Light Gauge Metal Framing

Light gauge metal framing has been broadly used in the world and has proved itself as the best alternative to wood construction. The industry has grown over the recent years and is expected to grow steadily.

So, as a contractor if you’re looking to expand your business beyond traditional lumber framing, light gauge metal framing is the way to go.

Homeowners are just craving for it as it won’t rot burn or got damaged by termites. Every piece of metal section is perfectly straight that makes construction simpler and easier. In terms of durability and flexibility, it is far more ideal than wood. Its robust structural performance and enhanced thermal performance can take your construction company to the next level of success and business. 

Hence, if you’re a steel framing contractor; you’ve got to deal with such a light framing trend to boost your business and close more deals.      

With that in view, we’ve put together this guide to help you out with this business venture. So, let’s get started. 


The Industry – Light/ Gage Steel Framing Trade

Owing to a plethora of reasons, light gauge steel framing is booming. In such a building, structural support frames are fabricated using lightweight cold-formed sections that are produced by forming thin gage strip material to section profile at room temperature. 

The structural principles for light metal framing are the same as that of wood framing. You’ll need studs, beams, headers, joists, and rafters. These cold-formed sections are used across the entire structure whether it’s a load-bearing external wall or non-load-bearing external walls. Although, such framing can have safety issues during construction that can be easily tackled while you’re in the field. 

Experts regard light metal framing as a superior type because of dynamic designing and associated labor cost savings. Characteristics like increased spans, beautiful façade, curved walls, and custom shape openings are some of the versatile features homeowners love. 

The only problem with light steel gauge construction is that it’s easily corroded and needs protection against fire hazards. For such issues, manufacturers galvanize the steel sections with zinc, aluminum, or a combination.  


General Steel Framing Estimating Process

With the above all about the light metal framing trade, it’s clear that there’s a lot of chance for the contractors to try their luck in the business. There’s a lot of room and a lot of opportunities if you’re ready and want to grab the fish. The industry is booming but even then the global market is fairly competitive and exciting. So, the only way to convert bids into contract awards is by competitively bidding against projects. You’ve got to work hard for accurate estimates. You need to understand the market dynamics and potential fluctuations. 

A lot of companies out there are losing their profit margins just because of miscalculation in the estimates for light gauge metal framing. With so many factors to consider like different labor rates for curtain wall and load bearing type framing; you need to rely on your reckoning skills along with the knowledge of lightweight metal framing. So, here’re some real tips on making your estimates accurate and realistic. 


Bidding a light gauge metal framing jobs

A complete bid package for a commercial or residential project would comprise of

  • Metal framing
  • Drywall
  • Exterior insulation and finishing systems
  • Plaster systems
  • Acoustical ceiling
  • Direct-to-steel fireproofing

Contractor’s always find difficulty in estimating metal framing. That’s why they go too much guessing resulting in cost overruns and subsequent reduction in profit margins.



When you’re a metal framing contractor, you only got architectural and structural drawings during the bidding stage. Such drawings don’t give you hint about the exact gages, details of connection, and spacing of members. With those typical drawings, you need to prepare detailed sketches to assist you in bidding with accurate details. Arranging such data is crucial to bid on the project with confidence. So, while you’re bidding on a project, you have to factor in such costs of shop drawings and engineering calculations and take the guesswork out of the bid.  


Labor Factors

Another problem you’ll face during estimation is to access the appropriate labor factor keeping in view the complexity of the work involved. As there’re lots of bits and pieces to join and all the structural components have to be worked through in a different style. Hence, the labor rate for the cutting, assembling, and setting will be slower or faster for a specific job and that too has to be factored in.

Let’s take a look at the example of curtain walls. These elements are straight but the layout and installation of studs and track depend on the gage and height. But here you have to add a labor factor for the openings like windows, louver, air conditioning sleeves, and doors.


Methods for estimating light gauge metal framing jobs

Now if we compare metal framing with drywall and plaster, there are many differences. Most drywall contractors bid the project by the piece or by the square foot and estimation is also done like this. Hence if you compare estimates by different companies, with only slight difference the overall quantities of their bids are similar for material and labor.


Per liner foot method

But in case of metal framing, some companies estimate and bid by liner foot while others go with area-estimation. Anyhow, there’re some merits on estimating by the liner foot. There’s a direct correlation between the material used and the labor needed to install it. You can understand well if you’re installing it by lineal foot. However, this technique doesn’t account the use of material in different conditions. For example, using channel iron instead a wall cavity as a stiffener versus as a ceiling support. Same problem you’ll face for estimating small soffits as it involves a lot of time to cut and install very small amount of material.


Per square foot method

The other method in bidding is per square foot. It is also a credible method as you get a certain area framed after framing a wall, installing track, and studs. But even in this method you have to guess the labor rate. Plus there’s a problem when you need to add or change materials. Like the labor rate for 25 gauge studs will be different than that for 20 gauge stud. Similarly, how will you deal with cases when you need to install a 20 gauge track with 25 gauge studs, walls that need bridging or bracing, and walls higher than 9-foot walls?


Linear foot or square foot – condition method

So, the best way to estimate and bid metal framing jobs is by liner-foot or square foot condition method. It is easy to quantify the work by condition type and is easy to price.

You would create a list or schedule of all partition type and analyze the different requirements of each type. Now try to analyze the difference between each partition type. Now try to takeoff the linear footage or length of each different partition type and the height so you can get the area at the end.

For example, if you have a partition type A with 2”x4” studs 16” OC with drywall on both side while a partition type B with 2”x6” studs OC with insulation and drywall on one side, you should quantify each partition type separately. You can also consider any other component needed for each partition type to price separately.               


We use Planswift Software to do Digital Takeoffs

Now after reading above, you see how there are a lot of factors to consider for an accurate estimate and the future of your steel framing business. So, instead of going for the manual takeoffs; why not take help from the industry’s leading construction estimating software. 

With built-in assemblies for steel framing estimates, all your steel structure estimates were never that easy. You get super-fast estimates with ultimate accuracy.  

Why Us?

✔️USA Based
✔️No Contracts & No Set Up Fees
✔️We Never Charge For Quotes
✔️Track Your Order with our Client Login Dashboard
✔️We Are Built On Transparency
✔️Hablamos Español

What will you get?


  • Excel Spreadsheet Material List. Editable & Accurate Results. Comprehensive Information with a Detailed Breakdown in Quantities. To see an up-close example: Click Here)
  • In addition, you also receive a color marked drawings of your plans so that you can review the areas that were considered in your takeoff.



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