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Basement framing: wood vs metal

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  • Jan 20th, 2012 9:36 am
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[OP]
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Nov 9, 2008
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Basement framing: wood vs metal

Hi All,

We'll be renovating our basement soon and are torn between wood vs metal studs. As some background, we bought the house 7 months ago and needless to say it was a "fixer upper". We had to re-do all the main drains, and as such have poured new 4'' concrete pad, with 6mm vapour barrier underneath. The foundation is concrete block, which we parged and sealed. The basement will be used mainly as an entertainment/TV area.

I have made a list of pros/cons I am aware of for each:

Wood
PRO: Cheaper
PRO: Stronger and can hold more weight
CON: Susceptible to mold/rot.

Metal
CON: More expensive
CON: Cannot hold as much weight
PRO: Walls will be "straighter" as the studs secure to a track
PRO: Not susceptible to mold/rot
CON??? I read somewhere that cold transfering through the metal stud can be an issue? Though I sincerely doubt it, as we're planning on putting down 1 1/2 inch rigid foam insulation with a channel for the stud, meaning the stud will NOT be in direct contact with the outer wall.
CON??? Is rusting a concern?


Another option is to go with Bluwood (the stuff you see Mike Holmes use), but I'm unable to determine how much extra it will cost.

I would love to hear some suggestions/feedback/personal experiences from anyone willing to share :)
14 replies
Deal Fanatic
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Oct 22, 2007
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If cost is an issue I would go with wood studs and just ensure you do a visual on the crown before you install. If cost is not a factor and quality is important then go with bluwood. Just ensure you use the proper vapour/moisture barrier and or look into spray foam insulation.
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Apr 28, 2005
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I did some research and basically was told to use wood studs (2x3 for walls, 2x4 if theres a door)
But to use metal around the bulkheads because wood can warp from the heat. Also it's easier to use than wood for the bulkheads.

I spent around 20 minutes picking out my studs for straightness when I was home depot.
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Dec 10, 2004
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Kanata
jacquesstrap wrote:
Jan 18th, 2012 1:15 pm

CON??? I read somewhere that cold transfering through the metal stud can be an issue? Though I sincerely doubt it, as we're planning on putting down 1 1/2 inch rigid foam insulation with a channel for the stud, meaning the stud will NOT be in direct contact with the outer wall.

Why a channel? I would just do rigid foam against the wall, no channel, and then build the wall in front of the foam. If you put less than 1.5" directly against the wall, you run the risk of not being a complete thermal break any longer. Building Science document that I last read indicated less than 1.5" may not be a proper thermal break.
Also note that R7.5 isn't "code" for the basement, it should be at least 12.5 right now (and I hear it may be at 20 with new code).
Deal Fanatic
Jan 16, 2008
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posted elsewhere as someone asked the same..


did my mom's basement recently...used the best of both worlds...

since it wasn't load bearing, and same a bit on space, didn't use full 2x4

actually used metal bottom & top tracks and wood 2x3 studs. concrete screwed the bottom track, wood screwed the top track to basement ceiling...
used wood 2x3 so that wouldn't have an issue with hanging anything...
best part is you don't need a barrier for the metal, and yoiu don't need to cut the wood exactly the height required (no cutting and then recutting, or worrying about cutting too short)...you have about 1/2 leeway as you just screw in into the track side walls.


just as a side note, we did not build the wall right against the outside...actually had a small space after we put insulation that way we created a open airway between exterior wall & new inside wall so any condensation, etc could circulate & hopefully escape.

hope that helps
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Jul 30, 2003
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Maymybonneliveforever wrote:
Jan 18th, 2012 1:25 pm
If cost is an issue I would go with wood studs and just ensure you do a visual on the crown before you install. If cost is not a factor and quality is important then go with bluwood. Just ensure you use the proper vapour/moisture barrier and or look into spray foam insulation.
So when would you use metal studs?

My $0.02... all my friends that've gone with metal have regretted it. It's more expensive and flimsier... the only good thing about it is that its super quick to transport and easy to install. That being said, it's not like wood framing is difficult.
Sr. Member
May 6, 2007
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Use wood for the walls and metal for the bulkheads if you want. Metal is preferred for speed of install, but for your own place the best choice is wood. Forget about bluwood, if you have moisture issues they are issues no matter what you have in your basement. Look into sprayfoam and ecoenergy grants, the foam boards are a lot of time and effort, materials and not quite as good as closed cell.
[OP]
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Nov 9, 2008
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trucanuck wrote:
Jan 18th, 2012 2:43 pm
Use wood for the walls and metal for the bulkheads if you want. Metal is preferred for speed of install, but for your own place the best choice is wood. Forget about bluwood, if you have moisture issues they are issues no matter what you have in your basement. Look into sprayfoam and ecoenergy grants, the foam boards are a lot of time and effort, materials and not quite as good as closed cell.

