Home > Architectural Blog > The Great Beam Debate: Should You Choose Wood or Steel? [infographic]

As you renovate your current home or build a new house, you may wonder if you should go with steel beams, or if wood is the better choice. I’m Paul B. Clark, Architect, and I am happy to consult with you regarding this decision, but know that this choice should come down to your budget, design goals, construction schedule, and preferences for sustainability. Please contact me if you have additional questions!

The Great Beam Debate: Should You Choose Wood or Steel? [infographic]

Wood

  • Budget—In most cases, wood beams (including engineered wood products) cost less in terms of both the material itself and the labor involved for the installation.
  • Design goals—Due to their weight-bearing limitations, wood beams offer slightly less design flexibility for some home design and renovation projects.
  • Building schedule—Using wood beams can speed up your construction schedule since they can be readily purchased and easily cut to size directly on site.
  • Sustainability preferences—Wood is definitely a renewable resource and sequesters carbon.

Steel

  • Budget—Steel beams are usually more costly than wood ones due to their weight, and they may require special handling during installation. These beams also require fabricator-formed holes for the bolts, which can elevate project costs.
  • Design goals—Steel beams offer many benefits in terms of design thanks to their greater weight-bearing strength, which allows for larger, uninterrupted open spaces with beam that are shallower than wood beams.
  • Building schedule—Using steel beams can lengthen your construction timeline because you have to account for manufacturing and delivery, as well as the possibility of requiring the use of the crane to set the beam.
  • Sustainability preferences—Surprisingly, steel is a somewhat of a sustainable material since it is made from recycled products.  However, the production of steel beams uses tremendous amounts of energy.