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How Much Does Metal Stud Framing Cost?

Last Updated on January 13, 2024
Written by CPA Alec Pow | Content Reviewed by Certified CFA CFA Alexander Popinker

Framing makes up the structural skeleton that everything else gets built upon. When it comes to framing, you have two main options – traditional wood or metal studs. In this in-depth guide, we’ll focus specifically on breaking down the costs associated with metal stud framing.

Metal stud framing provides a versatile, durable, and lighter-weight alternative to dimensional lumber for framing walls and partitions. However, metal does come at a higher initial price point per square foot compared to wood framing.

In general, you can expect to pay about $5-15 more per square foot when using metal framing. However, for many types of construction projects, the benefits of metal studs often outweigh the moderately higher framing costs over the lifespan of a building.

Below we’ll examine all the key factors that influence the installed price of a metal stud framing system. We’ll also look at some tips for controlling metal framing costs without compromising structural integrity.

How Much Does Metal Stud Framing Cost per Square Foot?

Metal Stud Framing costs somewhere between $9 and $35 per square foot, depending on whether it is residential framing or commercial framing, your geographical location, and other factors we’ll cover in the following sections.

Industry cost data sources like RSMeans provide the following price ranges for metal framing installed:

  • Residential Framing – $9 – $12 per square foot
  • Commercial Framing – $25 – $35 per square foot

However, these are broad national averages. For an accurate estimate, you’ll need to consider local labor rates, material costs, and the specifics of your individual building project. Expect to pay toward the higher end of these ranges in areas like New York City or San Francisco where both material and labor prices run high.

You should also plan on commercial projects costing significantly more per square foot than residential framing. Commercial work often involves taller walls, more complex fireproofing and insulation requirements, and more expensive union labor.

As a very rough starting point, budget $15 to $25 per square foot for metal framing installed including materials, labor, and accessories. But the only way to get an accurate estimate is to have metal framing contractors in your area provide project quotes based on your exact blueprints and specifications. We’ll talk more about that process later in the article.

According to Today’s Homeowner, the average cost per square foot of framing materials in steel is $2–$5, depending on the gauge.

US Frame Factory notes that as of November 2023, a 20-foot, 18-gauge metal stud costs $34.20.

Homewyse says that the basic cost to frame a wall is $3.65 – $5.88 per square foot in January 2024, but can vary significantly with site conditions and options.

Stovall Construction, Inc. notes that its clients can expect to pay between $5 and $10 per square foot for metal stud framing in commercial buildings.

Next, let’s examine the properties of metal studs themselves and how that impacts costs.

What Determines the Total Cost of Metal Stud Framing?

Now let’s examine the variables that factor into the total installed cost of a metal stud framing system:

  • Type of framing – Interior, exterior, load-bearing vs non load-bearing
  • Length of framing runs required/total square footage
  • Steel gauge and thickness of studs
  • Labor rates in your area
  • Additional accessories like insulation, drywall, fireproofing
  • Geographic location

We’ll analyze each of these cost factors in more detail throughout the article. But first, let’s start with some typical per square foot costs for metal framing:

Metal Stud Gauge and Prices

Metal studs are made by forming sheet steel into C-shaped or U-shaped sections. The steel gets galvanized with a zinc coating to resist corrosion. Metal studs come in a range of thicknesses, measured by gauge. The gauge required depends on whether we’re dealing with load-bearing walls or non-load-bearing ones.

You might also like our articles about the cost of house framing, steel I beam, or metal fabrication.

Thinner gauge studs obviously cost less than thicker ones, but won’t have the same load capacity. Here are typical per linear foot prices of metal studs by gauge:

  • 25 Gauge – $1.50 to $2.50
  • 22 Gauge – $2.50 to $3.50
  • 20 Gauge – $3.00 to $4.00
  • 18 Gauge – $3.50 to $5.00
  • 16 Gauge – $4.50 to $6.50

Keep in mind that these are material prices only, not including labor or accessories. So if you’re estimating total project costs, add $5-10 per square foot on top of these material prices as a rough estimate.

As you can see from the pricing table, 18 gauge studs cost around $5 per linear foot while 25 gauge studs run closer to $2 per foot. But you can’t always use the lightest gauge metal possible. The gauge must be specified properly based on loading requirements and building codes. Here are some typical gauge uses:

  • Heavy commercial construction – 18 gauge for columns and load-bearing exterior walls.
  • Standard interior walls – 20 or 22 gauge for most office buildings and retail spaces.
  • Residential construction – 25 gauge for interior non-load-bearing partitions.
  • Curtain walls or railings – 25 gauge minimum by building code.

Consult your architect or engineer to determine the proper metal gauge specified for each framing application. Using too light of a gauge to save money upfront could compromise strength and code compliance.

Now that we’ve covered the cost of the raw metal studs themselves, let’s examine the other major component of cost – installation labor.

Labor Costs for Installing Metal Framing

When budgeting your next metal framing project, remember that you aren’t just paying for materials. The labor to properly install the metal framing makes up a significant portion of the total price as well. Framing labor accounts for 50-70% of the total installed cost per square foot.

