The Complete Buying Guide For Steel Building Homes
Planning on building your own house soon? There was a time when most prospective home builders would have thought immediately of traditional stick-built construction when planning a project. But now we have other more innovative options available, including our favorite steel and metal.
Could a Steel Building be the right choice for your next home?
In this buying guide, ,we want to help you understand the pros and cons of Steel Buildings, how much it costs to build a metal home, and the different types of metal homes you can construct.
Steel Home Advantages: Affordable. Eco-Friendly. Long-Lasting.
There are numerous advantages to building a metal home. Here are some reasons to go this route with your next project:
- Cut project costs: Steel homes are very affordable to construct. We will dive into the costs later, but suffice to say, you can save a lot of money building a home if you go with prefab metal over traditional stick-built construction.
- Construct your new home rapidly and easily: It takes considerably less time to build a metal home out of prefabricated components than it does to build a house using traditional materials and methods. Not only that, but when you order a Steel Building kit, it may be possible for you to build it yourself. You do not necessarily need extensive experience. Some type of metal structures such as Quonset huts were designed with inexperienced builders in mind, and do not require specialized tools.
- Reduce maintenance requirements: Metal holds up great to everyday wear and tear. You probably will not need to do much to maintain your metal home at all compared to what you could expect with a traditional structure. It is far less likely as well that large repairs will be necessary.
- Protect your structure from moisture, pests, and fire: When your house is made out of wood, it can burn if it catches fire. If leaks form, wood rot can follow as well as mold. Pests like termites or rodents can chew through it. But when your house is made out of metal, it is far more resistant to these threats. It cannot rot. Pests are far less likely to attack it. Rodents will struggle to do damage, and termites will fail. And while fire can still damage metal, steel is not combustible.
- Ideal for any climate: A steel home is strong enough to stand up to harsh winds and precipitation. If a tree falls on your roof during a storm, it is less likely that your metal roof will cave in than a traditional shingle roof. So no matter where you want to build, making your house out of metal is an ideal way to protect the structure itself and everyone in it.
- Save money over the long run: Fewer repairs and less ongoing maintenance translates to lower costs to take care of your home over the many years ahead.
- Protect the environment: You can build a metal home out of recycled materials. The home can then stand for many decades, outlasting other structures. Eventually, if you or someone else does decide to dismantle the house, the materials can be recycled again. Steel Buildings are therefore sustainable and eco-friendly.
- Style your home however you want: Sometimes people who are new to the concept of a metal house make the assumption that all metal homes have the same modern, minimalist aesthetic. You can choose that look if you want, but did you know a Steel Building can also look just like any other traditional home in your neighborhood? Wood, stone, brick, and other finishing materials can effectively disguise the nature of your house.
- Pass your home down to your heirs in pristine condition. If you want to pass your home down to your children, you could not make a better choice than a metal structure. When your heirs move in, they will have a beautiful, functional home that is still in astonishingly good shape even after decades of use.
Steel Home Drawbacks
- The main potential drawback of a Steel Building has to do with what is called “thermal bridging.” This term refers to the ability of metal to conduct heat with extreme efficiency. To counteract the effects of thermal bridging, you will need to install superior insulation in your metal home. If you do not do this, you will have a hard time maintaining comfortable temperatures on hot and cold days.
- The second potential drawback of a metal home is the possibility of rust. If you will be building your home near the sea, you will have to be extra mindful of this issue. Galvanized steel or galvalume steel may help to prevent rust from forming.
As you can see, there are far more pros than cons for metal homes. And the drawbacks that do exist can be compensated for by choosing the right type of steel and high-quality insulation.
How Much Does it Cost to Build a Metal House?
By now, you are probably pretty excited to move forward with your own dreams of owning a metal home. So, let’s get onto one of the biggest questions you likely have: how much are you going to need to invest into building a metal home?
As we mentioned earlier, metal homes are very affordable, which is one of the reasons why they are surging in popularity.
