Steel Tubing Vs. Wood: Which Is Better?

Steel tubing vs. wood

Tubing comes in practically every size and shape. 

One of the most important aspects about the type of tubing for your project is the material it’s made from. Selecting the right material guarantees your completed project does what it’s supposed to for as long as it’s supposed to. 

Let’s compare one of the oldest construction materials to one of the strongest: steel vs. wood. 

Steel Tubing Vs. Wood

In evaluating square steel tubing vs. wood, there are several key elements to consider:

  • Strength
  • Weight
  • Durability
  • Longevity
  • Shapeability
  • Manufacturability 

 

Strength 

By itself, wood is actually stronger than steel.

Through modern manufacturing and treatment techniques, wood can be made to withstand more stress and fatigue over long periods of time. This is attributed to wood’s cellular composition and its ability to compress under pressure. These new treatment methods are expensive and take time. 

But unlike steel tubing, wood does start to split and crack over time. 

Steel tube strength can outperform wood through various alloy additions and processing methods. That’s why skyscrapers and other large buildings are constructed with structural steel.
 

Weight 

Though steel is 12x denser than wood, steel tubing can be manufactured to weigh less than wood without sacrificing strength, durbality, or longevity. 

Steel tubing is ideal for projects where weight is a consideration. If you need to go even lighter, there are other metal options, like aluminum.

Durability

In this arena, steel tubes take the cake. 

Steel does not rot, warp, or bend as easily as wood. It can also withstand fire and water damage, as well as heavy impacts. 

Wood tubing, however, does absorb vibrations better from things like heavy machinery. 

Though wooden tubing was once popular in frames for items like hot tubs, more manufacturers are switching to steel tube frames because of their ability to stand up to tough jobs or the elements. 

Longevity 

In this category, steel tubing is again the winner. 

An enhanced inorganic material, steel tubing does not succumb to aging as wood tubing does. 

As a less durable material, wood tubing requires much more maintenance and upkeep over the course of its useful life.  

Even treated wood absorbs moisture, which causes it to expand and contract. This fluctuation causes weakness and rotting in some cases. Wood is also susceptible to expansion and contraction issues as well as damage from pests, such as termites. 

Shapeability

When an exact fit matters, steel tubing is your best bet. 

Steel tubing can be bent and manipulated into any shape -- even those that are irregular or have sharp turns and tight curves. 

Wood tubing, on the other hand, simply cannot. 

Manufacturability 

Steel tubing falls short in this comparison. 

Creating tubing from steel takes more time and labor, making it the more expensive option. It involves superheating raw materials, adding amendments, shaping and cooling -- a long process. 

Fabricating wood tubing is not nearly as involved a process, meaning your order is fulfilled sooner. What you save in time, you lose in durability. 

Remember: What you save on manufacturing may end up costing you more if you select the wrong tubing material for your project.

Steel Tubing Vs. Wood: The Winner?

When it comes to steel tubing vs. wood, steel tubing is the winner

Though steel tubing is bested by wood for its manufacturability, it outperforms its organic counterpart in every other category. 

Put simply: Incorporating steel tubing into your project is a long-term investment in versatility and value. 

Using steel tubing in your project? 

Make sure you get the right size. Download our Tube Sizing Quick Reference Guide

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