0000 Post Frame Buildings vs Steel Frame Buildings: Which is Better?
Post Frame Buildings vs Steel Frame Buildings: Which is Better?
Angie Dobson

By: Angie Dobson on September 28th, 2018

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Post Frame Buildings vs Steel Frame Buildings: Which is Better?

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Do you find yourself in this scenario...your business is booming (which is a good thing), but the current space you’re in no longer fulfills your needs? It’s an exciting time for you as a business owner, but now you’re tasked with designing a building upgrade. After much consideration, you’ve decided to build a new structure for your commercial operation. 

In your mind, you keep going back and forth between a post frame and steel frame building. Most likely, you’ve convinced yourself that steel is stronger than wood. That steel will last longer than wood. That steel will go up faster than wood.

Do you know if these statements are 100% true? Or, are these assumptions that you’ve heard over time? You know what they say about assuming…

As a professional builder, it’s our job to provide the facts on post frame versus steel frame, and we’re going to do just that.

In this article, we’ll compare the following areas of post frame and steel frame construction:

At the end of the day, we want consumers to be able to choose the building that works best for them and their needs.


1) Design Flexibility

First, design flexibility refers to a building’s ability to evolve as the user’s needs change. An ideal building design allows for efficient use despite operational changes. If not, the structure will become obsolete. Now, we wouldn’t want that to happen!

Post FramePost_Frame_Building_Design_Flexibility

Post frame buildings are preferred over steel frame for their open, adaptable or multi-use floor plans, offering you complete design freedom. You can place windows or doors virtually anywhere. For curb appeal, you can choose from a variety of exterior finishes such as brick, steel, stucco, vinyl, and wood. 

Roofs of any pitch can be covered with asphalt, metal, slate, tile, or wood. Think about it...have you ever seen a steel frame building with a high pitched roof? The answer is most likely going to be no.

But, it doesn’t end there. Post frame structures use engineered, clear-span trusses and load-bearing columns along the perimeter. As a result, the roof doesn’t require additional support from stud walls.

Overall, the options that post frame construction offers can make your project more attractive and functional.

Steel Frame

Steel frame construction is a good fit for those interested in extremely wide interiors (100 feet and up). Popular examples of steel frame buildings include large warehouses, manufacturing facilities, multi-story towers, and other commercial developments.

The flexibility of steel makes it possible for the metal to be used in numerous areas throughout the design process.

However, different types of steel (alloy, carbon, stainless, and tool) are produced to meet various needs. It’s important to make sure that your architect or designer is familiar with your business needs.

Again, steel is capable of incorporating long spans and unique curves to the building design. You’ll notice this technique the next time you go to a stadium event or catch a flight at the airport. 

Altogether, a steel frame project can have a beautiful design while remaining functional.


2) Energy Efficiency

Next, an energy-efficient layout is one of the best opportunities you can have for cutting utility costs. Also, it’s your best hedge against increasing energy prices. A building designed and constructed to minimize energy consumption can help you realize tangible savings. Not to mention, it’s good for the environment!

Post FramePost_Frame_Building_Energy_Efficiency

Compared to other building types (concrete-block, stud-wall, or steel framing), post frame buildings are easier to insulate. This advantage can save you significant money in long-term heating and cooling costs.

Post frame structures are well-known for wide spaces in between the columns. The average length is 8 feet. This allows for continuous blankets of insulation, which means less thermal leakage.

Furthermore, the wood framing members have some R-value and provide very low heat conductivity. How does steel frame compare? We’ll get to that in just a second...

With energy costs on the rise, why waste your money on continuously heating and cooling a building? Post frame construction is the best option for energy savings.

Steel Frame

Despite its flexible design, steel frame buildings aren’t energy-efficient. They require insulation to be sandwiched between the outside steel and framing members. This causes the insulation to get crimped in “waves” around the building. As a result, compressed insulation has very little R-value.

In addition, steel conducts heat 310 times faster than wood. As a result, the insulating properties of the wall insulation is reduced by 60 percent. 

How does this happen? The steel columns act as powerful thermal bridges, transferring valuable heat to the outside during the winter.

To combat this energy loss, you can use extra insulation or materials with a higher R-value rating. Spacing the steel studs farther apart helps by creating few thermal bridges.

