Why Are I Beams Used in Structural Steel Construction?

May 31 2022

The I beam is the most commonly used beam in structural steel builds. The design and makeup contribute equally to making an I-beam capable of handling a variety of heavy loads. Because of the impressive load bearing capabilities, I beams are widely used in construction, but what else makes the I beam so unique and sought after in structural steel construction processes?Stack of I beams on a large construction site.

The Makeup of the I Beam

Two horizontal planes, known as flanges which are connected by one vertical component, make up an I-beam, as the shape of the connection creates an uppercase “I” in the cross section. Unlike H beams, which are similarly constructed, the upper and lower flanges of an I beam have a slope, making the flanges thin outside and thick inside. H beams have no slope on the upper and lower flanges, which impacts the load bearing capabilities. I beams are usually fabricated of structural steel, although different steel specifications can be used for specific applications, such as framing, bridges, and certain structures. I beams, because of the minimal cross section area (known as the web) require the least amount of material while still achieving the desired shape and function to perform their load bearing responsibilities. The design makes the I beam capable of bending under stress rather than buckling. When fabricated, I beams consist of only one piece of rolled steel, making the fabrication a cost-effective solution. 

Classification of I Beam

I beams are classified by their material and dimensions. They come in a variety of weights, dimensions, and web thickness (the connection points). Builders will consider the needs of their particular project and choose an I beam that fits the characteristics they need, including deflection, vibration, bend, buckling, and tension. I beams are designed to resist bending, vibration, yielding, and reflecting due to their shape. I beams are usually lightweight and can be used for spans of nearly 100 ft. When ordering I beams, buyers will let the fabricator know the dimensions necessary for the project. 

The Use of I Beams in Steel Fabrication Construction Projects

I beams are usually the critical support trusses in structural steel construction. I beams are almost always used in the construction of large structures, such as warehouses and large buildings. Because the I beam is capable of holding immense loads, a structural steel I beam can ensure the integrity of the structure, without the need for numerous structural supports that will add to the cost and construction time of the project. I beams are cost-effective since they don’t need an excessive amount of steel and have universal applications. I beams are resistant to aging and are easily adaptable to structural additions and modifications due to their composition. I beams are always in demand because of their strength, cost effectiveness, and versatility. 

I beams are often referred to as universal beams, as they can handle a wide variety of loads when used horizontally as the support system for heavy duty columns and are useful in a variety of structural steel frameworks. The superior strength, as well as savings on cost and time, make I beams the primary choice for structural supports in steel construction projects. Speaking to an expert in structural steel fabrication can help guide you toward the right beam for your unique project. To get a quote on your next fabrication project, contact Swanton Welding today!

Heavy Fabrication Capabilities

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