View Full Version : Metal studs

Ian Gills
12-29-2008, 11:14 AM
Well, I have finally taken the plunge and decided to remodel my unfinished basement, very very slowly.

I have decided to start by drywalling the exterior wall before thinking about the layout of the interior. I may in the end just leave it as one large finished room.

I have started with 2x4 stud framing and my weapon of choice is metal.

I would like to know if there are any drawbacks with using metal instead of wood studs. So far there are just so many advantages from a DIY point of view I do not know why anyone would use wood. For example,

1) easier to transport (lighter) than wood

2) easier to cut than wood

3) pre-drilled holes for electrical and plumbing

4) probably cheaper than wood

5) no need for nail protection plates

6) Fireproof and more resistant to water and rot

Is this all too good to be true?

12-29-2008, 11:46 AM
I've learned to love steel framing (code requires it in NYC). But this:

5) no need for nail protection plates

Is wrong. If a pipe or a wire is run near the face, you still need to protect it.

And if your electrical in NM (not armoured), you need to install gaskets into the holes before you run the electrical cable. Not an issue here, as all electrical has to be armored, but dependng on where you are...

BTW, not sure how you're planning to insulate, but check the links I posted in the thread 2 down from this one.

Ian Gills
12-29-2008, 12:12 PM
Thanks and I will check the insulation note.

Wow, so I still need to use metal nail protectors on metal studs. Thanks for the clarification.

I think I will use AC, but even with this I will still use some sort of gasket material for good measure.

12-29-2008, 02:49 PM
Wow, so I still need to use metal nail protectors on metal studs. Thanks for the clarification.

Metal studs are meant to be screwed into. They don't resist screws.
Only nail plates do.

12-30-2008, 06:36 AM
If it makes it any clearer, #5 should read "Do not need nail protection plates, but DO need screw protection plates".

Ian Gills
12-30-2008, 09:21 AM
Thank you. I get the point.

Even if metal studs are more resistant to nails and screws than wooden ones you still need the nail protectors to give some indication of resistance, otherwise you would not know where the wires and pipes are when nailing or screwing into the studs when the walls are finished. It's the theory of relativity.

But please do not tell me it's easy screwing into metal studs. It's fiddly. I am at the rate of installing three studs a night at the moment.

12-30-2008, 11:35 AM
Couple of hints:

- self-tapping screws are easier then points (aka sharps) to get started; but they're also easier to strip out. IOW, I like self-tapping for framing, prefer sharps for hanging the DW

- the stiffest part of the stud, is as close as you can get to the corner. The further away from that you get (closer to the loose/open side) the more trouble you'll have with screws going through the track but not the stud.

- if points/sharps: spin fast, and lean on that sucker. Not steady/even pressure: all at once, to punch through. Ease as you tighten it down.

- like anything else, it gets easier with practice.

- there's also a tool you can get, instead of screwing the frame together, it crimps the stud & track together. About 50$. I never bothered, but a friend of mine swears by it (he could never get the hang of screwing steel studs, for some reason). Google "steel stud crimper"...

Ian Gills
12-30-2008, 12:53 PM
Thanks Frenchie for the tips. I am using self-tapping screws for the studs but will take your advice on the sharps when it comes to the drywall.

I also note your point about the stiffness and will try that, although I find a gloved finger adds good support to the track.

I read about the tool but love screws, which is why I like metal framing. I like the flexibility screws provide over nails when it comes to disassembly/correcting mistakes.

One question. For my exterior wall framing I am having trouble placing the screws in the rear of the studs because the exterior wall is blocking my access (i.e. 4 screws per stud, two at the top, two at the botton). I am having to drill small holes before inserting the self-tapping screw with an ordinary screwdriver, but it is more fiddly than the ones going through the front-side. Any tips on these suckers?

12-30-2008, 01:31 PM
Careful with the hold-it-with-your-finger trick - good way to hurt yourself. Self-tappers really chew up the meat, too...

As far as the backside-screws...

By far, the easiest thing to do in that situation, is build it like you would a wood-frame wall: build it on the ground, get all the back-side screws in, then tilt it up into position... I assume it's too late for that.

Another option, is to screw it in from your side - i.e, inside the stud & track, so the point ends up against the concrete wall. Obviously, you have to get that back screw in, before you screw in the front, as you have to twist things around a bit to get in there... and even then it's pretty awkward. This will only work with the lightweight 25-gauge studs, not with the 20-gauge. And it helps to have a pre-drilled hole in the stud (drill before you place it).

You can also leave the backside unfastened (especially if the studs are the heavier 20-gauge). This will affect things, when hanging drywall (the stud can twist out of the way much more easily) but only on the 1st screw per stud. After that, the 1st screw holds the stud in place and everything's fine.

One other thing, I just thought of. The only thing I really hate about steel studs, is screwing 2 sheets into one of them @ the seams. Unlike wood, one side of steel stud is always floppy... It's a lot easier to line up the seams off-stud & back the seam with scraps of plywood, or a piece of track, sideway (so the wide side is facing you).

Ian Gills
12-30-2008, 03:33 PM
Thanks very much. One more question if I may.

On the long runs I join tracks together using 6 inch off-cuts of studs, and eight screws.

But I cannot help notice that a lazy fellow might just screw the tracks together directly by forcing one inside the other.

Any comments?

12-31-2008, 11:54 AM
Did you also notice how much it distorts the track when you do that?

Personally, I anchor the ends of the track solidly to the floor/ceiling (2 screws per end, 1 in each corner), and don't bother connecting them to each other.

