One of the first choices a consumer will make when shopping for a prefabricated structure from RCP Shelters is choosing the structural material: glue laminated wood (glulam) or steel. Durability, cost, and maintenance are the primary concerns to consider when making this decision.
Over the last twenty years, the industry has seen a paradigm shift among consumers when it comes to prefabricated shade structures which has resulted in a sharp increase in the demand for steel pavilions. As a company, RCP Shelters evaluates this change and addresses some misconceptions as it relates to the glulam vs. steel debate, so that an informed decision can be made.
Water can rot wood and rust steel, so which material stands the test of time better?
Steel:RCP’s powder coat or hot-dipped galvanized (HDG) finishes exceed industry standards. These finishes assure long life not only structurally but aesthetically as well. As an alternative to the standard powder coat finish in highly corrosive environments, we strongly suggest the HDG option which acts as a superior rust-inhibitor.
Glulam: Various methods of chemically treating (known as pressure treating) all weather exposed glulam protect the wood from rot or infestation for several decades. We typically use CCA or Penta-C treatments for our glulam. All pressure treated wood members boast a 30 year warranty against rot or infestation – RCP Shelters has been in business since 1957 and hasn’t received a warranty claim on our wood yet – knock on wood, of course.
Bottom Line: RCP Shelters strongly suggests considering pressure treated glulam structures for projects in coastal areas. Other than stainless or galvanized, steel is generally not recommended in corrosive environments.
Every project has one thing in common: budget. If price is king, which material reigns supreme?
Steel: Steel allows design flexiblity to utilize fewer columns and beams than our wood designs. When possible, steel frames are shop welded to minimize onsite assembly. This ultimately saves money in concrete, rebar and man hours.
Glulam: Glulam is one of the most affordable permanent construction materials available. If you are looking for a shelter that consistently offers the best cost per square foot, check out our LW-G series (Lam-Wood Gable), which boasts our most cost-effective solution to cover the most area.
Bottom Line: The LW-G series is RCP’s best seller and lowest materials cost per square foot. It serves as a great starting point if budget.
All prefab structures need some love every now and then, but which material needs a little extra?
Steel: It is recommended to regularly inspect the structure and touch up any nicks or dings on the steel frame to prevent the formation and spread of surface rust.
Glulam: The only recommended maintenance is re-staining the wood approximately every 5 years, or as needed. This keeps the wood looking vibrant and fresh. In humid environments, mildew may occasionally present itself on the wood. A simple 1:5 bleach-to-water solution and a powder washer is the recommended method of removal.
Bottom Line: Wood generally needs less attention than its steel counterpart. Carving into wood is repaired fairly easily with wood filler but steel may require sanding to bare steel, primer and then touch up. Whether choosing wood or steel, RCP’s designs are void of places for birds to nest, which keeps your site sanitary.
Final Word: Other considerations such as fire-rating often come up when comparing steel to glulam. Customers are surprised to find out that glulam beats steel in comparative strength loss when exposed to fire over a period of time. Glulam is an affordable, aesthetic and durable building material. We would encourage you to give it a second look on your next project!
For more in-depth information check out these great resources: