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Guide to Non-Structural Metal Framing

Guide to Non-Structural Metal Framing

Cold-formed steel structural studs and non-structural metal framing are both frequently used building materials, but they have distinct differences. In this post, we’re focusing on non-structural metal framing, including the key advantages and considerations that may help lower the cost of your next project. 

What is Non-Structural Metal Framing?

Let’s first distinguish the differences between non-structural metal framing and structural cold-formed steel.

Cold-formed steel refers to thin steel that has been rolled to less than 1/8th of an inch and bent into a specific shape without being reheated. Non-structural metal framing, also known as drywall framing, is thinner and not as robust as structural cold-formed steel. It’s only used for interior studs and cannot be used on load bearing walls. It  has a thinner galvanized coating that protects against corrosion. For example, a 33-mil interior stud has a lighter coating than a 33-mil structural stud.

These type of studs are not designed for axial loads.

The Advantages of Non-Structural Metal Framing

Non-structural metal framing is lighter, which means it’s less expensive than cold-formed steel. Since it’s also thinner, it’s easier to work with and cut. What does this mean for your project? If you can use non-structural metal framing for interior, non-load bearing walls, your project will be more cost-effective.

Non-structural metal framing has also been tested for composite design (with drywall full-height on both faces). This can result in taller allowable spans. If you can take advantage of these test values, you may be able to build higher with smaller studs.

Important Non-Structural Metal Framing Considerations

One of the most important aspects of using non-structural metal framing is access — in other words, how the studs will actually get into the building. This isn’t a problem when it comes to exterior framing since you’re working on the building’s exterior and can do so from the outside.

When it comes to non-structural metal framing, you may need to coordinate the delivery of the wall studs before the exterior walls are closed in — or ensure that there is another point of access.

In tall wall applications, you may still have to apply bridging, but it can often be avoided if there is drywall applied to both faces of the stud for the full height.

You also want to consider detailing door jambs and frames.

It’s important to know when to downsize the thickness of wall studs. For example, rather than designing a stud to span 20 feet, one might consider bracing it at 15-feet with a kicker and/or strongback. This can greatly reduce the cost of framing on certain project. At the end of the day, however, it comes back to the preference of the contractor.

Technical Guides & Resources

Are you looking for codes, standards, and more industry information? We’ve compiled a list of non-structural metal framing technical guides and resources, which include:

The American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI)
The Cold-Formed Steel Engineers Institute (CFSEI)
The Steel Framing Industry Association (SFIA)
ClarkDietrich Building Systems Structural Stud Lookup
ClarkDietrich Building Systems Structural Studs
Product Technical Guide from the Steel Stud Manufacturers Association

Your Trusted Structural Engineering Firm

Here at Iron Engineering, we work with all metal stud manufacturers and have the expert knowledge and experience you’re looking for. If you have questions about non-structural metal framing, or you’re looking for a quote, please contact us today. We look forward to answering your questions and learning about your project.

Anthony D. Coviello, PE, SE

Tony Coviello is a structural engineering executive with over 20 years of experience in cold-formed steel design. He expertise is with both load bearing and non-load bearing framing, interior framing, blast design, and multi-story panels.

On-Demand Webinar: Cold-Formed Steel Framing: Identifying Costly Details
In this webinar, we help explain the language of structural engineers and break down potential issues that you should think about ahead of time. All of this can better prepare you to bid projects — ultimately saving you time and money.
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