Ian Gills
12-31-2008, 11:59 AM
It does distort the track unless you put the 6 inch piece of stud in upside down to create a box effect. But then, you cannot put a stud in that section in the unfortunate event that you have to.

01-01-2009, 07:05 AM
I use the small black "assembly" screws to assemble steel stud systems. You screw the back side first by twisting the stud to the side, and then straighten it to secure the front. If you cannot install 3 studs in 5 minutes, you are making an easy job VERY difficult.

01-01-2009, 07:27 PM
One item of interest that has been left out, is that using Metal Studs in a Basement, means that after a few years, they may rot, and leave you with rusted verticals, with nothing securing at the bottom.

01-02-2009, 05:25 PM
Have you ever actually seen that, or are you theorizing?

Do you think it would happen before the sheetrock fell apart from that much moisture, or after?

Given enough moisture to rust all the way through a steel stud, how do you think lumber would fare?

01-02-2009, 06:27 PM
Have seen first hand. Love it when Steel Studs rust out to the point that they just sway in the breeze. As for lumber, you always use Pressure Treated at any point that will make direct contact with Concrete.

Ian Gills
01-04-2009, 02:07 PM
3 studs in 5 minutes

More like 3 studs in 5 days HJ. There's no need to rush. I am making sure everything is level and plumb and taking my time. :)

Going round the windows was fun. I am keeping the studs and headers in line with the opening. I hope that is the right thing to do.

01-05-2009, 06:07 AM
If level and plumb is the issue, then 3 studs in 4 minutes after everything is properly marked. Not counting the 30 seconds to cut them to size. 30 seconds to cut a lot of them if using a saw.

01-05-2009, 08:09 AM
Installing metal studs can be made simple with the purchase of a three inch vice grip styled tool. Just clamp the stud to the track at your marked location and zap it with a screw.

A simpler solution is to purchase one of the stud crimping tools, but this may be pricey for a small job. Stud punch tools at their cheapest are useless. In the 80 dollar range a punch with a two step function is worth a million bucks for speed.It usually will have a two step, square punch pin. A light squeeze on the handle yields a very small hole, perfect for installing a screw later. At this lite punch stage the stud can be moved fairly simply if you change your mind. A complete squeeze of the handle on the punch tool and a crimp is delivered that is VERY difficult to remove. This usually eliminates the need for adding screws entirely. Very labor and cost effective.

Another helpful trick: If using 24 ga metal studs, self tappers should never be used. A very pointed screw is the fastener of choice in the trade. It plunges right thru both track and stud with a simple jab and medium speed on a variable speed screw gun, even without using a three inch clamp. Most metal 24 ga studs are actually truly 26 ga studs--as a 2 by 4 is actually 1 1/2 by 3 1/2 inches. The self tappers are meant for 20 or 18 ga studs. A really good crimper will punch the small hole in a 20 ga stud, saving the use of the slower and inefficient self tappers.

Finally, when laying track while installing walls and ceilings: Most tradesmen put a slit in the center of one of the tracks. The ends are then aligned to perfection, and a nail/pin/ anchor can be placed which locks the two together because the fastener goes thru both at once. One of the tracks only yields 9 ft, 10 1/2 inches. That usually is not a problem. One nifty thing about this trick is that two tracks can be joined together. Slit one track, slide it into another, add two screws to each web, and you have a almost 20 ft long track that can be lifted up and attached to your basement ceiling.

Hope I haven't bored anyone. Usually no one ever asks a question about anything I know about. I made a good living putting up light and heavy gauge metal studs and ceiling systems, crimped, screwed, and welded.

Ian Gills
01-05-2009, 09:21 AM
Very interesting thank you.

I might invest in a crimping tool. But I will only use it for making holes. I like the flexibility of using screws.

Two questions:

1) When and why would you use the heavier gauge studs? I assume ceiling work would require that, although I am hoping to use a suspended solution.

2) I am currently using a 12 volt cordless drill to do my stud screwing and an electric drill to secure concrete anchors in the floor. When it comes to doing the drywall, will I need a cordless drill with more guts or will my little 12 volter do the job?

01-05-2009, 09:51 AM
Metal studs come in structural and non-structural strengths...depends on what you are using them for as to what you need. Building a load-bearing wall, you'd want the stronger (thicker metal) ones.

Ian Gills
01-05-2009, 10:58 AM
Thank you.

01-05-2009, 08:33 PM
Your 12-volt will be fine.

01-06-2009, 07:33 AM
Screws can drive you crazy.

This is an important consideration. Garden variety drywall screws for fastening drywall to metal studs have many different gauges and thread counts. The wrapped edges of most drywall sheets are poured with a harder denser mix during the manufacturing process. It becomes a booger to sink the screws deep enough to depress the heads in preparation for the taping/finishing process if the screw thread count and gauge are more suited to wood rather than metal. This is a problem if you are using the 26 ga metal only.

It is interesting to note that you can use 1 in screws in 1/2 inch drywall and are good to go code wise on metal studs. It makes a big difference for application time on a large scale. For a DIY guy it is still important cuz the damn things are tipping over a whole lot less, and your battery gun is running less. The good sharp points of the better metal screws punch into the steel a whole lot faster also.

When the little structural screws are punching thru your nail bag, constantly stabbing holes in your fingers as you reach in to your pouch, you know you have the good sharp stuff. It will blast right thru the track and into the stud without a punch hole or a clamp if you're in a hurry or the location is not exacting.

If you are considering a metal drywall ceiling assembly, you might want to consider a hat channel assembly as opposed to studs. Can be attached to wood directly, can span a couple of feet, and only uses up about 7/8ths of an inch.