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H-Beam vs I-Beam

H-Beam and I-Beam

Before we delve into the differences between retaining wall steel H beams and I beams, it’s important to examine exactly why these supports are necessary.

h-beam vs i-beam
h-beam vs i-beam

Basically, structural beams are used to add strength to walls. The shape of the beam resists shear force, which lessens the likelihood of tearing apart. Steel beams guarantee the integrity of a structure, adding stability and strength.

What is an H-Beam?

H beam production process

H beam is a structural beam made of rolled steel,H-beams are shaped like an H. It is incredibly strong, and they get their name because the cross section resembles a capital H.

What is an I-Beam?

h-beam vs i-beam

An l -beam is shaped like an I.

The I beam consists of two horizontal planes, known as flanges, connected by one vertical component, or the web. I-beam has tapered edges and it gets its name from the fact that it looks like a capital I when you see it from its cross section.
With an I-beam, the height of the cross section is higher than the width of its flange.

Difference between the H and I beams

The difference between the H and I beams is the flange per band ratio. Compared to an I beam, the H beam consists of longer flanges and a thicker centre web. The flanges on an I beam are tapered. H-beam has wider flanges than I-beam, but I-beam has tapered edges. The width is the flange and the height is the web. The H beam tends to be heavier than the I beam, which is why some say it is better than the I beam, but this is subjective, as the H beam is generally heavier.


  • H-beam: The H-beam is often a lot heavier than the I-beam, which means it can take more force.
  • I-beam: With some buildings where weight and force on a wall may pose a structural issue, the I-beam may be better since it is often lighter.

Center Web

  • H-beam: An H-beam has a thicker center web, which means it is often stronger.
  • I-beam: An I-beam often has a thinner center web, which means it is often not able to take as much force as an h-beam.


  • H-beam: An H-beam can possibly be built up which means it can be built up to any size or height.
  • I-beam: An I-beam can only be built up as much as the manufacturer’s milling equipment allows.


  • H-beam: H-beams can be used for spans up to 330 feet.
  • I-beam: An I-beam may be used for spans of between 33 and 100 feet.


  • H-beam: H-beams have top and bottom flanges that stick out further from the web than the flanges on I-beams.
  • I-beam: I-beams have top and bottom flanges, and they are shorter and are not as wide as H-beams.

Number of Pieces

  • H-beam: The H-beam looks like one piece of metal but it has a bevel where three pieces of metal come together.
  • I-beam: An I-beam is not made by welding or riveting sheets of metal together and is only one piece of metal throughout.

Mechanical difference

  • Retaining wall H beams are more mechanically straightforward and are therefore quicker and cheaper to manufacture. H beams are easier to weld than I beams because the outer flanges are straight.
  • The cross section of the H beam is stronger than the cross section of the I beam, meaning it can bear a greater load. In comparison, the cross section of an I beam can bear direct load and tensile but cannot resist twisting because the cross section is so narrow. This means that it can only bear force in one direction.
  • Retaining wall H beams are heavier than I beams, so they can bear a greater load
  • The way that they are manufactured means that H beams can be produced up to 330 feet long, whereas I beams can only be produced up to 100 feet due to their complex shape and dimensions


At first glance, retaining wall H beams seem like a better option, as they are cheaper and quicker to manufacture, and they generally have a greater load bearing capacity. However, as with most choices in life, the ultimate decision depends on the situation.

Steel has been the material of choice in the construction industry for many years because it is strong, lightweight and easily erected. It is also widely manufactured and durable. With a superior strength to weight ratio, retaining wall H beams are commonly used as supports for bridges, platforms and mezzanines. They are also frequently used as support columns in residential building projects.

On the other hand, I beams have high tensile strength. This means they are excellent at bearing load under direct pressure. I beams are often used in the construction of steel framed buildings and bridges.

What Are I-Beams Used For?

An I-beam is made by rolling or milling steel which means the I-beam is often limited by the capacity or size of the milling equipment.

I-beams come in a variety of weights, section depths, flange widths, web thicknesses, and other specifications for different purposes.

Construction industry

I-beams have a variety of important uses in the structural steel construction industry. They are often used as critical support trusses, or the main framework, in buildings.

Structure’s integrity

Steel I-beams ensure a structure’s integrity with relentless strength and support. The immense power of I beams reduces the need to include numerous support structures, saving time and money, as well as making the structure more stable.

The versatility and dependability of I-beams make them a coveted resource to every builder.

Great load bearing support

I-beams provide great load bearing support when used horizontally or standing as columns. I-beams are the choice shape for structural steel builds because the I-beam makes it uniquely capable of handling a variety of loads. The shape of I-beams makes them excellent for unidirectional bending parallel to the web. The horizontal flanges resist the bending movement, while the web resists the shear stress.

Understanding the I-beam is a basic necessity for the modern civil engineer or construction worker. Engineers use I-beams widely in construction, forming columns and beams of many different lengths, sizes, and specifications.

5 Reasons to Use I-Beams in Construction


On the surface, steel I-beams seem like a no-brainer when needing to support a large amount of weight because they are made of metal. But, I-beams with the way they are constructed, are the reason they can withstand large amounts of weight along with the material they are made of. I-beams are comprised of two horizontal flat surfaces called flanges connected by a horizontal component called a web. The flanges and webs of I-beams vary on thickness and width as the sizes are dependent upon the application. The shape of I-beams are ultimately designed to reduce and resist shear stress as the flanges act as a preventative to bending movement. Not only are I-beams designed to resist bending and shear stress, but also vibration, yielding, and reflection due to their shape.


One of the main reasons people enjoy installing wooden beams is due to the versatility it provides. You can drill holes, mount objects, and hang lighting without sacrificing any of the integrity of the wood. However, with steel beams you cannot do so as puncturing the beam in any way will reduce its structural strength. Dependent on your needs, wood beams and steel beams will be your options – but I-Beams will always be stronger.


For steel I-beams, you’re taking out a lot of guessing work of how long the material will last. In comparison to wood, where wood is subject to aging, rotting, mold, and warping, I-beams are resistant to such decay. I-beams will not falter in the way of cracking or splitting as they age. Also, one of the main reasons the durability of I-beams is superior to that of wood is that with the creation of each I-beam there are rules and regulations each must meet prior to being sold. This is much better than relying on nature as wood does as there is many more variables to their creation.


When it comes to any construction project, you want to stay at or below budget. How do you do that? Buying the exact amount of material you need or buying bigger sizes in lieu of smaller sizes if possible. That’s not the only way, however. You can also be budget-conscious by targeting to accomplish a project faster than expected if you have less material to install.

That said, I-beams’ strength comes to the forefront as construction sites can rely on less of the material with the increased amount of weight it can sustain. You will not only be able to buy fewer steel beams in comparison to wooden beams, but you will also be able to save on the overall cost of materials and shipping/freight as there will be fewer of them. Also, as you will be installing less material, there will be more free space for interiors if that is a concern.


I-beams do not have to be only for new projects. They are great for stabilizing a structure in need. Whether the building you’re working on needs additional support or modifications to existing support, I-beams serve as the optimal replacement for old wooden beams. As further renovation projects continue in the future, the use of I-beams will be commonplace due to their strength and adaptability.

Photo of H-beam bending machine

H-beam bending video