But if you’re looking for an energy-efficient building, then steel frame construction isn’t the best choice for you.


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3) Finishing Options

Curb appeal and finishing touches are crucial for your commercial business. How do these two construction types fare? Let’s find out…

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Believe it or not, your opportunities are almost endless when it comes to finishing your post frame building. We know...it’s hard to picture post frame buildings looking as high-end as a steel frame. Don’t believe us? See for yourself with Watseka Ford or Hunter's Moon Harley Davidson.

There’s a wide variety of finishing options for your post frame structure. Examples include:

  • Acoustical Steel
  • Brick
  • Cedar Siding
  • PVC
  • Steel
  • Stone
  • Wood

The list goes on and on. Like we said, your finishing options are almost endless. Most of our clients use a combination of finishes depending on their needs and wants. Check out our pole barn gallery for some inspiration.

What’s nice about post frame construction is the ability to retrofit your existing building. Do you currently have a gas line in your wall? No worries! Post frame builders can easily overcome this obstacle to deliver your dream design.

Steel Frame

Similarly, steel frame buildings have multiple finishing options. Professional finishes like brick, masonry, stucco, and wood paneling can be applied to your steel structure. One benefit of doing this is to help your building blend in with existing buildings you may have.

Of course, you can paint your steel building by yourself...Autumn Red, Surrey Beige, Regal Blue, etc. Warning: manufacturers guarantee their coatings, so you’ll need to check their warranties before any paint jobs.

Also, please keep in mind that steel will corrode over time. It’s inevitable. On the bright side, steel won’t suffer from insect damage like a post frame building.


4) Savings

Finally, who doesn’t like to save money on their construction project? Keep reading to find out how much a post frame or steel frame building will cost you.

Post FramePost_Frame_Building_Savings

Well, this is an interesting topic due to all of the latest discussions surrounding tariffs. Although lumber is nearly less expensive than manufactured steel and steel beams. In the post frame world, lower material costs will help translate into savings for you.

Any professional builder will explain this to you...no black and white number works for everyone. Ultimately, the price comes down to how you design your post frame building. We’ve covered this information before, but let us recap:

A standard building shell can cost anywhere from $8 to $45 per square foot. The following factors will determine if your structure is leaning towards the low/high side of the cost spectrum:

  • Total square feet
  • Type of features (e.g., overhangs, windows, walk-in doors, steel liner packages, etc.)
  • Current nature of the commodities market (the price of steel)

For example, adding a porch, cupolas, and numerous doors will push you closer to the $45 per square foot. If you want a basic 30 x 40 without the bells and whistles, then you’ll pay closer to $8 per square foot.

Steel Frame

Like wood, steel is a global commodity, and its value is always subject to change based on the economy. That lack of stability means that steel prices can fluctuate quickly. As mentioned previously, post frame builders have to deal with this as well.

Steel and post frame share another similarity: the price of your building will depend on what options you choose.

Most steel frame companies will give you a ballpark range of $16-$20 per square foot (starting out).

Depending on the size of the building, time of year, or how long it will take to build, prices can go up anywhere to $40-$50 per square foot.


Which Material Should You Choose?

As much as we’d want you to choose a post frame building, only you know the priorities for your new structure. It’s our job to provide you different aspects to consider as you determine the best fit for you and your business. The sky's the limit with post frame construction, and we’ll be here to help you, no matter your needs.

Structural Integrity eBook_FBi Buildings

Have more questions about post frame buildings not covered in this article? Please contact FBi Buildings at 1.800.552.2981 or click here to email us. If you are ready to get a price, click here to request a quote and a member of our sales team will call you.

About Angie Dobson

Angie graduated from Indiana State University with a Bachelor of Science in Interior Design. Prior to joining the FBi team, Angie was a kitchen and bath sales consultant in Lafayette, IN. In 2012, she started with FBi as the Inside Sales/Marketing Assistant. Today she holds the role as Marketing Project Manager. Angie grew up in a farming community and has always enjoyed helping her family on the farm. A past 10 year 4-H Member, her passion for livestock pursued her to take a career in the agriculture field. Her and her husband live in Northwest Indiana with their two daughters. In her free time, she enjoys outdoor leisure activities and spending time with friends and family.