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Steel Frame Vs. Timber Frame

Steel or Timber frames? Of course the final decision is one of personal choice, and you need to know that there are some pro’s and con’s associated with both products.

Timber Frame HomeTimber Frame and Truss companies do not market their product. They don’t need to. Over 90% of residential construction is undertaken using timber frame and truss systems. Steel Frame and Truss manufacturing companies market their product. They need to. This is where the problem lies. In order to get their product into the market place Steel Frame manufacturers have to “hype” the benefits of steel. The reality is that these benefits are all relative and many of the benefits are equally inherent in timber.

If you’re an Owner Builder it’s important to get independent advice and then make your own decision. UBuild Homes does not own a frame and truss manufacturing plant for either Timber or Steel and therefore can offer unbiased advice on the best product for your needs.


Steel is more expensive than timber. Late in 2008 and early 2009 steel was very expensive due to the cost of the raw materials involved. Also the steel production industry is dominated by a few large players who make very good margins on their product. Steel is also more expensive during construction because trades will charge more to work around steel as it can be more labour intensive.

Cost is the main reason why most homes are built in timber. If steel were equivalent or cheaper in cost across an entire job then it would be the number one material used in residential construction. 

How much more expensive is more difficult to quantify, but there is a rule of thumb in the construction industry: you get what you pay for. This applies to all things, not just frames and trusses (steel or timber). You have to assess value by doing research. Remember that the number one reason why people owner build is to save money, so most Owner Builders choose a timber frame and truss system. 

White Ants and Termite Protection

Steel frame and truss systems are fully protected from white ant infestation. This is a good thing and seems to be one of the main reasons people choose them. However it does not protect your entire home so you still need to have a termite protection system. Not having one is very dangerous because there are many other products in your home that have timber or composite materials that will attract termites. You must protect yourself against this because the Steel Frame Manufacturer will not guarantee you against an attack.

Timber Frames and Trusses will attract termites. So you must have a proven and effective termite management system in place. Termites damage homes because of a failure to regularly check the home. It’s a people problem, not a system problem. Termite management systems are only as good as the diligence of the home owner to check the house on a regular basis (every six months). Please bear this in mind.

Strength and Quality

All homes must be engineered to Australian Standards and are independently inspected during construction and at the completion of construction. So arguing the points of strength in materials is a relative game. A professionally engineered home will meet the test of time every time.


The environmental argument today is a highly emotive one. So many half truths abound. If you are environmentally conscious then you have to consider the entire environmental impact on a comparative basis. You can’t be selective about which facts you use to base your decision.

Timber is a natural product that is environmentally friendly and a renewable resource. Of course it would be best to use timber that is ethically sourced – no illegal logging of natural habitat, etc.

Steel production uses high levels of energy for production. So much so, that steel production is one of the largest polluters on the planet. Aluminium production is even worse, so if the frame company is a steel/alloy composite then there are even bigger issues to consider. These mills leave a huge carbon footprint along the entire production process and if manufactured overseas then even more so as they have less regulations imposed.

The upside to steel is that it can be recycled and often is.

The thermal transfer of heat is greater on steel frame houses than in timber frame homes. So if you were to have two houses with the same amount of insulation and air conditioning then your timber framed home will be cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. Basically and timber framed house will save you money on energy bills and save the environment from lower energy production. 

The environmental impact has a direct relationship with energy efficient and sustainable building. UBuild Homes offers energy efficient building design and sustainable homes. For more details please contact us.

Installation and Trade Management

Steel frame kit homes should only be put together by highly experienced framing specialists. Usually they will be recommended by the manufacturer. Be sure that you have access to such specialists prior to going ahead. This is no different to timber frame kit homes. You should use experienced carpenters. The frame and truss system is one of the critical structural elements to your home.

