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Do-It-Yourselfers Can Frame Their Own Opinions on Steel

January 15, 1994

The studs or channels that are used in steel framing are made of metal that is rolled into varying thickness, or gauges, at a mill.

The studs themselves usually are formed so that in cross section they resemble a flat-sided C, although some lengths can be Z -shaped.

Lightweight bracing--which replaces plywood shear panels in many metal homes--usually comes flat.

The gauge refers to the thickness of the metal itself, not the overall size of the stud.

The lightest metal in common use is 25 gauge, or 0.0188 of an inch thick. It would take a pile of 53 sheets of 25-gauge metal to equal one inch. Looking at it another way, one piece is about five times thicker than a sheet of copier paper.

Studs for load-bearing walls and engineered systems are made of either 20-gauge steel, which is 0.0346 of an inch thick, or 18-gauge, at 0.0451 of an inch.

The heftier materials are 16-gauge, which is 0.0566 of an inch thick; 14-gauge, at 0.0712 of an inch, and 12-gauge--the big stud of the bunch--at 0.1017 of an inch.

Pieces thicker than that are classed as structural steel and are usually used in residential construction only for very long, unsupported spans--extra-wide garage door openings or cantilevered decks and balconies.

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