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I-Beam vs H-Beam: Which One to Choose?

Sep. 21, 2022

H-beams and I-beams are beams made from structural steel that are widely used in construction applications. Due to the high strength and ease of construction they confer, they are commonly used in the construction of houses, bridges, large trailers, etc.


Differences between I-beams and H-beams

The main difference between H-beams and I-beams lies in their cross-section. Both have a common horizontal section called the 'flange' and a vertical section called the 'web'. The web resists shear stresses, while the flange can carry most of the bending moments in the steel beam.


This article discusses the significant differences between steel H-beams and I-beams used in the construction industry.

H Beam

H Beam

Steel H-beams

Weight - the average weight of H-beams is higher than I-beams, which means they can withstand greater forces in specific applications.

Spans - H-beams can be used for spans up to 100 metres long.

Number of pieces - H-beams look like one consistent piece of steel, but they do consist of bevelled edges joined together.

Centre webs - the thicker centre webs of H beams mean they are stronger than I beams.



Weight - Compared to various other types of structural steel, I-beams are very light. Therefore, their light weight is the reason you should choose I beams in applications where weight and force on walls may be a concern.

Spans - Structural steel I-beams can be used for any span between 10 and 30 metres.

Number of pieces - I beams consist of only one piece of rolled steel from start to finish, which has been manipulated into place, making them more environmentally friendly and using less material in the manufacturing process.

Centre web - this is usually thinner on the various I-beam sizes, which means it cannot take as much force as an H-beam.

I Beam

I Beam

For the same amount of structural support, H-beams cost less than I-beams.


H-beams and I-beams are two different types of structural steel elements commonly used in construction. The distinctive feature between them is their shape; the H-beam has a shape similar to the letter 'H' with one vertical flange and two long side flanges, while the I-beam has a cross-section similar to the letter 'I' with a single vertical web or the thickest web in the span, two webs and no bottom flange.


These steel members have similar mechanical properties, but different dimensional characteristics.


H-beams are more efficient than I-beams because they are better able to withstand bending and shear loads. H-beams have thicker, deeper webs, which means that they can better support the weight of objects placed on top of them. This also helps to balance any future cantilever loads that may be placed on the H-beam (such as additional floors or beams).

H Beam

H Beam

As well as having a greater sectional modulus (which means they can resist compression forces better than I-beams), they also have a greater tensile strength value, which means they are less likely to bend under the pressure of the tensile forces acting on them.


In short, the main difference between H-beams and I-beams is that the webs of H-beams are much thicker than the webs of I-beams. Thicker webs mean stronger beams and therefore a greater load-bearing capacity. This means that for the same amount of structural support you can use fewer H beams than I beams.


Another difference between these two types of beam is that, unlike most other types of beam such as T or L, H beams are not straight up and down like most other types of beam such as T or L. Instead, they are bent outwards at the ends to form running flanges and webs parallel to each other along their length.

I Beam

I Beam

This construction makes them particularly suitable for carrying bending loads - which means they are great if you need a piece of wood or metal to bend slightly while remaining rigid but pliable along its entire length - and also helps them to carry shear loads more efficiently than anything else (carrying shear load types because they distribute the stress evenly over their entire length, rather than concentrating it at one end, where fatigue failure can easily break).


I-beams and H-beams are therefore two types of structural steel beam. They have different shapes, but both are used in construction to support buildings and other structures. So, which one is more suitable for your project? This depends on your specific needs and preferences. If you need a strong and rigid beam, then an H-beam may be the better choice. If you need a lighter, more flexible beam, then an I-beam may be a better choice. Ultimately, it is up to you to decide which type of beam is best for your project. The answer depends on several factors. If you would like to find out more about this topic, you can contact us.

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