Pros, Cons and Characteristics
If you want a 100% all steel building, there are five types and two variations to choose from: arch style, open web, tube steel, C-Channel, and rigid frame. Which one of these is best for you depends on project, budget and location.
An arch style steel building is commonly called a Quonset hut, which is a prefabricated building made from corrugated steel. Arch style buildings are known for their semicircular cross-section and appearance. The building has a rounded roof which can offer less in useable interior space because of the way the wall slopes down towards the foundation. It’s also important to realize arch style buildings require a full concrete slab which can increase construction costs.
- Lower price point
- Ability to shed snow
- Less interior square footage
- Concrete slab required
A web truss building resembles I-beam framing, but rather than solid steel beams the truss is made up of v-shaped cross-sections. Using less steel throughout the primary framing can result in lower material costs but this design also reduces the tensile strength of the trusses. Lower tensile strength means the building cannot span as far as a solid steel truss without additional columns.
- Rafters do not slope
- Lower material costs
- Higher construction costs
- Column free up to 125’
This building system starts with a solid steel column which transitions into an open web truss. Mixing in solid steel columns allows this model to span up to 300’ without adding columns. While comparable to an I-beam building in its column-free width, these hybrid buildings are a relatively new building system with an unproven track record enduring the stress weather and use puts on the structure over its lifespan.
- Can run electrical in rafters
- Clear span up to 300’
- Requires some onsite welding
- Unproven in heavy snow or wind
Tube steel is best for carports because it is a lightweight structure that is usually open on all four sides with a light gauge roof to help protect a car or other type of vehicle from the weather. Tube steel is a hollow tube that can be round, square, or another shape. It is often mistaken for a pipe, but the dimensions of tube steel are significantly different from a pipe. Tube steel buildings are perhaps the most DIY friendly building system because they can be erected with common household tools.
- Lowest price point
- DIY friendly construction
- Prone to fail under harsh weather
- Perimeter poles every 8'
C-Channel buildings are a great option for a workshop, garage, agricultural, offices, or storage. They come standard with a 3070 man door and framed opening which can be filled with a sectional or roll up door. Its framing is shaped like the letter “C” and is commonly mistaken for an I-beam when two C frames are installed back to back. While a C-Channel building does offer an all steel structure for less, sizes are limited and your geographic location may not be suitable for its engineering standards.
- Most similar to I-beam
- 3070 door and framed opening included
- Limited to four sizes
- Geographical restrictions
A rigid frame building features solid steel I-beams resulting in stability as well as structural continuity. Its framing allows the building to span up to 300’ clear span and has been trusted to endure historic storms regardless of size. You can order your rigid building with a roof pitch as low as .25:12 to 8:12 depending on where you plan to build, how you plan to use the space and your aesthetic preference. Rigid frames are especially useful if you need to have an overhead crane in your building or you require the most reliable building system available.
Multi-Span Rigid Frame
Similar to open web buildings, there are two varieties of rigid buildings: multi-span and open span. A multi-span frame can also reach up to 300 feet wide, but carries a lower price tag than a clear span building because interior columns are used to support the trusses. Multi-span buildings are popular among those who do not want to compromise on framing integrity but have budget constraints.
- Most versatile building system
- Durability and reliability
- Highest price point
- Sloped interior rafters
Price and Budget
The cost of your steel building involves more than just the price of the building and the land you are building it on. You need to account for a concrete slab or piers, customization options, building permits and the cost to erect the building. If you are building a metal home, barndominium or other building type that will require interior framing and finish, you will need to plan for those costs as well.
“Rigid frame metal buildings can cost up to 50% less when compared to the cost to construct a similar traditionally built structure. The savings are primarily realized in the reduction of construction timelines and labor.”
–Ken King, Director of Technical Services – General Steel Corporation
In accordance with you location, your local climate is another important thing to consider when selecting your metal building. Do you live in an area that gets tons of snow each year? What about hurricanes, earthquakes, or tornadoes? When we design your building, our experienced team takes into account the local atmospheric conditions such as wind speeds in Miami, seismic activity in California, and snow loads in Alaska.
Steel buildings are “considered one of the best earthquake resisting systems available,” according to FEMA.
“Steel framing can help resist the onset and growth of mold,” because it is not organic, so it does not provide a food source, according to Building Using Steel; it is immune to termites, which can cause major structural damage to buildings.
Choosing the Best Supplier
When choosing your steel building, it is good to look into your supplier. Taking into account reviews, the company’s track record, and what warranties they offer is important, especially in areas that have bad weather or seismic activity. Some companies may cut corners to make increase their profit margins, leaving you with a building that is under-designed and underloaded for the locale. That is why it is important to get your building from a company with a great track record and hundreds of independently collected reviews, like General Steel.