If you use rigid frame construction for your structure, you can expect to pay around $7 per square foot.
If you go with a Quonset hut design, your costs could drop to around $5 per square foot.
Along with these basic costs, you need to also pay for:
- The foundation
- Doors and windows
There are many variables that can impact the exact final costs.
For example, you can significantly reduce the cost of labor by performing some of it yourself rather than leaving it all up to a contractor to do.
But there are some areas where it is worth it to pay higher costs.
You should, for instance, not go with the cheapest insulation option.
Paying more in this department will end up resulting in long-term cost savings since your home will be less expensive to heat and cool throughout the year.
A deep dive into the different types of insulation and foundations for metal homes is not within the scope of this article. So, you will want to continue reading the other articles on our site to learn more both about your options and the overall process involved in building a metal home.
Steel House Types and Examples
Now that we have gone over the basic costs of building a metal home as well as the benefits of Steel Buildings, let’s go over some examples of the different types of metal houses you can construct.
1. Steel-Framed Houses
Steel-framed houses, like traditional stick-built houses, have an internal rigid frame of columns and beams. But those columns and beams are made of steel rather than wood.
A steel-framed metal house may also be referred to as a “rigid frame structure.”
You might consider this type of metal home if you want an open floor plan without the need for a lot of internal walls or columns.
Indeed, many large warehouses, factories, and other commercial buildings feature a rigid frame for just this reason to create a “clear span” floor plan.
But a clear span layout can also work well for a residential structure, especially for more spacious homes.
Our recommended manufacturer for steel-framed metal houses is EcoSteel. Since 2004, this company has been building steel frame homes and commercial structures using superior fabrication methods. The company also creates insulated metal panels as well as polycarbonate translucent panels.
If you want your home to use solar power, EcoSteel is also a good choice. Even though the company does not make solar panels, you can easily connect solar panels to the company’s Standing Seam Roof Panels with a clip system.
For an example of EcoSteel’s work, consider the modern Beach Residence located in Los Angeles. EcoSteel handled the execution of architectural plans from LeanArch California Coastal Architecture.
With a combination of plaster and reclaimed wood accent siding, you would not likely guess that this structure has a metal frame if you did not know.
This home also illustrates the pest-resistant benefits of metal as a residential building material. How so? This building replaced one that used to stand on the same site which was previously destroyed by termites. The very reason that the owner chose steel and concrete for the replacement building was to make sure that would never happen again.
2. Metal Container Homes
Another type of metal home you can consider is one made out of a converted industrial shipping container.
What is really cool about container houses is that they are easy to scale to your needs. They are essentially identical prefab units. You can live in a single converted shipping container tiny house, or you can connect them to create larger spaces. If you want, you can even stack them to create multiple stories.
Aesthetically, you may be surprised by just how much you can do with shipping containers. If you like the classic industrial container look, you can do minimal finishing to make it obvious your home started its life as a shipping container.
But if would rather your house did not look like a shipping container, you can disguise these units pretty well with the right cladding. You can even convincingly make a shipping container look like a rustic log house if you want!
Our suggested builder for shipping container houses is Honomobo. Describing its product, the company says, “Honomobo is a home. It can be used as an ADU, a carriage/laneway home, garage suite, lake front getaway, tiny house, or stacked on a garage and is built to meet the local building code. Order a Honomobo and it’ll be ready for you, whatever your purpose, in just 12 weeks from production start date.”
The Aspen Grove is a completed Honomobo project using the company’s HO4+ layout. The company named the project for its location in British Columbia.
Situated on a concrete perimeter foundation, this shipping container house measures 1,216 square feet, and features three bedrooms. The entire process starting from the design of the house through to its installation took only half a year.
If you order an HO4+ of your own, you can personalize the home by selecting options for the fireplace, windows, colors and styling. Your Honomobo includes an air source heat pump and ERV system with the option to upgrade to solar power if you wish.
3. Modular Prefab Homes
Technically, shipping container houses are modular prefab houses, but there are other modular prefab options out there as well.