Some of the factors that affect metal framing labor costs include:

  • Local wage rates for skilled trades like metal stud installers, drywall hangers, etc. Union labor markets like New York City will be pricier.
  • Complexity of the project – Curved walls, tall ceilings, or intricate designs take more time.
  • Amount of insulation, fireproofing, soundproofing, and accessories required. This affects the number of labor hours.
  • Equipment needs – Scaffolding or lifts needed for tall/high work will increase labor costs.
  • Schedule – Contractors may charge a premium for quicker turnaround times.

To get an accurate idea of the labor component, make sure to get multiple bids from local metal framing contractors. The companies estimate labor hours required based on your specs and apply their hourly rates. This allows you to compare rates between contractors.

Also ask contractors if they offer discounts for scheduling work during their slower seasons. You may be able to reduce labor costs by being flexible with your timeline.

Overview of Metal Framing Benefits

Before analyzing the costs of metal framing, let’s do a quick rundown of the advantages that make it an attractive choice versus traditional wood framing in many scenarios:

  • Greater durability and longevity – Metal won’t rot, warp, or attract termites like wood.
  • Lighter weight – Metal studs weigh less than wood making them easier to transport and work with.
  • Design flexibility – Metal framing can be curved or bent to create unique interior spaces.
  • Quicker assembly – Metal framing goes up faster with less need for precision cuts.
  • Non-combustible – Provides excellent fire resistance and safety.
  • Mold/mildew resistant – Won’t support mold growth if moisture gets in.
  • Consistent quality – Metal studs are factory-made to precise standard dimensions.
  • Termite proof – You’ll never get eaten from the inside out!
  • Recyclable – Metal framing contains recycled content and is recyclable.

For these reasons, metal framing has become commonplace in commercial construction as well as multi-family residential projects. The moderate increase in upfront framing costs will pay off over decades of use in many cases.

Additional Metal Framing Components Beyond Studs

Steel FramingUp to this point, we’ve focused mostly on the direct costs of the metal studs themselves. However, there are a number of additional components that go into a complete metal framing system. Common accessories include:

  • Metal tracks – Top and bottom tracks that studs are fastened to.
  • Furring channels – Hat-shaped channels that attach the studs to exterior structural walls.
  • Fasteners – Self-tapping screws, bolts, clips, ties, and anchors.
  • Insulation – Sound and thermal insulation blankets or rigid boards.
  • Gypsum drywall – Screwed to the studs as the interior wall finish.
  • Fireproofing – Intumescent paints or fire-rated boards.
  • Corner beads, trim, and reinforcement.

Pricing out all of the necessary parts and pieces can get complex. That’s why a detailed quote from an experienced metal framing contractor is so important. Their bid should reflect a complete installed framing system, not just the raw metal studs.

Ask contractors to break down line item costs for materials versus labor so you understand what’s driving the price. And find out if they offer any discounts on high-volume orders of bulk materials.

Estimating Total Metal Framing Costs for Your Specific Project

Now that we’ve covered the major components of metal framing costs, let’s discuss how to estimate the total budget for your specific building or renovation project.

The main inputs you’ll need are:

  • Blueprints – To determine the total square footage of steel framed walls.
  • Type of framing – Interior, exterior, load-bearing or non.
  • Desired metal gauge if known.
  • Any specialty framing like curved walls.
  • Your timeline – Deadline urgency affects labor rates.

Armed with this project info, here is a process for estimating total metal framing costs:

  1. Calculate total square footage – Add up the square footage of all framed walls from blueprints.
  2. Define framing types – How much is interior, exterior, structural, etc?
  3. Research costs – Consult the per square foot cost ranges earlier in article.
  4. Create cost estimate – Multiply total square footage by an estimated $15 to $25 per square foot for metal installed.
  5. Add any special labor – Scaffolding rentals, custom fabrication, etc.
  6. Get 3+ contractor bids – Ask for detailed quotes based on your specs.
  7. Compare bids and select best value – Make sure bids have clear cost breakdowns.

Let’s look at a quick example:

  • 10,000 square foot commercial building
  • 8,000 square feet of standard interior framing
  • 2,000 square feet of exterior/structural framing
  • $20/square foot for interior framing
  • $30/square foot for structural framing
  • Total framing estimate = $200,000

This is just a hypothetical estimate for illustration. Always get on-site contractor quotes for real accuracy!

Tips for Reducing Your Metal Framing Costs

Here are some tips if your budget is tight:

  • Only use thicker/stronger gauges where needed.
  • Compare steel stud prices from multiple suppliers.
  • Discuss discounts for off-peak scheduling.
  • Use pre-fabricated panels to reduce labor time.
  • Look for recycled scrap or excess metal stud stock.
  • Only frame walls essential to the design to reduce square footage.

You want to avoid compromising structural stability to cut costs. But some smart planning and design choices can help trim metal framing costs 5-15% typically.

Conclusion – Investing in Durable Metal Framing

Metal stud framing does come at a moderate premium over wood framing. But over the decades of lifespan for commercial buildings, the benefits often make it a wise investment.

Use this guide to understand the primary cost factors for metal framing. Get detailed bids to find the best rate for your specific project scope and location. With careful planning and budgeting, metal framing can be an affordable choice that delivers lasting performance and safety.

1 reply
  1. jim
    jim says:

    and, it is easy to keep every wall plumb, ceiling level, and everything square. plus the options are endless on what types of shapes and or structures that can be built with steel stud framing.


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