Is Metal Deck Framing Cheaper Than Wood?

When planning a new deck or considering a replacement, one of the critical decisions you need to make is the type of framing material to use.

While traditional wood framing, particularly pressure-treated lumber, has been a popular choice for many years, metal deck framing is increasingly being considered due to its potential for longevity and durability. But is metal deck framing cheaper than wood? Let’s look into the details.

The Longevity of Wood Framing: A Declining Trend

In the past, pressure-treated wood framing was known for its durability, largely due to the use of arsenic in the treatment process. However, newer environmental regulations have led to changes in the chemical formulas used to treat lumber, resulting in wood that doesn’t last as long as its predecessors.

Advantage Lumber has observed that customers are needing to replace their pressure-treated wood framing in as little as 10 to 15 years. This is a stark contrast to the lifespan of the decking material itself. For instance, Ipe wood decking, known for its incredible durability and resistance to the elements, often remains in excellent condition even after the framing has deteriorated.

The Cost of Labor: A Significant Factor

One of the most significant expenses associated with deck building and maintenance is labor. When you choose pressure-treated wood framing, you might save on initial material costs, but the long-term implications can be costly. Given the potential need to replace the framing every 10 to 15 years, the labor costs for these rebuilds can quickly add up.

If you have to rebuild your deck and hire someone to do the work for you then you will also be paying them to dismantle and haul away your old deck frame. Many labor prices vary around the country but for a quality contractor many say that labor is 2/3 the price of the job.

Meaning if your deck contains $10,000 worth of materials then you can expect at least $20,000 in labor charges for a grand total of $30,000 for your deck build. This is a serious investment so make sure you pick a reputable contractor and materials that are going to last.

Comparing Initial Costs

At first glance, metal deck framing can appear more expensive than wood. The cost of materials for metal framing can be a bit higher than that of pressure-treated lumber. However, this initial cost is often offset by the longer lifespan and reduced maintenance needs of metal framing.

Additionally labor costs can be cheaper to install a steel deck frame since the joists can be moved by one person and they are perfectly flat and straight. This makes metal deck frames easier and faster to assemble since there’s no planing and leveling each deck joist.

The Long-Term Savings of Metal Framing

  1. Durability and Longevity: Metal framing, particularly when made from galvanized steel or aluminum, can last several decades without significant degradation. This means fewer replacements and less frequent maintenance compared to wood.
  2. Reduced Labor Costs: While the initial cost of materials might be more expensive, the reduced need for replacements and major repairs can result in significant labor cost savings over time. Metal deck framing can be installed faster and easier than wood frames. Additionally they are perfectly flat and ready to lay deck boards opposed to wood frames always need an extra day or two of labor to get each joist level due to the varying sizes of wood joists as well as crowns, cups and twists in boards.
  3. Consistency and Stability: Metal framing does not warp, twist, or shrink as wood can. This consistency in the framing structure means fewer issues and repairs related to the structural integrity of the deck. Even if your contractor takes the added time to level each wood joist overtime with seasonal changes in temperature and humidity wood will move and you will likely see changes in your deck that sometimes need to be fixed.


While the upfront cost of metal deck framing might be higher than that of pressure-treated wood, the long-term benefits and savings make it a compelling option. The reduced need for replacements, lower maintenance costs, and the elimination of frequent labor expenses make metal deck framing a cost-effective and durable choice in the long run.

For homeowners who value longevity and are looking to minimize the hassle and expense of deck maintenance, metal framing presents a superior alternative to traditional wood. Investing in metal deck framing can lead to substantial savings and peace of mind, knowing your deck is built to last.

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