 25 gauge ones. The walls feel more solid and the cost difference typically isn't all that much.
At door jambs, if you trim a wooden 2x4 (5 cm x 10 cm) slightly, it will slide inside of the steel stud which makes the doorframe much sturdier... this makes hinges easier to attach and the house won't shake so much when your teenager slams their bedroom door!
Use common sense when doing any type of work. If you are extremely tired, or rushing, you may hurt yourself.
Self-tapping screws make joining pieces much easier.

Don't try nailing trim into steel studs. It will not hold. Instead, use specially designed trim screws for the job.
Cut steel is sharp - wear gloves.
Wear eye protection when cutting steel and when driving screws. It's not unheard of for a screw to jump off the power screwdriver and shoot out at you. Once it happens once, you'll appreciate your safety glasses.
Make sure that your architect or designer's plans aren't drawn for wood dimensions.

Things You'll Need
Steel studs are sold in a variety of widths (comparable to dimensional lumber sizes), lengths and gauges (the lower the gauge number, the thicker the steel).
The studs are screwed to steel track (of matching width) with 1/2-in. No. 8 pan-head screws.