Steel vs. Brick: How Well Do You Know Your Building Materials?

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Do me a favor. The next time you’re traveling down the highway, take a little extra interest in the construction projects of the area. You’ll pass a ton of different buildings of different construction. You’ll see wooden buildings, brick buildings and steel buildings alike. In fact, you might see some buildings, and not be able to tell what type of construction it is.

I bring up an interesting debate, because you can’t judge a book by its cover, or in this case, you can’t judge a building by its exterior. As the construction industry continues to add new practices and develop new methods, first time builders and do-it-yourselfers are more inclined to look at a structure as a whole before they decide on what to utilize for their individual project. That brings up the aforementioned debate of whether to build with steel or brick.

Steel buildings have risen in popularity over the last few years, mostly because of the cost, and the speed at which they can be erected. One of the major advantages of brick was these structures were architecturally beautiful. But the ability of steel buildings to be built with multiple finishes, like vinyl, wood siding, stucco, and yes, even brick, negates a brick structure’s advantage to some degree.

steelTake a look at a steel building. They are some of the most ‘green,’ man-made structures on the market. They are energy efficient because they use fewer materials to build and there is no residual waste. If you’re looking to build a steel building for your home or property, you might qualify for certain tax credits from the government because of the ‘eco-friendliness’ of steel.

In the building process, you’ll find that steel is easier to build with. When steel components like the rigid frame, come from a steel building supplier, they arrive at your job site ready to be erected. That’s what ‘pre-engineered’ means! There is no field fabrication, no putting together wooden trusses from a pile of lumber, or assembling a building brick-by brick. Brick needs to be properly constructed and mortared, and that process generally takes longer. Steel buildings can be erected in days or weeks. The same can’t be said about brick and mortar constructions.

Brick doesn’t last as long as steel does, and isn’t as good for the environment. Brick is also subject to mold and mildew. When brick is subject to moisture, it tends to deteriorate at a faster rate, especially if mold is speeding up the process. There are coatings you can apply to brick to make it last longer, like a lime-based whitewash or something similar.

When a steel building is completely erected, it will require little to no maintenance as well. They are some of the most durable, flexible and most versatile structures on the planet, and last for decades. I don’t recommend that you completely ignore your building, but you won’t have to spend time applying coatings every few years, or spending money to replace broken bricks. If you want to increase the life of a steel building, ask your steel building supplier if there are protective steel coatings that you can apply before the building is fully built.

steelAnother advantage that steel buildings have over brick and mortar buildings is that a steel building is easily expandable. If you happen to run out of space, or you just want more room, add some framework and get rid of your end wall. You can use the exact same material from your earlier construction. Most people I talk to generally wish they built a bigger steel building in the first place! With brick, it’s difficult to add on to a structure without shelling out for an expensive remodel.

While brick buildings might catch your eye more often, the ability to customize a the interior and exterior of a steel building and make it more aesthetically pleasing puts steel in the driver’s seat.

On top of everything, did you know that you can add a brick facade to the outside of your steel building? Learn more about steel building exterior finish options here. Click the link, or give one of our steel building experts a call!

Photo courtesy: William Warby

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