Types of beams in construction

Written by LetsBuild

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Since there are so many different types of buildings being constructed within the construction industry, it shouldn’t be too surprising that there are numerous types of beams involved.  A beam is a horizontal element that can withstand vertical loads, as well as bending moments and shear force.  When weight is added to these beams, it is transferred to the end points near the walls and columns, as well as down to the foundations.

Types of Beams in Construction

Simply Supported Beams

One of the simplest structural elements is the simply supported beam.  This type of beam can rotate freely, while the ends rest on support pieces.  The one end is pinned down, but the rotation can occur at the other end.

Fixed Beams

A fixed beam cannot rotate, because it is built-in and connected securely at both ends.

Cantilever Beams

A cantilever beam has one free end and one fixed end.  This beam is usually used for balconies, bridges, and bay windows.

Steel Beams

Steel beams are basically hoisted into place and secured, but they are only that easily installed because they were cut to fit back at the factory.  This type of beam is quite sturdy and can be used in so many different ways when constructing a building.

Timber Beams

Most timber beams need to be cut to fit at the job site, which makes them a little more time-consuming to install than steel beams.  However, timber beams add a lot of visual appeal to a room, especially if you are looking for a natural or rustic look in the space.

Continuous Beams

A continuous beam is longer than many other beams, which means that it needs to have more than one support on each end.  Additional supports are put in place along the continuous beam, so that it stays up where it needs to be.

Reinforced Concrete Beams

A concrete beam can hold a lot of weight, but extra safety measures need to be taken to ensure that it doesn’t collapse at any point in time.  Therefore, reinforcements are used to keep this type of beam in place.

Rectangular Beams

Rectangular beams are normally used in buildings that are made from reinforced concrete.

T-Section Beams

A t-section beam is normally reinforced concrete slab, but it can be modified according to the requirements of the specific load.  This is perfect for those buildings that do not match the one size fits all requirements for beams.

L-Section Beams

L-section beams are used to reinforce the perimeter of buildings and they are one of the many different cross-sectional shapes that can be used.

Straight Beams

Most of the beams that you will see in basic buildings are straight beams.  These beams can be made from many different materials and they are straight and basic looking.

Curved Beams

Any building that has a curve, whether near the entrance or somewhere else, will require curved beams.  These beams are not as easy to use, because you need to make sure that they are installed properly.  Not installing them properly will mean that the weight is not transferred the way that it should be, and the building can collapse.

Statically Determinate Beams

Sometimes, equilibrium must be used to solve a reaction.  It is at that time that a statically determinate beam is necessary.

Statically Indeterminate Beams

Of course, there could be a time when the equilibrium conditions are never enough to solve the reactions.  That is when the statically indeterminate beam is necessary.  This type of beam is much more difficult to get in place, but once it is up, you will have no issues with the transfer of the weight.

Cast In-Situ Concrete Beams

If you have time to cast some beams on the construction site, cast in-situ concrete beams are amazing.  You will start with pouring concrete into the forms and giving it time to harden before imposing the different loads.

Precast Concrete Beams

There usually isn’t enough time at the construction site to cast any concrete beams and that is where precast concrete beams come in handy.  These concrete beams are manufactured in factories, so the quality of the beams are much better.  You also will have a choice of different cross-sectional shapes, but the more popular ones include the t-beam, double t-beam, and the inverted t-beam.

Deep Beams

There are times when loads are so high that they require a deep beam.  These beams have larger depths and compression force is used to distribute the weight.


Girders are beams that are normally made from steel sections.  They can hold very heavy loads without a problem.


I-beams are made from steel and this type of beam looks like the letter “I”.  This beam is normally used in larger commercial buildings, but you can find them in the interior walls of frame houses.  Most of the time, I-beams are put at the top of the foundation, or the top of the basement walls, because it supports the upper levels of the building.

Flitch Beams

Flitch beams are made by connecting metal and wood together.  The metal offers additional support, while the wooden section makes it easy to connect to the structure.  This type of beam is lighter than one made completely from steel, but it also holds more weight than a wooden beam would.

Box Beams

A box beam looks like a long hollow box and they are always secured at right angles.  Most of the time, box beams are made from wood and they are often installed to add some visual appeal to the ceiling in a room.

Hip Beams

The area where different roof sections meet is known as the hip and a hip beam is required there.  While these beams used to be made from wood all the time, nowadays, steel is becoming the material of choice.


The beams over windows and doors are known as headers and they help distribute the weight over the openings.

These are the main types of beams that are used in the construction industry, but there are many others that can be used depending on the building and the space.  There really isn’t a right or wrong beam most of the time, but there are certain scenarios when one type of beam should be used instead of another one.

It is not always easy to know which beam is best to use, but a little research can easily let you know which one is better than all the rest.  Therefore, take your time choosing the beams for each building that you construct, so you do not have any structural issues in the future.