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Pre-Engineered Steel Vs. Cold-Formed or Light Gauge Steel: What's right for my project?

Public interest in metal building construction has exploded over the last twenty years, due to the durability and relatively low cost associated with these structures. The two main types of metal buildings are cold-formed metal buildings and pre-engineered metal buildings. While both of these types of structures offer clear benefits, there are some key differences between them that should be taken into consideration before making a decision. In this blog, we’ll explore the differences between cold-formed metal buildings and pre-engineered metal buildings, as well as why cold-formed metal buildings are generally less reliable than pre-engineered metal buildings.

Cold-formed metal buildings are constructed from sheets of metal that are cut, bent, and bolted together in order to create a structure. Unlike the solid red-iron I-beams in a Pre-engineered building, the main structural members in a cold-formed building are light gauge c-channel and/or hollow tubes. This means that they can’t support the weight of snow or wind force required in a large portion of the country. The other downfall of this lighter style of framing is that they are by nature much less fire-resistant than Pre-engineered buildings due to how light and thin the building material is. In addition to this, they are much more prone to damage from vibration and seismic activity making them wholly inadequate in large portions of the American west. Finally, cold formed buildings have a limited ability to resist corrosion, so it must be treated and painted to protect it from the elements. This is especially true for areas along the coast as the building is exposed to high levels of salinity in the air.

Pre-engineered metal buildings, on the other hand, are constructed from thicker sheets of metal and solid I-beams. The primary framing of a cold-formed building is the secondary framing in a pre-engineered building. This means that pre-engineered metal buildings are stronger and more durable than cold-formed metal buildings. Additionally, pre-engineered metal buildings are designed to meet specific loading requirements based on the job location, meaning that they are more likely to withstand the rigors of a variety of weather and seismic conditions. Pre-engineered metal buildings are less likely to develop structural issues over time and require almost no maintenance over the use of the building.

Another major difference between the two types of construction comes with the flexibility of design. Cold Form buildings are extremely limited in the size and customization allowed due to their framing requirements. Pre-engineered steel buildings however, are much more customizable because the framing material is made of stronger material. That means placing accessories such as doors, windows, louvers, bay spans and widths are all much more amenable with a pre-engineered steel building when compared to cold form.

Generally speaking, pre-engineered metal buildings are slightly more expensive than cold-formed metal buildings due to the higher quality materials used and the more complex construction process. However, in the long run, pre-engineered metal buildings are much more cost-effective due to their increased durability and reliability. In conclusion, when it comes to metal buildings, the long term benefits of Pre-engineered steel buildings can’t be denied when you take into consideration the total life-span of the building. At Peak Building Systems, our building experts would love to continue the conversation about why pre-engineered steel is the absolute best option for your new steel building. Design your building and contact us today by visiting our 3D designer today!

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