The Different Types of Steel Beams and Their Uses

October 12, 2020
  • Author : OAK SEO Team

Steel beams are a critical component of any building or modern structure like arches or bridges. Given their varied use, it makes sense that steel beams come in different shapes and sizes. Accordingly, the application of each type also differs, and it’s essential that builders understand which beam best suits their project requirements.

Since beams come in different cross-sectional shapes, the way to differentiate them from steel bars, tubes, and rods is based on loading and not shape. Any structural item that’s designed to support load is known as a beam.

Here’s a quick overview of the most common steel beam shapes:

1. I-Beam

As the name implies, the I-beam has a cross-section shaped like the letter ‘I’ and is widely used in industrial applications. These steel beams come in two styles: the first one has a parallel flange surface, while the other style is characterized by a slop on the inner flange (S-Beam).

The I-Beam is extremely effective at resisting shear forces as it has a high strength-to-weight ratio.

L-Beams used primarily in floor systems

2. Channels

C beams or structural C channels have a C-shaped cross-section with a web connecting the top and bottom flanges. These beams are typically used in short and medium-span structures due to their cost-effectiveness. They we originally used to construct bridges, but are now also popular in marine piers and buildings.

3. L-Beam

The L-Beam, or the angle beam, has two legs that meet at a 90-degree angle. These legs can be equal or unequal, depending on the project requirements. The reduced structural depth makes them ideal for use in floor systems.

Image Filename: L-beam

Image Alt Text: L-Beams used primarily in floor systems

4. Hollow Steel Section (HSS)

HSS refers to beams that have a hollow, tubular cross-section. They can be rectangular, square, elliptical, or circular in design with rounded edges and radiuses that around double the thickness of the wall. The HSS steel units are typically used in welded steel frames, where units experience loads in multiple directions. 


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