What makes a home a modular prefab one?
- For a house to be prefabricated, that means that some or all of the parts were built in a factory and then shipped out to be assembled on-site. Contrast this with handling all construction on a structure directly at the site.
- Modular design refers to a building consisting of one or more modules that are scalable in nature. Like Lego bricks, the modules can be stacked or configured as needed to serve the purposes of the structure and its owner.
For modular prefab metal houses, we are big fans of Blu Homes. While these houses are spacious, airy and luxurious, they are also quite affordable, starting at $195,000. In fact, let’s take a look at the 605-square-foot Cabana in that price range.
This one-bedroom, one-bathroom house is smaller than a lot of traditional homes, but still larger than a tiny house. It features a full-size kitchen and combined dining room for an open layout. A small hallway leads past the bathroom and laundry room to the 11’ x 11’ master bedroom.
You can customize the Cabana by choosing the flooring, siding, and countertops you prefer. Additional options include a standing seam roof, Nanawall, solar panels, and upgraded appliances.
All of that is pretty awesome, right? But customization with Blu Homes goes even further than that, as the company allows you to “mix and match” their models, building the modular residence of your dreams.
4. Steel Building Kits
Another option for building a metal house is to order a Steel Building kit. This is simply a kit that is shipped to you that includes all of the materials and components you need to build the basic structure of a metal house. Some kits may also include materials for finishing.
Once the materials arrive, you can either contract out the construction or take care of it on your own. You can also always do part of the construction yourself and get contractors to handle the parts you don’t know how to do.
One of the companies we like for Steel Building kits is Morton Buildings. This company manufacturers both residential and commercial metal structures. Among their residential offerings are homes and cabins, hobby buildings, workshops, garages and hangars.
William & Jane’s Home
One impressive example of a residential steel structure from this company is William & Jane’s Home located in Steamboat Springs, Colorado.
Morton’s Hi-Rib Steel is covered in wood siding so that the 3,846 square foot house has a completely rustic look that fits in perfectly with its surroundings. Ensuring that the house stays warm in one of the coldest towns in the continental United States is Morton’s Energy Performer Insulation Package.
Another company we recommend in this category is Mueller Buildings. This company manufactures kits for buildings, greenhouses, carports, loafing sheds, and fences.
Standard Series Kits
Mueller’s flagship kit product is the Standard Kit series. Mueller writes, “When you consider quality and value, Mueller’s Standard Series Kits are the finest pre-designed steel buildings you can buy.”
The walls are backed by a 30-year limited warranty, and the roof by a 20-year limited warranty. Your kit comes with both of these components along with anchor bolt plans, coldform end walls, a bolt-together frame, and more.
5. Other Types of Metal Structures
Along with the types of metal homes we have shared above, there are other types of steel residences you can build as well, for example:
- Post frame “pole barns”: Post frame structures feature poles thrust into the ground to support the vertical load. Although the structure may include metal panels, the poles themselves usually are lumber. The reason for the lumber poles is to conserve costs. But the wood elements do introduce a structural weakness in the sense that they will be susceptible to pests, fire, wood rot, etc.
- Quonset huts: If you are looking for a fast, easy, affordable way to build a metal house on your own, Quonset huts are a go-to product. They were originally engineered for military use during WWII, and were specifically designed so that those with limited expertise and tools could erect them. They feature an arch shape, which may be helpful in climates that feature a lot of precipitation.
- Shop houses: Also known as an “shouse,” a shop house is exactly what it sounds like. It is a single building that contains a residential component as well as a workshop. This may be an option for those who want to live and work in the same structure, or simply have hobbies that require a lot of space.
You can continue exploring our site to learn more about all these different types of Steel houses.
Now you have had a chance to explore the numerous benefits of metal homes. You also are familiar with some of the different types of metal structures you can build, and you know a bit more about the costs for metal residences.
Are you ready to make your dreams of living in a durable, sustainable, affordable metal home come true?