Our Guide to Structural Steel Shapes

Structural steel offers the support needed to keep buildings strong, sturdy, and standing. Its different shapes are required to distribute the weight a particular way and certify a building’s integrity, durability, safety, and construction. However, besides the different shapes it can take, structural steel also features other mechanical and chemical qualities, making them fit for specific purposes.

Here’s what you need to know about structural steel shapes and the different purposes they fulfill:

All About Structural Steel

Structural steel is an advantageous and versatile building material made of carbon steel in various metal grades. It’s used in different structures, like bridges, parking garages, machine bases, and residential and commercial constructions. 

The Many Advantages of Structural Steel

Structural steel is a fundamental component of thousands of buildings worldwide due to its many benefits. It’s cost-effective, as the costs involved in the material, fabrication, and erection are more affordable than other building systems. It isn’t subject to diminishing returns, which means its quality and value continue holding up over time. 

Working with structural steel gives you accelerated schedules since off-site fabrication leads to faster construction even in inclement weather conditions. Since it’s flexible, open spaces are more feasible with structural steel, resulting in more usable floor space.

Additionally, as structural steel is known for its pliability, designers have even more options to create breathtaking spaces. It is also an environmentally-friendly material as existing steel frames can be repurposed, giving them a second chance at life and preventing them from becoming landfill food. An impressive 93 percent of structural steel produced in the United States is recycled and will continue to be so, making it a sustainable option for construction.

The Different Structural Steel Shapes

Due to structural steel’s characteristics, you can customize them into any shape. However, the forms generally fall under four categories: beams, angles, channels, and plates. 

1. L-Shapes

Structural steel angles are hot-rolled into an L-shape, featuring a cross-section used in various applications. The standard structural angle is 90 degrees, measured by the leg thickness and length. L-shapes are made with equal and unequal leg lengths, but when produced with unequal measurements, the longer leg always comes first, with thickness following last. Applications involving L-shapes include framework, shelving, repair, and structural reinforcement.

2. Hollow Structural Section

This structural steel shape describes high-strength welded steel tubing, produced in square, rectangular, or round shapes that make them compatible with multidirectional load bearing. Tubes, which are hollow steel shapes, are often used in low-stress applications. Structural tubing is meant for high-stress structural applications in roll cages, underwater platforms, bridges, buildings, and more.

3. Structural Steel Beams

This structural steel shape supports buildings and structures of all kinds since it manages a maximum bending load with as little material as possible. The beams have a flat top and bottom referred to as flanges or legs, which often taper. They’re characterized by their depth, flange width, thickness, and web thickness.

4. I-Beams

I-beams are known as the universal beam or wide flange beam. It takes its name from the shape of the cross-section it sports along with its parallel legs. These beams are the vital support trusses in the construction framework.

5. S-Beams

These beams are produced to provide unparalleled strength due to their wider flanges that have a slope on the inside. These beams are useful for home and building construction, truck bed frames, and more.

6. T-Beams

As implied in the name, T-beams have a T-shape. They’re best suited for reinforcement since they bear equal weight, like the I-beam.

7. H-Piles

These have the same shape as I-beams, although they’re placed in the ground to supply enough foundation support for massive structures.

8. C-Channels

C-channels have a slight slope on the surface of their inner flange. They’re usually not used as primary load-bearing beams. Instead, they are favored for the structural support they provide as frames or for bracing.

9. Bearing Piles

Bearing piles also have the same shape as I-beams, although these have the same thickness in all sections. They are handy for supporting vertical loads.

10. Structural Steel Plates

Lastly, structural steel plates are flat and made in various thicknesses to accommodate construction needs that prioritize durability and lightweight. 


Structural steel provides endless benefits to the world of construction, given the many shapes and forms it can take to meet different needs and requirements. By knowing the different structural steel shapes and their applications, you can choose the right components for your project.

KGS Steel Birmingham is a full-line carbon steel and structural steel distributor in Birmingham, AL. We have a full line of carbon and structural steel products and processing that will fit your every need. Contact us today for a quote.

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