Our Guide to the Different Structural Steel Shapes

When looking for solutions to meet building demands, you’ll want to put your eyes on structural steel, which is available in a wide range of shapes and sizes that make it the ideal construction material. Engineers and builders have pulled off fantastic results, like ornamental metalwork and towering skyscrapers, due to their unparalleled ingenuity and the boundless potential of modern steel. 

Structural steel comes in various shapes that make it suitable for different construction purposes. Given the many varieties available, steel fabrication companies organize these shapes into straightforward designations based on the shape, descriptive name, or technical terminology. Sometimes, it is named after a brief visual description of what the steel shape does or represents. Here’s what you need to know about the different structural steel shapes:

H-Shaped or H-Beams (HP14x73)

H-beams are available with wide, medium, or narrow flanges. The variety in size allows it to offer a multifaceted range of building support, like bearing piles. H-beams are outfitted with parallel flanges, taking a thickness equal to the web. This feature provides optimal support for heavy structures, which is why H-beams are commonly used for bridges, machinery, and frames for heavy-duty trucks.

C-Shaped or Channel Beam (C12x30)

C-beams, also known as structural C channels, are C-shaped cross-sections with flanges on one side. It often has sloped inner flange surfaces, so builders usually mount C-beams onto a different flat surface to provide greater strength while maximizing surface contact. Given C-beams’ dependability, you can use them for walls, framework, roofs, trailers, and vehicle frames.

S-Shaped or American Standard Beam (S12x50)

S-beams have two equal flanges that are linked by a web to offer more depth. These flanges are usually narrow and sloped to equip the beam with superior resistance, making them useful for many applications. Its designation of S12x50 means that your S beam has a depth of 12 inches and will weigh 50 pounds per linear foot.

L-Shaped or Angle Beam (L6x3x0.5)

L-shaped or angle beams fill the niche need of structural angles, which many buildings require for stability and proper weight distribution. With their 90-degree angle, these beams are often used to anchor floor systems since they provide ample support without needing a lot of depth. L-beams are commonly used in masonry applications and repair projects since they’re solid but lightweight, lessening your load.

T-Shaped or Tee Beam (ST12x38)

Tee beams are often used in load-bearing applications, which builders use to strengthen and support other building materials. While T-beams aren’t as commonly used as different shapes, they offer reliable support when in the hands of professionals. This steel piece is essentially an I-beam that has been halved, with the web now functioning as a stem. The shape of your T-beam depends on the original beam it came from, which includes various beams like ST beams from S-beams, WT beams (wide flange), or MT beams from other shapes.

HSS or Hollow Steel Section (HSS12x6x0.5)

Lastly, HSS beams, also called hollow structural sections, are available in many shapes, sizes, and grades. They usually consist of a circular or square shape. HSS beams have been rising in popularity as builders use this shape for vertical bracing, columns, truss structures, and more. While HSS beams are not as strong as standard steel beams, they have unmatched resistance to lateral-torsional buckling.

Conclusion

Since structural steel is available in many shapes, it’s essential to understand the differences between them and their appropriate applications, helping you make informed decisions about your project. With our guide, you’ll become more familiar with structural steel shapes and their characteristics.

KGS Steel, Inc. is a full-time structural steel processor, distributor, supplier, and service center in Birmingham, AL, that can fulfill all your structural steel needs. With over 100 years of combined sales experience, we offer the quality, commitment, and services demanded by today’s industrial sector. Contact us today for more information.

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