Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Oregon Homebuilkders Discover Steel Studs Work Well in Frames

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Oregon Homebuilkders Discover Steel Studs Work Well in Frames

Article excerpt

GRANTS PASS, Ore. _ In the heart of spotted owl country, builder Kim Cushing has spurned wood and fallen in love with steel for framing his houses.

"That floor is absolutely flat," said Cushing, admiring the steel joists on a four-bedroom home he is building amid a stand of Douglas fir, ponderosa pine and madrone south of Grants Pass.

"The way the quality of wood is getting around here, I would just as soon not use it. This is a very good alternative," he said.

In the housing boom that followed World War II, most of the big old trees that make the best lumber were cut down. It takes hundreds of years for them to grow back. The old growth that is left is largely locked up by legal battles to preserve habitat for the northern spotted owl, a threatened species.

To break the logjam and offer protection for the owl, salmon and watersheds, President Clinton has proposed a plan that would reduce logging on Northwest national forests to a third of late-1980s levels.

Mills have turned to smaller, second-growth trees, producing lumber that is more likely to warp and have knots and sapwood.

From last October to March, a combination of log shortages and speculation doubled lumber prices from a composite $249 per thousand board feet to $506, said Burrle Elmore, editor of Random Lengths, a lumber industry newsletter.

When forecasts of an 8 percent jump in housing starts failed to measure up, prices dropped back to $295 per thousand board feet on July 16, and have since moved up to $345.

A typical single family house uses 13,000 board feet of lumber, which accounts for 5 percent to 10 percent of the cost.

Steel studs are common in commercial building, but steel framing accounts for less that 2 percent of the homes built today, said Gopal Ahluwalia, director of research at the National Association of Homebuilders in Washington, D.C.

"By tradition, builders know much more easily how to use wood rather than steel," Ahluwalia said. "It is a totally new culture for them. …

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