Wooden Frame Rowers vs Steel Frame Rowers

Shopping around for a new indoor rowing machine is never an easy task. First, you have to determine which type of resistance you would like for your workout: water, air, or magnetic. If you decide on a water resistance rower, you will have another crucial decision to make: wood frame or steel frame. While there may be wooden framed rowers of air and magnetic resistance, a vast majority of wood framed rowing machines are water resistance rowers. Don’t ask me why, but it probably has to do with the imagery of being like an actual rowing boat.

I’ve said it before in many rowing machine articles: I love the feel and sound of the water resistance machine. To be honest, I have never really had a preference between wood or steel frames for my rower. But I know that to some people it does matter, so let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons for each type of rowing machine frame.

Wooden Frame Rowers

Let’s be honest, the wood frame is mostly just a matter of esthetics. That’s not a criticism! Esthetics and appearance absolutely matter for a piece of home fitness equipment that will likely be prominently placed in your house. One of the best parts about wooden frames is that the look matches any type of home decor, so you can feel confident placing one in any room. As I mentioned before, the wooden frame also goes well with the imagery of being in an actual boat. Particularly with water resistance rowers where you get to hear the sound of the water sloshing in the tank as an accompaniment to your workout.

Apart from esthetics, wooden frame rowing machines also have a great reputation of being sturdy and extremely durable. The wood is generally sourced from trees like ash or cedar, and are made from high quality materials. You can really feel how solid the wooden frames are when you use the rower and they quite often have a maximum user weight capacity that far surpasses steel frame rowers. The maintenance for wooden frames is next to nothing as well. Simply keep the frame clean and free of dust, although I do recommend covering the rower when it’s not in use if you have a pet, as dogs and cats have been known to use it for scratching.

There are some drawbacks to wooden frames as well. Rowing machines come with a large footprint, and if you live in a smaller space it’s nice to have a rower that folds. Well, it’s pretty rare to find a wooden framed rower that also folds, so you will most likely have to store it standing up against the wall. They are also usually much heavier than steel framed rowers so you may find it difficult to move the machine around.


  • Wooden framed rowers look great and match any decor.
  • Strong and durable, made from high quality materials (unless it’s made of cheap compressed materials).
  • Maximum user capacity usually exceeds steel framed rowers.
  • Low maintenance and upkeep.


  • Wooden framed rowers rarely fold so storage can be an issue.
  • Wooden frames are generally heavier than steel frames.
  • Wooden frame rowing machine are not as tall as steel rowers (requires to lean further to reach the seat).

Steel Frame Rowers

A majority of indoor rowing machines come with a steel frame these days, so it’s hard to get away from them unless you really like the wooden framed rowers. If wooden rowers are known for their esthetics, then steel framed rowers are known for their sleek designs and functionality. Steel framed rowers are generally less clunky and take up less space than their wood framed counterparts. These rowers usually weigh less and are easier to transport around your house if you need to move it.

There is a much wider selection of steel frame rowing machines, so if you are looking to spend within a budget, you’ll have much more luck finding an affordable steel framed rower. There is also more flexibility, in that steel frame rowers come in all resistance types. With wooden frame rowers, you are more or less cornered into buying a water resistance rower. Finally, steel frames are much more functional. Most folding rowers are steel framed, which makes storage of them much easier.

Steel frame rowers have a lower maximum user weight capacity, as they just cannot compare to the sturdiness of a wooden frame. That’s not to say that they cannot support much. Steel framed rowers still have a user weight capacity of about 300 to 350 lbs on average so for most users it will be more than enough support.


  • Wide range of choice as most rowers are steel framed.
  • Steel framed rowers come in all resistance types, whereas wooden ones are mostly water.
  • Most foldable rowers are steel framed, so storage is much easier.


  • Steel framed rowers have a lower maximum user weight capacity on average.
  • Steel framed rowers just do not seem to last as long as wooden framed rowers.

Sayed Hamed Hosseiny
Sayed Hamed Hosseiny

Hi, my name is Sayed Hamed Hosseiny. I am a professional health and fitness trainer with nearly 20 years of experience using ellipticals, rowing machines, and spin bikes. I also have my own EU-based Rock Fitness Pro fitness brand where I design, import and sell exercise equipment such as rowing machines and spin bikes. I and writers on my team also often receive fitness equipment to review and evaluate their functionalities and performance from tens of different exercise machines manufacturers. Fitness equipment tips, guides, reviews, and comparisons on this website are my opinion (and opinions of my fitness expert colleagues) based on tens of criteria. I never accept payment to write reviews of products or say positive things about fitness equipment products. If brands are interested to have me review their rowers, ellipticals, or spin bikes, they can get in touch with me via email provided on the contact page and send a sample of their product.