Light gauge steel frame construction is an innovative and reliable construction method which is broadly used in the world and has surpassed wood frame construction in many design and construction aspects.

It offers several advantages such as buildability, strength, design flexibility, sustainability, and light in weight which makes it easy to handle and hence increase speed; safety; and quality of construction. Nonetheless, it is easily influence by fire, that is why fire protection coating shall be provided.

Light gauge steel frame elements are manufactured, based on ASTM standard A1003, from structural steel sheet that formed into strong C or Z or S shapes which are able to support heavy loads. The light gauge steel is also called cold formed steel which comes from the process by which steel members are formed.

The strength and flexibility of light gauge steel frame has led to increased spans, custom openings, curved wall, and different external façade treatments. These characteristics makes it versatile construction material. The elements of light gauge steel frame members need to be galvanized with zinc, aluminum or a combination thereof in order to provide long-term protection against corrosion.

Components of Light Gauge Steel Frame

1. Wall System

A load bearing wall is one which carries vertical loads from the construction above or lateral loads resulting from the wind. These loads may act separately or in combination. Both internal and external walls may be load bearing. Other types of walls include non-load bearing walls, wall cladding, and partitions.

Light Gauge Steel Wall
Fig. 1: Light Gauge Steel Wall
Load Bearing Wall
Fig. 2: Load Bearing Wall

2. Flooring System

The flooring system can be made up of C-sections as joists connected to C section bearers. The floor joists can be designed from a range of C-section sizes depending on loading parameters.

Light Gauge Steel Flooring System
Fig. 3: Light Gauge Steel Flooring System

3. Roof System

The roof structure is generally a steel truss system which can be designed for metal sheets or tiles. The steel roof framing system can suit all types of roof design – hip, gable, dutch dable, steel roof sheeting or tile and would be screwed directly onto the wall frame.

Roof System
Fig. 4: Roof System

4. Light Gauge Steel Coating

The thickness of coating applied on the surface of light gauge steel is varied based on environmental conditions in which the steel members are placed. Commonly, marine environments need the most protection whereas dry regions required less protections.

5. Shapes of Light Gauge Steel Frame Members

C shapes are considered for studs, joists, and rafters. The webs of C-shaped members are punched at the factory to provide holes at 600 mm intervals.

These are designed to permit wiring, piping, and bracing to pass through studs and joists without the need for drilling holes on the construction site. Channel Shapes are used for top and bottom wall plates and for joist headers.

6. Accessories

A variety of sheet metal angles, straps, plates, channels, and miscellaneous shapes are manufactured as accessories for light gauge steel construction.

Standard Accessories for Light Gauge
Fig. 5: Standard Accessories for Light Gauge

7. Connections

Light gauge steel members are usually joined with self-drilling, self-tapping screws, which drill their own holes and form helical threads in the holes as they are driven.

Welding is often employed to assemble panels of light gauge steel framing that are prefabricated in a factory, and it is sometimes used on the building site where particularly strong connections are needed.

Light Gauge Steel Frame wall and Roof Junction
Fig. 6:Light Gauge Steel Frame wall and Roof Junction

Thickness of Base Plate

Table 1 Minimum Thickness of Base Sheet Metal for Light Gauge Steel Frame Elements

GaugeMinimum Thickness of Steel SheetMinimum Thickness of Steel Sheet
 –Load bearing Light Gauge Steel Framing, mmNonload bearing Light Gauge Steel Framing, mm
122.43
141.73
161.371.37
181.091.09
200.840.75
220.69
250.45

Advantages

1. Buildability

In light gauge steel framing construction, structure and nonstructural members are produced in factory. This would decrease works at project site, declines waste, and enhance quality of construction.

2. Lightweight

The weight of light weight steel framing system is considerably low which require smaller size of foundation, and can be handled easily.

3. Strength

The light gauge steel has great strength even thought its weight is low. This is one of the most crucial advantage of this construction material.

4. Design Flexibility

The strength of light gauge steel frames permit longer spans, larger open spaces without the need for intermediate columns or load bearing walls.

5. Speed of Construction

The structural steel frame can be erected quickly since the structural members are prefabricated and can be easily handled due to their lightweight.

6. Structural Safety

The strength and noncombustible properties of steel enables it to withstand fires, earthquakes, and hurricanes.

7. Quality

Buildings constructed with light gauge steel frames have good quality which not only durable but also its maintenance low. It neither rot, shrink, warp nor suffer decomposition.

8. Remodel Easily

Light gauge steel frame construction can be modified at any point in its life service. Non-load bearing walls can be readily relocated, removed or altered.

9. Recyclable

All steel products are recyclable.

Disadvantages

  1. It is non-combustible material, but it must be protected from fire with fire rated sheeting since it loses its strength in fire.
  2. Light framed structures allow the passage of sound which is undesirable. As a result, it requires soundproofing, and thermal insulation.