Thanks for the reply. We had a pre-retrofit ecoEnergy audit done, and insulating the basement walls is the final step before we call our inspector back for the post-retrofit audit.

I have heard that you don't get nearly as much benefit using sprayfoam on basement exterior walls compared to main floor exterior walls. Is this true?

While we want to make the best choice, cost is also going to be our concern...we're looking for the "best bang for your buck" solution, without sacrificing too much quality. That being said, the foam boards sound like the best option. Keep in mind that our basement walls are concrete block, meaning uniformly flat. In addition, we scrapped/removed all the old parging, brushed on concrete bonder solution where required, re-parged any holes, and painted 2 coats of "KING Brush 'n Seal".

With the above in mind, if we went ahead and used rigid foam insulation, this would act as a vapor barrier correct? This means if we put normal wood 2x4 studs on top of the foam insulation, we would theoretically have no moisture/vapour transmission to the wood studs, unless we have a giant flood, in which case there are bigger things to worry about.
Member
Mar 22, 2007
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Whitchurch-stouffvil…
We used bluwood in our basement and then sprayfoam thanks to the eco energy audit. Originally thought about doing the rigid foam board but realized that I wasn't saving that much and it would take a lot more time to put it up myself. Spray foam done in a couple of hours, we vacated the house for the weekend and the basement is nice and toasty this winter.

I waited for bluwood sales from Lowes and bought it then. It's a bit more expensive but at the end of the day i didn't want any mold issues in the basement when the little one is down there playing. Been doing our basement piece-by-piece when I have the time.
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Kanata
jacquesstrap wrote:
Jan 18th, 2012 3:16 pm
With the above in mind, if we went ahead and used rigid foam insulation, this would act as a vapor barrier correct? This means if we put normal wood 2x4 studs on top of the foam insulation, we would theoretically have no moisture/vapour transmission to the wood studs, unless we have a giant flood, in which case there are bigger things to worry about.

You need at least 1.5" of XPS rigid foam for it to be a vapour barrier. As long as you have this thickness, you are fine as a barrier.
[OP]
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goofball wrote:
Jan 18th, 2012 4:13 pm
You need at least 1.5" of XPS rigid foam for it to be a vapour barrier. As long as you have this thickness, you are fine as a barrier.

Good to know on the thickness, thanks.
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Nov 24, 2002
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At 1.5" XPS, I believe you get R10 insulation. When I finished my basement, I used it (with tuck tape). Followed by 2x4 wood wall with R14 Roxul insulation in the cavity. With a total R value of about R24, it's super toasty in my basement (the 8 pod lights can easily warm up the 600 sq ft of space in the family room!)

OP: Metal framing should really be used only in solid concrete structures where fire rating must be sustained (office buildings, condos, etc.) For basement renos, you should be using blue wood, at which point you have no con's (maybe price??)
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leonk wrote:
Jan 18th, 2012 4:59 pm
At 1.5" XPS, I believe you get R10 insulation. When I finished my basement, I used it (with tuck tape). Followed by 2x4 wood wall with R14 Roxul insulation in the cavity. With a total R value of about R24, it's super toasty in my basement (the 8 pod lights can easily warm up the 600 sq ft of space in the family room!)

XPS rigid boards, it is R5 per inch.

My recommendation for the foam boards is to chip the wall of any large contusions, sweep it with a stiff brush to get any loose concrete pieces off, and then clean it all up. Put PL300/Premium on the wall (I did 9-12 large dabs on the wall) and then secure foam to the wall, leave about 1" off the floor. I used caulking in the ship-lap joints when connecting the boards, then tuck taped the seams. Sprayfoam the top and bottom. I drilled into the foam to put a few tapcons on small 1x3" boards to secure the foam where the wall was not even and I did not feel the PL would bond before the foam may have worked itself loose.

Good luck! It's just time consuming but what a difference it makes after it is all done.
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May 1, 2003
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wood. If you are worried about mold on the wood, you are going to have mold in other areas too (drywall) and your basement has bigger problems (where is the moisture/water coming from).
[OP]
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Nov 9, 2008
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Toronto
So we're going to go with the blue wood, since the price difference is quite minimal compared to the standard wood (about 30 cents more per 2x4x8). The metal studs are actually much more expensive...we were very surprised!
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