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09/01/2021

Throwback Thursday: Steel houses

Back in 1992, an alternative to expensive lumber explored.
a train on a steel track
Rising lumber prices in 1992 incentivized this steel-frame home in Southern California.

The Oct. 12, 1992 issue of National Home Center News, the forerunner of HBSDealer, included a photo of a steel-framed house rising in a Southern California neighborhood was published beneath the headline: “Lumber suppliers shouldn’t throw stones at steel houses.”

The subhead reads: “Many see steel as an affordable alternative to wood.”

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The Oct. 12, 1992 cover.

The house in the article was being constructed by Coleman Homes, with help from Western Metal Lath of Riverside, Calif. The article reads: “After years of using nature’s own timber to construct homes, several builders, fed up with rising lumber prices, have turned to metal manufacturers for a wood substitute.”

Will there come a time, the article asks, when lumberyards and home centers stock steel studs next to their 2x4s? It’s been more than a quarter century.

It hasn’t happened. Not yet, anyway.

The article in the HBSDealer archives refers to lumber pricing in a general way. But the volatility of lumber pricing in 1992 was nowhere near what it is today – from a peak of more than $1,500 per thousand board feet in May to around $400 more recently.

Companies such as Fortress Building Products are today promoting the virtues of alternatives to wood, such as its Evolution steel deck framing.

How would you describe the prospects for alternatives to dimensional lumber in today's building environment, or as a future trend? Let us know at [email protected].