Installation of steel frame kit homes require a precision manufacturing outcome and require that all the holes and grommets are pre punched and prepared. This is so the erection of the frame and trusses and installation of other services such as plumbing and electrical run smoothly. Remember that you simply cannot make any changes on site with steel. Timber will provide you more flexibility and if you are building a unique home then this is a must. 

Trades must be experienced working around steel. Don’t use trades who have never worked around steel before. Because steel is not used as often, you have to find the right trade team for every part of the house. This reduces your choice of trades and increases your cost.

Rust / Corrosion

A steel frame is particularly risky in a coastal environment. Actually, all building products are – due to the effects of wind, water and salt. But steel is a highly corrosive material. This issue is much like the termite protection issue. It’s the human complacency element that causes the damage, not the system. If you live in a coastal area, regardless of which materials you have used, get regular building inspections and take any water leakage seriously.

A timber frame only requires protection by the use of correct connect plates and bracing within the frames and truss manufacture. So if you are going with timber then be sure to check the quality of your connection plates, regardless of your location.

UBuild Homes does not force an Owner Builder to go one way or the other. We can, and we have, provided kit home packages for both Steel Frame Kit Homes and Timber Frame Kit Homes. There is no difference to the level of service provided.

The Answer to Finding Owner Builder Finance

If you are serious about Owner Building and you need to get a loan in order to finance your project then you really need to read this article.

Owner Builder Finance Now AvailableYou may already have spoken to some banks and lenders and are feeling either confused or frustrated by the outcome. Or you may not yet have spoken to your bank and you are assuming that it is going to be a fairly straightforward process.

Here’s an important fact you need to come to terms with: Banks and Financial Institutions generally do not lend to Owner Builders.

Surprising, isn’t it? Especially considering the fact that Owner Builders make up a significant portion of the residential building market.

Why don’t Banks and Financial Institutions support Owner Builders?

The one word answer is: risk.

It doesn’t matter if you are Owner Building from scratch, or if you are Owner Building a Kit Home, please understand this: most (meaning more than half) of all Owner Builders fail to successfully complete their project on time and on budget. Because the finance industry know this, they are reluctant to lend to Owner Builders. Owner Builders are simply too high risk and cause problems for the financial institution.

Another important factor you need to be aware of is that the standard financier does not truly understand the needs of the Owner Builder. They lack flexibility in their approach and often fail to accommodate your needs, further supporting the ‘avoid lending to Owner Builders’ perception adopted by many financial institutions.

So what can you do about it?

Firstly, understand that as an Owner Builder your finance needs are very different to other borrowers. The process is not the same as that of a standard building contract with a project home builder. Owner Builders need flexible funding solutions to allow them access to the money needed to pay for their suppliers and trades as they work through the building project. As an Owner Builder you won’t get 30 day accounts to pay your bills. You will have to pay deposits on many of your purchases and then the balance upon delivery. Funding availability when you need it is critical. If you don’t have that then you are at risk of failing before you even start.

UBuild Homes recognizes this challenge and has been lobbying financial institutions to take a different approach when dealing with Owner Builders. Our pitch has been that customers of UBuild Homes should be treated differently because all of our UBuild Homes Premium Package Customers successfully complete their projects; on time and on budget. As a UBuild Homes Premium Package Customer the risks are dramatically reduced – for both you and your Bank.

Unfortunately the big banks have remained negative towards owner builders. It’s hard to blame them considering the statistics.

Owner Builder Finance is best left to those smaller lending institutions that have a sound relationship upon which to work. That is why we recommend working with our Finance Providers at Coastline Credit Union.


Because the Coastline Credit Union have recognised that if an Owner Builder is operating under a UBuild Homes Premium Package System then risk is minimised to a point where the Credit Union’s money is safer than virtually any other building process. This has been tested over many years and many loans and they now want to work actively with our customers. This is the only financial institution in Australia that is actively seeking out Owner Builders. But only if they are willing to use a quality, proven system.

This is a unique situation for the Owner Builder market, and one that UBuild Homes is proud to offer you.

