As we come out of the great recession, American homeowners are taking an interest again in vacation homes and cabins. Since these structures can stand empty a fair portion of the year, the modern homeowner is interested in affordability, energy-efficiency, safety, and durability. They also want vacation homes that retain their market value and are less demanding in terms of maintenance.
For all of these reasons and more, metal buildings are becoming increasingly popular as residential structures.
That's right! Metal building construction isn't isolated to commercial, agricultural, or civic buildings. Remember how easy and cheap it was to throw up that metal storage building? Well, translate that simplicity and longevity into a well-engineered and expertly constructed residential building and you'll have an inexpensive vacation home that will save you time, money, and energy from start to finish.
1. Save money with steel
Metal vacation buildings are more affordable than traditional wood-framed buildings by a wide margin. You can divide those costs up into two categories:
- First-time costs, including design, site amendments, labor, and materials.
In most cases, you'll start saving from the outset. Depending on where you live, your foundational needs may be minimal because, in many communities, metal buildings require only a poured slab or foundation, which saves money on excavation costs.
Because the majority of the components are pre-engineered, you'll save on architectural and engineering costs. Many of your home's building components come pre-assembled, and because the bulk of the building's structure comes as a system, it can be erected quickly, with fewer different tradespeople, which saves you on labor costs.
Unlike wood-frame construction, there is no waste material to be cut and hauled away after erection is complete.
- Lifetime costs, including maintenance requirements.
High-quality metal building components, expertly constructed, properly sealed, and maintained per the manufacturer's instructions require significantly less maintenance than a wood-framed home. Metal roofs often have warranties of up to 40 or more years and can last much longer if they are re-painted with a protective coating about every ten years or so.
If you've done your part to protect your steel building from moisture - which leads to rust and corrosion - your building will last a lifetime with very little maintenance.
Added bonuses - steel building components are impervious to pests and rot, and they are also fire resistant.
Steel structures have more room for insulation, meaning your energy costs will be moderate in summer and winter. Also, a white or light colored metal roof is highly reflective, bouncing away from the sun's rays. At night, steel will emit heat it has soaked up during the day much faster than asphalt shingles.
2. Good for the wallet, good for the Earth
Metal buildings are durable, sustainable, and can be recycled.
- When properly erected, steel buildings can withstand wind forces up to 150 mph with no damage to the exterior or foundation. If you live in tornado country, steel is better than wood for construction.
- Steel buildings are rated Seismic Zone 4, the highest classification, perfect for regions with high probability of earthquake activity.
- Steel is fire-resistant. When insulated with fire-resistant insulation, it is difficult for flames to spread throughout the structure.
Because the frame is fastened with high-strength bolts instead of nails, it can resist the wind uplift that tends to cause the most structural failures in wood-frame buildings.
Did you know that steel is the number one recycled material in the United States? It is so easily recycled that steel manufacturers produce the bulk of their materials from pre- and post-consumer recycled materials. Tack on the fact that those same sustainable metal products you're using to build your home can be recycled at the end of their lifetime and you can see why metal residential structures are becoming more popular in the green building movement.
Done right, your metal home can be green building certified.
3. Flexible design options with steel
One of the most dramatic differences between a steel-framed building and a wood-framed one is how the structure carries the load. Wood houses require load bearing walls to ensure the building remains upright. This is not the case for metal buildings. Your exterior perimeter walls contain the load-bearing framework and everything inside can be designed to your taste. This is why steel buildings are so popular for large warehouses or airplane hangars where interior support columns are a nuisance.
In addition to giving you more flexibility with your custom interior design, the lack of load bearing interior walls means it's really easy to remodel. This can also enhance resale value because the home's layout is completely flexible for future home-buyers.
Steel vacation houses are also easily expanded. If you like, you can have a garage, workshop, or covered porch attached to the side or back of the home. Steel is lighter than wood or stone, making it easy to build upwards and add a story or three if you need more space.
More benefits of steel buildings
The production process for steel building products is efficient on its own and, in fact, many of the modern steel mills are incredibly energy-efficient because of the amount of energy they recycle during the production process. Cool metal roofing options and solar panels will further offset your home's energy consumption. Install energy-efficient windows and skylights to reduce energy requirements even further.
You can improve your interior comfort and yield greater energy savings by optimizing your insulation. Consider that a typical wood-framed building using 2 x 4’s have wall cavities that are about 3-5/8 inches thick. Due to the size of the materials used to frame a metal building, the exterior walls can be as much as 8 inches thick. Extra insulation means less heat transference in all seasons.