Cold-formed steel (CFS) is one of the most reliable, durable, and sustainable building materials around, making it a great option for almost any low- or mid-rise construction project, no matter where it’s located. That said, there are some areas in the United States and beyond where framing with CFS isn’t just a good idea — it’s highly advisable.
Why? In the U.S., especially in the south and southeast, where there’s higher moisture content, both termites and dry rot cost building owners and homeowners billions of dollars each year in property damage. (Learn how to tell the difference between termite damage and dry rot.)
Since steel is an inorganic material that is neither susceptible to moisture nor a desirable food source for termites, it is arguably the best possible defense against these potentially catastrophic issues.
Sometimes called the “silent killer,” termites cause more harm to buildings and homes in North America than fire, floods, and storms combined. Among the most concerning species for massive destruction is the Formosan subterranean termite (FST). A mature FST colony has up to 10 million termites with passageways that can run 10 feet deep and span half an acre. The queen, with a typical lifespan of 30 years, lays upwards of 2,000 eggs daily.
Once limited to Hawaii, FSTs have significantly expanded their reach, ravaging homes and structures for years in southern Louisiana, parts of Texas, and the surrounding Gulf states of Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. Other states in the southeast, such as Georgia, the Carolinas, and Tennessee, have all reported problems as well. In Hawaii, about $100 million every year is spent on termite prevention, control, and repair. That annual price tag comes to about $300 million in New Orleans.
Never a meal for termites
Because steel is an inorganic material, termites won’t eat it — and therefore, there’s no opportunity for costly termite damage or need to arrange for costly annual termite prevention treatments. This also ensures a healthier building since there is no off-gassing from chemical termite treatments.
In fact, the International Residential Code (IRC) identifies cold-formed steel as one of the six options acceptable for termite protection. While the IRC is intended for residential guidelines, termites do not discriminate, so this guidance can be applied to many other buildings as well.
Never holds moisture
While dry rot is dependent on moisture, it’s not limited to areas like New Orleans, where rain, swamps, and mugginess are the norm. Dry rot can happen anywhere there is moisture content of as little as 20 percent. Like termites, dry rot is also often a hidden problem — one that’s hard to stop unless you find and fix the water source immediately.
The impact of dry rot on a building can be disastrous, often leading to structural movement or even significant structural failure. Because dry rot frequently goes undetected until it becomes a significant problem, simply assessing the extent of the damage can be a real challenge. For other building materials, one of the treatment strategies — beyond finding and eliminating the water source — is to apply a chemical preservative. But similar to termite prevention, the use of chemicals compromises the health of a building, so it’s not ideal.
That’s why framing with CFS can eliminate the severe and costly consequences of dry rot. Even in a flood situation, CFS does not retain water or absorb moisture.
Even in extreme coastal environments, CFS framing can last for hundreds of years (when used in accordance with AISI design standards and U.S. building codes) — well beyond the expected life span of a building. Especially in the more vulnerable regions of the country, building owners can avoid these painful problems from the beginning by choosing to build — or rebuild — with CFS.
Interested in avoiding the costly damage of dry rot and termites in your next project? Contact us for project assistance.