Are steel houses practical?

I just heard an ad on the radio for a company that sells steel buildings. They said you could get a 50’x100’ steel building for $35K.

I assume that’s just for an external shell on a lot you already own. But still, that’s 5000 square feet, so a shell a third that size might only be $20K or so, and would be proof against termites and rot. When I had a garage built for my house several years ago, it was much, much smaller than that, and cost about $20K, and it’s just an external shell, with only three walls.

Is there any reason why you couldn’t lay a foundation with whatever plumbing and electrical connections you need, put the 1700 Sq ft $20K steel shell on it, line the inside with insulation and drywall, and then add whatever partitions you want to make bedrooms and stuff?

Would that be practical to do? Would it end up cheaper than a conventional house? Or even if it cost the same or a little more, wouldn’t the termite and fire protection be worth it?

Are there any pitfalls or major considerations I’m missing? I guess it will look like a box, but I don’t care about that. Any zoning of code considerations?

Sounds kind of like shipping container homes.

Yeah, they pretty much look boxy, but the benefits far outweigh that, in my opinion. Plus, they’re cheap. I’m seriously intending to build one for my next house.

What are you going to attach the drywall to?

As for zoning, you’d have to get it rated by a structural engineer. And keep you’d have to cut holes for windows and exterior doors.

Still have to contend with heating, cooling, insulation, plumbing, wiring etc so just the steel box gets you exactly that.

Also, any radio, wifi, TV signals you want to get may be interfered with requiring external antennas and internal repeaters.

My friend built a small apartment in a steel building on his property. He lived in it while building his home. He essentially built a house interior inside one half of his storage building. Had to run conduit etc outside to bring in fresh air, combustable air for his heaters, and to take out exhaust heat AC conduit etc.

He still uses the apartment as a guest house for his kids when they visit.

The drywall is a pain. It’s hard to get windows sealed well. They’re kinda ugly (bad for resale, even if you don’t care). Wood is really pretty cheap.

Here is another perspectiveon shipping container homes,** Lightnin’.**

I’m not talking about shipping containers. I’m talking about something like this:

I found that after my OP. Obviously, more elaborate, but more expensive, and I don’t think assembly is included. Still, if it ends up being not much more than conventional construction after everything’s done, I’d strongly consider it.

I called one company I found on the internet, and they only had one guy in the entire state that they worked with for assembly, so I guess these aren’t very common.

Not quite the same thing, but my grandfather’s last house was steel-framed. So everywhere that there would normally be wood framing, there was lightweight steel girders instead. It looked and functioned just like a normal house.

(added after TonySinclair’s last post): Yeah, it was pretty much like that.

There are a number of these houses in my city. They are clustered in several neighborhoods.

IDK what they’re like to heat, cool, etc.

While size is one factor in the costs of a home, the types of finishes you use on the exterior and the interior are a much larger contributor. What types of appliances are you going to use? Granite or formica. Stock or custom cabinetry. Brick or wood siding.

You can build any type of home on the cheap. Look at manufactured housing (or more commonly called trailer houses). Many of them have metal siding. But a lot of people don’t want to live in one.

Get your metal building and then outfit it however you see fit, but don’t count on being able to re-sell it very easily.

There are quite a few steel houses in the UK, built after WW2 when there was a need to build houses quickly. They’re steel framed and have various other materials incorporated including sometimes rendered steel lath for exteriors.

They are not easily mortgageable in their original form and many have been largely rebuilt using traditional materials but retaining the steel frame.

They were practical at the time but haven’t lasted well, which was possibly never the intention.

I think…that for $20k, you could just as easily get a stick built, or even straw bale, shell built. If you have the right contractor, who does not think he is a rock star. As for termites, unless you live in the Deep South, they are easy enough to keep out, especially with a slab.

I’ve built my share of large metal buildings, just not made a home out of one. I recently did a game room inside my large metal building. Sounds about right for price, and I’m sure you’re right, that doesn’t include assembly. Nor would it include the concrete foundation, and insulation among other things, and those will add considerably to the price. With concrete depending on what area you’re in, probably going to be another $4.00-$6.00 a s.f… So that’s another $20,000-$30,000. Insulation might be another $5-7,000 or so depending on how much you need for your area. If you can do the assembly yourself, you’ll save plenty, and it’s really not that difficult to do a really nice job.

