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The Different Types of Steel Beams and Their Applications: A Brief Guide

In 1849, an engineer named Alphonse Halbou invented the steel I beam, and the I beam was first used in construction to build the Rand McNally building in Chicago in 1889.

wide flange beams supplier

Whenever you see a new building or bridge under construction, you will notice the skeletal structure made up of different types of steel beams. They comprise the foundation pilings, the walls, and the platforms (floors) of these structures.


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Steel beams are a crucial support for the construction of buildings, structures, and any construction project. It comes in various size ranges, making it specifically applicable for certain applications. There are numerous considerations in determining the structural steel beams to use for your project.


Each steel beam offers support with unique properties that will provide you with the accurate level of support you need for your construction project.


In this article, we will discuss the different types of steel beams and their applications.


Steel Beams

wide flange beams

There are many steel beam types and uses of steel beams; the ones we focus on here are wide flange beams, created using two horizontal planes called flanges, connected by a vertical beam called a web.


The flanges on these beams may or may not be tapered (to save weight and to add shear strength), such as in I beams.


The web section of I beams, and H beams varies in thickness based on vibration dampening and torsion strength requirements.


I beam are rolled from a single piece of metal, shaped into the configuration of an I.


H beams are made by welding three pieces of beveled metal together to form the flanges and the web.


Wide flange beams and the standard I beams are identical but vary in shape. Wide Flange beams look like an H and have broader flanges than I beams, shaped more like a capital letter I.


Common Beams Available from a Wide Flange Beams Supplier

What are the diverse applications of H and I steel beams?

Most common uses of H Beams are for platforms, bridges, ship and dock building. While I Beams are commonly used for typical commercial buildings or any other lighthweight applications.


I Beams for Lightweight Applications

I beams are typically used in commercial buildings that do not rise more than a few stories. Their smaller footprint and lighter weight make them more economical and easier to work with.


I beams are often used in walls due to their smaller profile, lighter weight, and their ability to handle loads well from top to bottom of the beam.

steel beams used in aircraft hangar project

I beams can span from 33 to 100 feet, which makes them more applicable to smaller construction jobs such as frames, truck beds, etc. For a large skyscraper or a bridge, the H beam is more common.

warehouse structure

Bigger Jobs Require Wide Flange Beams — H beams

H beams, which can span up to 330 feet, work best in buildings with larger footprints. H beams are made with thicker webs and wide flanges for maximum strength in all directions.

bridge girder fabrication
pre-fabricated  buildings

The H beam works best in bridge and overpass construction due to:


1. Its ability to span the longer distances required by bridges/overpasses

2. Its ability to handle very heavy loads, as a bridge/overpass needs to be capable of handling the combined weight of vehicles





Cargo Ships and Docks

The unique properties of H beams make them most suitable for the construction of large cargo ships, which when combined with cargo, can weigh up to 220,000 tons.


Given the weight of cargo, the docks that hold this cargo must be capable of supporting the weight of many thousands of shipping containers. Only heavily constructed wide flange beams will suffice in building docks to hold this massive

fabricated steel beams

Strutting System

In foundation applications, the construction industry uses wide flange beams as waler and bracing systems. Contractors use them as king piles and sheet pile combinations.

circular shoring system using steel beams

Heavy Industry Is Possible Due to Steel Beams

The modern Industrial Age owes part of its success to the invention and proliferation of the I beam, which then led to H beams and other beam advancements, making it possible to construct long-expanse bridges and hundred-plus floor skyscrapers.


Steel Beams Supplier

If you are a professional in the construction industry seeking a wide flange beams supplier, look no further than ESC Steel. We have been in business since 1980 and have many types of high-quality steel beams for sale.

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