National Steel Framed Buildings

Steel v Wood v Concrete, Which Is Better

Should I use timber, concrete or steel for my build, and how long will they last?

The answer to how long they will last is not definitive. We could reply as long as a ‘piece of string’ in that we can only estimate how long these buildings will last from already erected steel buildings. However, even that time span is questionable, as how well you look after your steel building plays its part in the longevity of your building.

The oldest known steel building is the Rand McNally in Chicago, erected in 1890. The construction of this 1885 Home Insurance Building in Chicago was with a steel framework and reinforced concrete. A big plus for steel buildings is that the maintenance on them is not as time-consuming as other construction materials or as expensive.

How Long Do Wooden Houses Last?

We have built using wood for centuries, and some have stood the test of time. The oldest known wooden building is the Horyu-Ji temple in Japan, constructed in 607 A.D. Now part of UNESCO, this building has survived because of the love and maintenance that it has been given over the ages.

The difficulty with wood buildings is that while the forestry industry has developed more sustainable practices, trees still take time to grow. They are expensive to construct, costly to maintain, and very susceptible to fire.

How Long Do Concrete Buildings Last?

The Romans used concrete, as did the Egyptians. Their Pyramids are testament to that, although their formula was different to today in that we don’t add blood or other animal products to the mix. Although, in theory, well-maintained concrete buildings could last up to 100 years, in practice, some are a lot less.

Steel Buildings Have Longevity, Ensuring Your Investment In Them

According to Bill Baker—a structural engineer for the 2,716.5 ft Burj Khalifa in Dubai —well-maintained steel buildings could last as long as the Pyramids of Giza, 7,000 years!

However, with good maintenance, so could many buildings. Regarding steel buildings, they come at the top of the list due to their amazing properties of steel, which include resistance to moisture, corrosion and pests.

Inorganic, durable steel is resistant to shrinkage, splitting or mould infections which is an ongoing problem with concrete or wood. In 2021, it was mandated that steel structures be galvanised to protect them from moisture and oxygen. These are the two elements that cause corrosion. In addition, it was mandated for steel structures that could affect the steel’s serviceability and strength.

The ductility of steel—the ability to bend without breaking—and steel’s tensile strength create dimensionally stable buildings that can withstand heavy winds, rain, snow, and seismic forces. In addition, non-combustible steel can withstand fire and limit its spread.

Don’t Forget To Maintain Your Steel Building

Having a regular maintenance check entered into your diary is good practice.

Clean – wash your steel building at least once a year using a pressure washer.

Paint – every 8 – 10 years, reapply a water-resistant paint, adding an extra layer of protection and keeping it looking good.

Roofs & guttering – don’t forget to keep an eye on these parts of your building. Mainly looking for any blockages.

Minor Damage – scratches and dents can go through the protective glaze part of the steel structure. These minor damages can be an entry point for pests and moisture – creating rust.

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