Why not take this opportunity to chat to us about it. We can introduce you to people at the Coastline Credit Union who are properly and specifically trained to deal with the needs of Owner Builders. There’s no obligation and it could be your way of finding out the best finance option for you, and will help you on your path to building your dream home.

Just visit Owner Builder Finance to find out how to obtain your Owner Builder Finance.

Owner Building Doesn’t Mean You’re on Your Own

The most common reaction we see when people have just experienced their first flutter of desire to Owner Build, is a droop of the shoulders and a shake of the head. They often give up before they even do a little research. The idea that so many ‘would be Owner Builders’ have is that building your own home must be very hard. And yes, it can be challenging – and even more so if you build it completely on your own.

Being an “Own”-er Builder doesn’t mean you have to do it all on your own. There is so much information and expertise out there you can tap into. That’s the reason you go and chat to a builder. You want to use their skill, knowledge and experience. You see, it’s a smarter move not to look at yourself as an ‘Owner Builder’. You’re better off using others’ skills, and learning how to be a successful Project Manager.

At UBuild Homes we coach you as a Project Manager. And right up to ‘Lock Up Stage’ of your home we can also act as your Assistant Project Manager. So, in fact you are never on your own.

You’ll discover that Project Management is all about:

  • Planning,
  • Following Systems,
  • Allocation of Resources,
  • Budgets, and
  • Time Frames.

Most people have the skills to manage these key components – and that means ‘onwer build’. What they simply need to d it successfully is the entire process packaged in a box – and that’s what UBuild Homes can offer you.

Limitation of the Project Home Builder

“Why won’t the Project Home Builders help me?”

We hear this all the time. But just for a second put yourself in the Project Home Builders’ shoes.

Let’s use one example…

A top 10 Project Home Builder in South East Queensland probably builds approximately 400 homes per year. It’s like a manufacturing process or production line… they just keep pumping them out.

The minute you want to make a request like:

  • “I would like to put in my own kitchen please”
  • “I would like to use my own electrician and access the site during construction to upgrade my lights”
  • “I would like to move the bedroom and ensuite from the front of the house to the rear of the house”

You’ll be met with a resounding “No!”  “Sorry we dont do that.” etc.

Many people get upset about this. But consider the same scenario with a Car Manufacturer. Imagine if you asked: “I would like to modify the engine and gearbox of the car, using my mechanic and we would like to have access to the vehicle whilst it’s being built so that we can do this.”

Seriously, how many car manufacturers’ jaws would drop? All. And how many could say ‘yes’ to you? None!

Project Home Builders are discount home builders. They build good quality homes at good prices in specific Metropolitan areas where demand is high. If you do not fit into their box then don’t take it out on them. That is what they do well and they are entitled to determine what they do for a living.

Project Home Builders represent 70% of the market and as such can meet the needs of that market well. The rest of the market has to be met by Custom Builders (10% and the very top end of high quality and costly residential construction) and then Owner Builders at 20%. Why is it that 1 in 5 homes / renovations / extensions are conducted by an Owner Builder? It is the only guaranteed way of getting exactly what you want.

If you are seasoned and have a specific idea of what you want then don’t go to the project home builders. They don’t have the skill or the resources to tailor something to your needs. In fact they don’t want your business. If they do take it on then it’s because they don’t have enough work to keep them occupied and that is something that should worry you to begin with.

If you have no concern for your budget then talk to a custom (design and construct) home builder. These builders are craftsman and you will no doubt get a fantastic outcome, but you must be prepared to pay (and make sure you’re sitting when you get the tender estimate).

But don’t get down!

Owner Build it.

Yes you can Owner Build if you have the right system, support and people working with you every step of the way. We are constantly amazed at how some people said “No Way” to Owner Building, who then took on the project, completed it on time and within budget – and emerged so proud of their accomplishment. If you don’t fit into the Project Home Builders Box and want to take a really good look at the Owner Builder Solution then UBuild Homes can help you.