H-beam VS I-beam: What are the 17 differences?

structural beams

Both H-beam and I-beams are structural steel materials used widely in the construction industry by civil engineering professionals. By a novice, both these members may seem to be similar. The horizontal elements of the I and H beam are known as flanges, while the vertical element is called as the “web”. The web resists shear forces, and the flanges are designed to resist most of the bending moment that the beam experiences.

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 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 H beam
what is H beam

What is an I-Beam?

what is I beam
what is 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.

What Are I-Beams Used For?

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. 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.

How to choose right I beam

  1. The builder chooses an I-beam with a web thickness that won’t fail, buckle, or ripple under tension.
  2. The flanges are chosen to prevent buckling locally, sideways, or torsionally.
  3. The builder will choose a thickness to minimize the deformation of the beam.
  4. A certain mass and stiffness are selected to prevent vibrations in the building.
  5. The strength of the I-beam’s cross-section should accommodate yield stress.

Which Is Stronger H Beam or I-Beam?

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

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.

Shape

H beam resembles the shape like Capital H, while I beam the shape like capital I.

Manufacturing

  • I-beams are manufactured as a single piece throughout, while H-beam comprises three metal plates welded together.
  • H-beams can be fabricated to any desired size, while the milling machine capacity limits the production of I-beams.

Weight

  • H beams are heavier in weight as compared to I beam.
  • 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.
  • Web Thickness:H beam has a significantly thicker web as compared to the I beam.

Distance From Flange end To Web’s centre

At first look, both H-section and I-section steel beams look similar, but there are some critical differences between these two steel beams that are essential to know.

In I-section, the distance from the flange end to the Web’s centre is less, while in H-section, The distance from the flange end to the Web’s centre is higher for the similar section of the I-beam.

Strength

  • H-section beam gives more strength per unit weight due to more optimized cross-sectional area and an excellent strength to weight ratio.
  • Generally, I-section beams are deeper than wide, making them exceptionally good at bearing load under local buckling. Furthermore, they are lighter in weight than H-section beams, so they will not take a significant load as H-beams.

Cross-section

  • The I-section beam has a narrow cross-section suitable for bearing direct load and tensile stresses but is poor against twisting.
  • In comparison, the H beam has a broader cross-section than the I beam, which can handle the direct load and tensile stresses and resist twisting.

Ease of Welding

  • H-section beams are more accessible to weld due to their straight outer flanges than I-section beams.
  • H-section beam cross-section is more robust than I-section beam cross-section; hence it can take a more significant load.

Moment of Inertia

  • The Moment of Inertia for a beam determines its capacity to resist bending. The higher it will be, the less the beam will bend.
  • H section beams have wider flanges, high lateral stiffness, and greater moment of inertia than I-section beams, and they are more resistant to bending than I beam.

Built-Up

  • 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.

Spans

  • 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.

Flanges

  • 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.
  • H beam flanges have equal thickness and are parallel to each other, while I beam have tapered flanges with an inclination of 1: to 1:10 for better load-bearing capacity.

Rigidity

In general, H- Section beams are more rigid and can take a heavier load than I-section beams.

Number of Pieces

  • H-section beam resembles a single metal piece, but it has a bevel where three metal plates are welded together.
  • Whereas an I-section beam is not produced by welding or riveting metal sheets together, it is only one section of metal entirely.

Economy

  • An H-section beam is a more economical section with enhancing mechanical properties than an I-section beam.
  • An I-section beam can be used for a span up to 33 to 100 feet due to manufacturing limitations, while an H-section beam can be used for a span up to 330 feet since it can be made in any size or height.

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

Application

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.

H-section beams are ideal for mezzanines, bridges, platforms and the construction of typical residential and commercial buildings. They are also used for the load-bearing column, trailer and truck bed framing.
I-section beams are the adopted section for bridges, structural steel buildings and the making of support frames and columns for elevators, hoists and lifts, trolley ways, trailer and truck beds.

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

Design

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.

Strength

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.

Durable

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.

Cost-Effective

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.

Adaptable

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.

