Gauging the Importance of Steel Thickness: Framing and Paneling Gauges for Metal Buildings

By Jay Lara   |   Posted In: 12 Gauge Framing, Installations


Wood became a popular material for framing and construction over two thousand years ago, but advances in materials and technology have led more and more modern home and business owners to choose cold-formed steel (also referred to as light-gauge steel) as the main structural material for their building applications. What makes light-gauge steel a better building material than wood? Among other features, light-gauge steel is stronger, more durable, more versatile, and more sustainable than wood. Steel is also non-combustible, doesn’t rot, shrink, or warp, and is impervious to the threats of rodents, termites, and other pests.

Cold-Formed Steel Fabrication and Galvanization

How is cold-formed steel made? It starts with the production of carbon steel, which is formed by combining molten iron ore or steel scrap with small amounts of carbon to increase hardness and strength. The molten steel is poured into thinner strips to cool, and the steel rolls then go through a galvanization process. A protective coating of zinc is added to help prevent corrosion, and the zinc coating also serves to enhance the overall appearance of the steel. The finished coils of galvanized steel can then be cold-formed into a variety of building materials of various thicknesses or “gauges” which are then used to fabricate building frames, trusses, roof panels, wall panels, and trim.

The Steel Gauge System Explained

You may be familiar with the term “gauge” as it relates to the diameter of a firearm bore; for example, a 12-gauge shotgun has a larger bore than does a 20-gauge shotgun. In terms of metal structures, however, “gauge” simply refers to the thickness of the building material itself. In the U.S. light-gauge steel building industry, frame tubing is typically fabricated from either 12-gauge steel (corresponding to a steel thickness of up to 0.1046 inches) or 14-gauge steel (with a thickness of up to 0.0747 inches). In the same way, steel paneling for roofs, walls, and trim is most commonly fabricated from either 26-gauge steel (with a thickness of up to .0179 inches) or 29-gauge steel (with a thickness of up to .0149 inches).

Deciphering the Gauges: Frame Gauging vs. Panel Gauging

As a rule, the lower the gauge number, the thicker, heavier, and stronger the steel is. Framing is the support skeleton for the building’s infrastructure, and thus requires a thicker gauge. Sheeting or paneling, on the other hand, is mounted as a covering for roofs and walls, and doesn’t require nearly the same thickness as is needed for the frame. Let’s break down the common options for frame and panel gauges:

    • Frame Gauge

14-gauge steel is the most popular tubing option for light-gauge steel building framing in America, and is also the most economical. A 14-gauge steel structure is a solid choice, can also be certified to meet most needed wind and snow load capacities by adding additional anchors and bracing.

12-gauge steel is a little more expensive, but it also provides for an even stronger, more durable, more weather-resistant structure. 12-gauge framing is actually required in certain areas of the country that tend to experience more severe weather. But even if 12-gauge framing isn’t required where you live, opting for 12-gauge is a sound choice for the greater peace of mind that a 12-gauge metal building offers.

    • Panel Gauge

29-gauge steel is a common choice for roofing and siding panels in outdoor sheds, carports, garages, and storage buildings. 29-gauge paneling also comes in a wide range of color options, so you’re sure to be able to find colors you like, and that also help your steel structure to match your other surrounding buildings. Another nice feature of steel paneling is that the colors are infused into the metal, so painting or repainting is never needed. That’s one thing you can’t say about wood paneling!

26-gauge steel paneling is a step up from 29-gauge paneling. It does cost a little more, but its added thickness makes it more resilient to hail or other potential denting impacts. 26-gauge steel paneling also typically carries a higher wind rating than 29-gauge. An additional advantage to choosing 26-gauge is the fact that it’s quieter than 29-gauge. If you plan to finish your building for residential living space, or intend to use it for other commercial or industrial purposes, opting for 26-gauge paneling would be a wise investment that would pay greater dividends in the long run.

Ready to Learn More?

To learn more about the benefits of choosing cold-formed steel for building construction in general, or about its benefits for framing and paneling in particular, reach out to one of the friendly and knowledgeable building specialists at Carport Central! We’d be glad to answer any questions you may have. And if you’re ready to get the metal carport, garage, barn, RV cover, workshop, or other custom building of your dreams, we’re here to help! Nobody serves your steel structure needs better than Carport Central, and we provide a level of personalized customer service that you simply won’t get anyplace else. Check us out online, or just give us a call today at (980) 321-9898!

At Carport Central, We Provide Shelter for Your Way of Life!


  • Jay Lara

    Jay Lara is COO of Carport Central, and brings nearly 20 years of metal building industry experience. He’s worked in every aspect of the business, ranging from engineering to design to fabrication to installation to sales, and he’s passionate about bridging the gap between B2B and B2C for the metal buildings market.

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