What is structural steel?

what is structural steel

Steel has long been used as an effective material in a variety of sectors, particularly in construction.

With its light, hard-wearing and strong composition, it lends itself to all areas of the construction industry. Particularly in home design due to its structural capabilities.

What is structural steel?

Structural steel is, as the name suggests, steel that has been designed for use in the construction of buildings. 

Structural steelwork is used to form the ‘skeleton’ frame of a building, which will consist of a variety of beams that are each equipped for different purposes.

What are the different types of structural steel?

Structural steel is available in a variety of shapes, which are each well-suited to a different area of a construction project.

The types of steel shapes and sections we work with at Steels Direct with are:

  • universal columns
  • universal beams
  • parallel flange channel
  • rectangular hollow section
  • square hollow section
  • circular hollow section
  • flat section
  • rolled steel angle – equal
  • rolled steel angle – U

These structural steel shapes all have their own benefits, each working as a suitable solution for a variety of applications.

One of the most used sections in structural steel, a universal column, or ‘I’ or ‘H’ beam, has a multitude of uses.

universal column

Universal beams are usually used as horizontal columns for buildings, as a way to carry compression loads.

These can be from a ceiling, floor, slab, roof slab, or from a beam, to a floor or foundations.

They are often utilised in construction as they can be hidden sufficiently by being plastered over. Or, alternatively, they can be left as a key design feature within an industrial building.

Universal columns are particularly used with connections and universal beams, as they create a full structure. They can also be used alone when a span of a building is too large and needs additional support.

Universal beams, or RSJ’s, on the other hand, are usually the most common section used in residential projects.

universal beam

Universal beams have now taken over the popularity of wooden beams, due to their strength and longevity. A steel beams ability to create spans and take weights makes it a much more versatile and durable option than more traditional materials, such as wood. 

Typically, a universal beam is used vertically, in-between floors or horizontally for ceilings.

They are able to carry and support the weight of a load to stop a collapse.

It’s also widely used due to its ability to be hidden within a structure and takes up a minimal amount of space.

This makes it a popular choice for housebuilding and residential applications.

For the full list of structural sections we offer, be sure to visit our website, here.

What are the benefits of structural steel?

Alongside its compositional benefits of being strong and durable, structural steel has many other plus points for its use in construction.

One of the great things about steel is that it can be shaped and moulded into any shape you require for a project.

This is another reason as to why it is used so heavily in construction.

Structural engineers also use the metal, over materials such as concrete, as it is much more time-economic.

Structural steel will be welded together during the construction process, and be joined together to make the framework as soon as it arrives on site.

This is different for materials such as concrete, as it must have a period to set, which can be at least 1-2 weeks.

This means that the project can’t be worked on during this time, slowing down the process considerably.

Steel also has aesthetic appeal, with its sleek, slender finish often being used as both a structural and design feature for projects.

As structural steel can be bent into shape, architects will often opt for steel to allow for more creative possibilities.

Considering its many benefits, steel is also a cost-effective material to use in home projects.

What is the minimum bearing for a steel beam?

A minimum bearing of 100mm is typically needed for beams that bear either end (or sometimes both ends) onto a concrete padstone.

A standard bearing is 150mm, but this can be larger.

Anything under 100mm would be quite unusual, as the less the beam bears onto the padstone, the less force can be transferred down into a building’s foundations.

How far can a steel beam span?

How far a steel beam can span depends on two factors:

  1. the size of the beam itself
  2. and the weight/force it has to support

The larger the beam, generally the larger the weight the beam can take. Larger beams can also usually provide support over longer distances.

For domestic projects, though, a larger beam can be particularly impractical. This is because, in domestic settings, large beams cannot be hidden in rooves.

It also becomes an issue to manoeuvre larger beams in a domestic setting without the use of heavy machinery, which is very often not on hand.

Large beams also require larger columns or padstone, which again makes them very impractical for home builds.

If you have a large space that you want to open up the best option is to speak to your structural engineer about how you can achieve this.

Here at Steels Direct, we have 30 years of experience with structural steel. We, therefore, have the knowledge to help you bring your project plans to life.

If you’d like to discuss your project with us in more detail, or for additional advice on the structural steel sections you may need for your home project, please contact us today.