Quite a few add the inner double wall for many reasons. It doesn’t have to be wood, some go with lightweight metal studs. Doing so, you get the proper spacing you need to attach the drywall too, and having the double wall, helps with air circulation considerably; helps more with cooling and heating; and should eliminate any mold/fungus concerns, as well as any concrete sweating problems. For my game room, the double wall wasn’t necessary, just have exposed insulation that is white vinyl. Being a game room, I wasn’t going to do anything to fancy with the walls.

Metal buildings for homes are probably going to be slightly more overall (perhaps 10%, but not sure). I still think they are practical and about as maintenance free as you can get. Also, you can do all sorts of things to the exterior now, such as put up lightweight stone or brick on it, which I think helps dress it up a bit. Other things they are doing with the exterior as well. With some it’s difficult to know it’s even a metal building. Try to get away from the rectangular box look, and add a few extra gables and hips.

Several down the street really did some nice metal homes, one with a wrap around porch. Really looks great, I think.

It’s my understanding that steel frame homes are fairly common in Japan, where steel is a much more plentiful resource than wood. Some of them come as modular cubes. You basically just bolt them together on site and voila, instant house. They are built around a central stack, where all of your heating ducts, plumbing connections, and wiring goes.

Cheaper and more plentiful wood makes steel frame houses less competitive in the U.S.

While the Japanese pre-fabs certainly look boxy, you could build a steel frame house in pretty much any design you wanted. I’m not sure what the price of steel is these days, but I suspect that you would end up paying a lot more than you would for a wood frame house. Using pre-fab parts would lower the cost but would also reduce your design options. Some of the pre-fab homes look pretty much like a regular house though.

One thing that might be an issue for some people is that steel frame homes and also metal roofs tend to naturally block radio waves, which affects things like TV reception (if you don’t have cable) and cell phone signals. There are ways to make TV antennas and cell phones work with metal buildings but it does require a bit extra on your part.

I appreciate all the replies. I’m at the age now where I don’t think I’ll be moving again (so I don’t care too much about resale value), and low maintenance is worth a lot.

I use either cable or satellite for TV, I don’t have a cell phone, and I do have a termite problem where I live. I think this is worth pursuing.

Steel framing is nothing exotic. Unusual for US homes, perhaps, but very common for commercial buildings. Once the drywall goes up, you really can’t tell what’s inside.

Lustron, OTOH, is crazy exotic. Steel framing and porcelain-enameled steel surfaces. It’s like living in a 1950’s fridge or gas station.

IIRC, heating and cooling are OK, but just living with them is challenging. Want to hang a picture? Think again. Think carefully. Before 3M invented Command hooks, your options were magnets or drilling holes that you’d never be able to patch.

Want to run phone, LAN or CATV cables? Get a plasma cutter or live with wires snaking around the walls. As mentioned above, forget about wifi or cell phones.

I meant to comment with TV reception, I hear often these are problems, but just never experienced it myself personally. Both in my metal building, where I have a TV and cordless phone, as well as my cell phone, and my regular home which has a metal roof, I don’t have any reception problem on any of these nor with my wifi. I do have problems with TV reception when 18 wheelers go down my road, but I had that problem back when I had asphalt shingles too.

Rain will sure be loud inside those homes.

Not once it’s insulated.

Right now, we’re building a house (timber frame) and living in an apartment in a metal shop on the property. The rain is super-loud in the uninsulated garage portion, but the apartment area is quiet.

That’s a completely different animal than you described in the OP. Those are steel framed homes, but the siding can be anything. Steel framing is much more expensive than wood framing. Material costs are going to be quite a bit more, and you’ll have to find a "carpenter’ who is used to framing with steel. The latter is probably not a problem, but you always open yourself up to problems when you do something out of the ordinary.

It would be without the insulation. Since my home already had asphalt shingles originally, the plywood underneath stayed in place. So my metal roof goes over it. You wouldn’t notice any difference in sound. My metal buildings with 3" of insulation isn’t anything I notice either. Out in my patio area, I actually like listening to the rain hitting it. Gosh, we barely even know what rain is any more in my parts. They are projecting my city will run completely dry in less than two years, unless we have a gulley washer, a.k.a., a turd floater in these parts.