Design Principles

The design of both I-beam and H-beam are governed by any of the following criteria:

  • Deflection: Target criteria should be to minimize deformation
  • Vibration: the stiffness and mass are should be decided based on Vibration tendency.
  • Bending failure by yielding
  • Bending failure by lateral torsional buckling
  • Bending failure by local buckling
  • Local yield due to high magnitude of concentrated loads.
  • Shear failure
  • Buckling or yielding of components

H-beam Size Chart

H beam size and weight chart: Wide Flange Series (HW)

GradeSize of
the Section
(in mm)
Cross-
Sectional
Area
WeightMember
Designation
HBt1t2rcm2kg/m
100 X 100100100681021.917.19100x100x6x8
125 X 1251251256.591030.3123.79125x125x6.5×9
150 X 1501501507101340.5531.83150x150x7x10
175 X 1751751757.5111351.4340.37175x175x7.5×11
200 X 2002002008121664.2850.46200x200x8x12
20020412121672.2856.74200x204x12x12
250 X 2502502509141692.1872.36250x250x9x14
250255141416104.6882.17250x255x14x14

H beam size and weight chart: Medium Flange Series (HM)

GradeSize of
the Section
(in mm)
Cross-
Sectional
Area
WeightMember
Designation
150 X 100148100691327.2521.39148x100x6x9
200 X 150194150691639.7631.21194x150x6x9
250 X 1752441757111656.2444.15244x175x7x11
300 X 2002942008122073.0357.33294x200x8x12

H beam size and weight chart: Narrow Flange Series (HN)

GradeSize of
the Section
(in mm)
Cross-
Sectional
Area
WeightMember
Designation
175 X 90 175 90 5 8 10 23.21 18.22 175x90x5x8
200 X 100 198 99 4.5 7 13 23.59 18.52 198x99x4.5×7
200 X 100 200 100 5.5 8 13 27.57 21.64 200x100x5.5×8
250 X 125 248 124 5 8 13 32.89 25.82 248x124x5x8
250 X 125 250 125 6 9 13 37.87 29.73 250x125x6x9

I-beam Size Chart

I-beam size chart for some common structural sections are provided below:

DesignationDepth
– H –
(mm)
Width
– B –
(mm)
Web
Thickness
– d –
(mm)
Cross
Sectional
Area
(cm2)
Weight
(kg/m)
UB 127 x 76 x 1312776416.513
UB 152 x 89 x 16152.488.74.520.316
UB 178 x 102 x 19177.8101.24.824.319
UB 203 x 102 x 23203.2101.85.429.423.1
UB 203 x 133 x 25203.2133.25.73225.1
UB 203 x 133 x 30206.8133.96.438.230
UB 254 x 102 x 22254101.65.72822
UB 254 x 102 x 25257.2101.963225.2
UB 254 x 102 x 28260.4102.26.336.128.3
UB 254 x 146 x 31251.4146.1639.731.1
UB 254 x 146 x 37256146.46.347.237
UB 254 x 146 x 43259.6147.37.254.843
UB 305 x 102 x 25305.1101.65.831.624.8
UB 305 x 102 x 28308.7101.8635.928.2
UB 305 x 102 x 33312.7102.46.641.832.8
UB 305 x 127 x 37304.4123.47.147.237
UB 305 x 127 x 42307.2124.3853.441.9
UB 305 x 127 x 48311125.3961.248.1
UB 305 x 165 x 40303.4165651.340.3
UB 305 x 165 x 46306.6165.76.758.846.1
UB 305 x 165 x 54310.4166.97.968.854
UB 356 x 127 x 33349125.4642.133.1
UB 356 x 127 x 39353.41266.649.839.1
UB 356 x 171 x 45351.4171.1757.345
UB 356 x 171 x 51355171.57.464.951
UB 356 x 171 x 57358172.28.172.657
UB 356 x 171 x 67363.4173.29.185.567.1
UB 406 x 140 x 39398141.86.449.739
UB 406 x 140 x 46403.2142.26.858.646
UB 406 x 178 x 54402.6177.77.76954.1
UB 406 x 178 x 60406.4177.97.976.560.1
UB 406 x 178 x 67409.4178.88.885.567.1
UB 406 x 178 x 74412.8179.59.594.574.2
UB 457 x 152 x 52449.8152.47.666.652.3
UB 457 x 152 x 60454.6152.98.176.259.8
UB 457 x 152 x 67458153.8985.667.2
UB 457 x 152 x 74462154.49.694.574.2
UB 457 x 152 x 82465.8155.310.5104.582.1
UB 457 x 191 x 67453.4189.98.585.567.1
UB 457 x 191 x 74457190.4994.674.3
UB 457 x 191 x 82460191.39.9104.582
UB 457 x 191 x 89463.4191.910.5113.889.3
UB 457 x 191 x 98467.2192.811.4125.398.3

Photo of H-beam bending machine

H-beam bending video