With the Surge in Wood Prices, Cold-Formed Steel Saves 24%

We previously featured on the blog a cost comparison study conducted by the SFIA on cold-formed steel framing and wood framing. However with the cost of wood framing skyrocketing, the report has been amended to show these higher material costs for wood projects and the results show a much different comparison between the 2 materials.

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Figure 1. The comparative cost study of framing featured this 5-story, 49,900 SF, mixed-use apartment building.

The Steel Framing Industry Association (SFIA) has conducted studies of construction costs in two different locations using an identical building (Figure 1) – one designed with wood and the other with cold-formed steel (CFS) framing.

Factoring in substantial savings from lower insurance costs, R.A. Smith, Inc. found, as reported in “Costs to Build with Cold-Formed Steel Versus a Wood-Framed Building” (June 2020), that CFS framing costs only 0.92% more than light wood framing.

However, the price of framing lumber is notoriously volatile. Furthermore, wood prices lately have skyrocketed, creating a dramatically different picture than when our original cost study was released.

The Random Lengths Framing Composite Price reached $627 per 1,000 board feet for the week ending July 31, 2020, an 80% rise from mid-April, according to the National Association of Home Builders.

If these same structures were built at the time of the original studies, but reflecting today’s differences in material prices, the Cold-Formed Steel framing package alone would cost 24% less than the wood option.

The completed building would be 5% less expensive.


The “Costs to Build” report establishes the complete picture between CFS and wood. Whereas the original study concludes that the cost of CFS framing and wood framing is not significantly different in mid-rise structures when additional cost factors are considered, CFS framing is a clear favorite under the present skyrocketing wood prices scenario.

SFIA has gathered pricing information and issued a bulletin with updated figures to the “Costs to Build” report.