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What’s the Difference between H Beams and I Beams?

H Beam vs. I Beam

In the construction industry, it’s vital to understand what makes I beams and H beams different. At first impression, these two steel beams look virtually identical, but there are some stark differences which are essential to understand. If you work with structural steel, you ought to consider this information, considering how useful steel beams are to a build.

Firstly, why are they called I beams and H beams?

  • I Beams – unsurprisingly, I beams are shaped like the letter ‘I’. However, contrary to steel H beams, I beams consist of two horizontal plates (otherwise known as flanges), connected by a vertical component (the web). I beams also have tapered edges and a slightly higher cross-section, compared to the flange width.


  • H Beams – these structural steel beams are, as the name suggests, shaped like a capital ‘H’. These beams have wider flanges, which isn’t all that shocking considering they are often referred to as wide flange beams by some other structural steel fabricators.


Now, let’s take a look at some of the critical differences between H beams and I beams.

Steel I Beams


  • Weight – I beams are very lightweight in comparison to various other types of structural steel. Therefore, in applications where weight and force on walls may pose a concern, their light weight is why you should choose I beams.
  • Spans – structural steel I beams can be used for spans that range anywhere between 10 and 30 metres.
  • Number of pieces – I beams only consist of one piece of rolled steel throughout, having been manipulated into place, making it more environmentally-friendly and using fewer materials in the manufacturing process.
  • Centre web – this is usually thinner on various I beam sizes, meaning it can’t take as much force as an H beam.

Steel H Beams


  • Weight – the average weight of H beams is higher than that of I beams, meaning they can withstand more force in specific applications.
  • Spans – H beams can be used for spans up to 100 metres.
  • Number of pieces – H beams look like one consistent piece of steel, but they do consist of bevelled edges which are joined together.
  • Centre web – the thicker centre webs of H beams mean they are slightly more robust than I beams.

What are I Beams used for?


There are various uses for these steel beams in structural steel fabrication. Usually, I beams are used as critical support trusses or in the frameworks of buildings. Structural steel beams, in general, are used in applications to provide structural support, due to steel’s strength, durability and resistance to rust (thanks to steel finishing).

Using I beams means that far fewer other support structures are required, which does help to save on costs and time, while also ensuring greater structural stability. Universal beams can handle a wide variety of loads when used horizontally, and the same can be said for universal columns as vertical supports.

What are H Beams used for?


H Beams are commonly used in the construction of buildings as well but also large trailers and bridges, among others.

Due to their slightly different cross-section shape, thicker central web and wider flanges, H beams can bear larger loads than I beams. While both are advantageous load-bearing structures, due to how long H beams can span for, they are more reliable for larger-scale projects. However, I beams are lighter and still have proven highly effective in numerous applications.

It’s clear to see that both I beams and H beams have distinct benefits and features, but if you aren’t sure which beam is right for your build, speak to the experts.

Looking for Quality Structural Steel Beams?

Baker Steel Trading can fabricate and supply structural steel to your exact requirements. We can manufacture almost any type of steel beam, in a variety of sizes, the full chart of which can be found on both the universal steel beams, universal steel columns and parallel flange channels product pages.

We can also help you with on-site steel fabrication and mobile welding, where one of our qualified coded welders and fabricators can come straight to your site. This service has helped numerous clients of ours to save on time, cost, delivery and installation, although we do have the facility to deliver structural steel straight to you. Not to mention our ability to assemble steel frame buildings in-house, and have them shipped straight to your site.

We are ready and willing to assist you with all of your steel requirements. We are an experienced steel fabrication company who are service-driven and results-orientated. Speak to the team today to find out more.