Steel Frame Decks
Steel frame decks are emerging in the Kansas City deck industry.
Most of the reputable deck builders in Kansas City nowadays use composite or PVC decking for the floor and aluminum or steel for the railing system. Composite decking usually comes with a 25 to 50-year warranty, while most metal railings have a lifetime warranty. Customers nowadays expect decks that are long-lasting and require less maintenance.
Why Support Composite Decking With Wood Framing?
Many people are not yet familiar with the alternatives available for wood deck framing. Regardless of how well a wood-framed deck is constructed, its undercarriage will always be the weakest point of the structure. A deck builder can use No.1 grade lumber, set joists 12 inches or less on-center, ensure all framing members are installed true to one another with string lines, install ladder blocking every 6 to 8 feet along the joist spans, block support posts from all sides, and face-screw the decking to help mitigate movement. However, even with these measures taken, no honest deck builder can promise a customer that there won't be cosmetic issues stemming from the natural characteristics of wood framing.
Trees today are being grown faster than ever before, thanks to various forms of steroids. A spruce, pine, or fir tree can be established to full height in about 7 to 10 years. These promptly grown trees develop wider growth rings than in years past and, as a result, produce weaker, more volatile lumber. Wood moves with moisture loss/gain and temperature changes. Weaker wood moves more easily and often than stronger wood. Movement underneath a composite or PVC deck board will always create a noticeable eyesore. This is why some Kansas City deck builders are turning to steel frame decks.
Cost Comparison: Wood vs. Steel
Many people tend to associate the term "steel framing" with high costs. Although it is true that steel framing is more expensive than the traditional pressure-treated lumber, the price difference is not as significant as one might imagine. In fact, the superior structure and composition of steel framing often compensate for its higher cost, making it a more cost-effective option than wood framing in the long run.
- Steel frame decks have no incidental waste. Every piece is straight, exact, and usable. No warps, cups, twists, bows, sags, crowns, wane, or loose knots.
- Steel frame decks are much stronger and span much greater distances than wood-framed decks. This almost always means less piers, support posts, beams, and joists. You guessed it, this also equates to far less installation labor.
- Steel frame decks have no callbacks. The deck builder doesn’t have to return and replace, lift, shim, or otherwise adjust the deck member(s) that moved from their original placement. Obviously, it’s not only a cost saver but also a time and reputation saver!
- Steel frame decks will not rot, decay, or succumb to insect damage. It lasts much longer than wood.
- Steel framing has a Class 1A fire rating, which may lower insurance premiums.
There are two popular brands of steel frame decks: Fortress Evolution and Newcastle Steel. Both have similar span ratings, depending on the gauge of metal used. The color option for Fortress Evolution is "black sand," while Newcastle Steel is “machine gray." Our customers prefer the finish of Fortress Evolution over Newcastle Steel. Our deck builders also find it easier to work with the Fortress system. We believe that Fortress has more well-designed components, making installation smoother. Additionally, all of the hardware in Fortress's system is powder-coated to match the framing, while Newcastle Steel relies on some standard Simpson galvanized pieces. Overall, we think Fortress Evolution provides a cleaner, more consistent, and cohesive look, which is what we strive to deliver to our customers.
The Next Evolution
Whether you're familiar with steel frame decks or just hearing about them for the first time, we recommend you explore this option if you're planning on building a new composite deck, screen porch, or any other outdoor structure. The Kansas City deck industry (and likely many others) is increasingly embracing this technology, making it a popular choice for many homeowners.