Quonset Huts vs. Prefab Metal Buildings

Quonset Huts vs. Prefab Metal Buildings

Looking for a reliable, rugged building solution that’s also cost-effective and relatively quick to install? Conventional wood-framed structures come with several drawbacks. Stick builds require significant onsite labor, take longer to construct, and can also be expensive. Wood-framed buildings are also prone to termites, moisture threats, and fire threats. Quonset huts and prefab steel buildings both carry advantages over conventional stick builds and pole barns. But what’s the difference between a metal Quonset hut and a prefab metal building (PEMB)? Which is better?

What Are Quonset Huts?

Quonset huts are semicircular or arched structures framed with corrugated metal. They were mass-produced by the thousands during WWII. The US military chose to utilize Quonset huts because they were lightweight, could be shipped anywhere, and could be assembled without skilled labor. The original design measured 16’ by 36’, but Quonset huts are now available in a variety of sizes. They can be fabricated with corrugated aluminum or tin, but corrugated steel panels are more common. In comparison with conventional construction, Quonset huts are cheaper and go up faster, and are often used for farm applications such as storing hay.

What Are Prefab Metal Buildings?

While both Quonset huts and PEMBs are technically prefabricated, a prefab metal building or prefab steel structure refers to a building constructed with cold-formed, prefabricated steel. Steel tubing is used for all framing members and trusses, and steel paneling is used for the roof, sides, and trim. Like Quonset huts, prefab steel buildings are very strong, cost-effective, require less labor to install, and go up quickly. Prefab steel structures are also incredibly versatile in terms of their custom design options and many building applications, ranging from residential to agricultural to commercial.

Comparing Quonset Huts to Pre-Engineered Metal Building Kits


The connected arches approach enables Quonset huts to rate well for wind and snow loads; PEMBs also rate highly for wind and snow loads. But the lack of any internal infrastructure generally means that a Quonset hut won’t be as durable or sturdy as a custom-engineered metal building. In addition, a Quonset hut won’t qualify for a full warranty unless it’s installed on a thick concrete foundation. PEMBs are warranted for installation on a variety of surfaces, including concrete, asphalt, gravel, and even plain, level ground.

Usable Interior Space

While Quonset huts do provide a good bit of space, the curved nature of the building design limits usable space at the edges, as well as in the roof area. If you need to be able to store larger items like tractors, or if you’re simply looking for full usage of your available clear-span space, you’d be better off to choose a prefab metal building.


Quonset huts offer a fairly straightforward setup procedure, and don’t require skilled labor for assembly. At the same time, you’ll also have LOTS of bolts to insert and secure. Prefab metal building kits can also be installed yourself if you have a DIY mindset, but one benefit of choosing Metal Barn Central to provide your metal building is that professional delivery and installation is included with purchase.

Flexibility of Building Application

Quonset huts work well as open-air shelters if you need to cover your hay, or provide a carport space for your vehicles and equipment. But if you’re looking for residential space, retail space, office space, or other finished space, a PEMB is much easier to insulate and finish. And steel tube-framed metal buildings make great carports, RV covers, open-air shelters, garages, barns, barndominiums, workshops, warehouses, and more. You also have many more options for customizing the external look and design of your building by going with a pre-engineered metal building.


A Quonset hut can offer an initially lower cost per square foot for smaller buildings, but once you reach the 40’-wide range, there’s really no cost advantage in comparison with a PEMB. And when you’re considering metal building prices, it’s also worth noting that a PEMB from Metal Barn Central includes delivery & installation with purchase. With a Quonset hut, you’ll either need to install it yourself, or pay someone to do it for you.

Which Metal Building for Sale is Right for Your Needs?

A lot of it really comes down to how you’re planning to use your building and what your available budget is. Both Quonset huts and prefab metal buildings have a lower cost per square foot and a faster install time than conventional stick builds. But if you’re looking for a building that offers more usable clear-span space, a more rugged design, more versatility, and easier options for finishing – as well as more opportunity for expansion and adaptation in the future – then a pre-engineered steel tube-framed structure is really a smarter choice.

Metal Barn Central Can Deliver and Install a Perfect Custom Steel Structure for You

If you’re ready to get your own perfect custom steel building installed for residential, commercial, agricultural, or industrial purposes, Metal Barn Central has you covered! Sure, we do metal barns, but we also provide everything from carports, to garages, to storage sheds, to utility buildings, farm buildings, retail storefronts, auto service centers, warehouses, manufacturing facilities, and even metal building home shells that come ready to finish.

We deliver and install at no extra charge in 46 US states, and we have a full team of friendly and knowledgeable building experts that are ready to assist you. Interested in exploring a preferred traditional financing or RTO payment solution? We’ve got those for you too.

Why wait any longer, when you can connect with one of our building experts today? Reach out to us online, or get started even faster by giving us a call at (980) 365-8481 right now!