Universal truths: Stuff you should know about Universal (H / I) Beams & Columns


Here at Stronghold we deal in steel, lots of it. From small orders in our shop all the way to the full structural support of commercial projects. For the most part, our focus is residential steel, supporting Australian homes. One of the key ingredients in a structural residential build are Universal Beams and Columns – otherwise known as the I-Beam /-Column or H-Beam /-Column because of it’s cross-section.

Universal Beams and Columns come in a range of sizes, from light structural to heavy, but what remains the same is the famous cross-section which gives its names.

Universal Beams and Columns are created from three (3) main pieces, those being the horizontal flanges and the vertical web.

But, as you might already be questioning – both Universal Beams and Universal Columns are two different structural steel products for two very different uses. 






The above diagram (whilst not completely accurate) portrays the cross-section of a Universal Column. It is a column because the web section is similar or equal in width and height to the flange sections. Put simply, the shape is more like a square. The web is also a bit thicker in a column, which adds the compressive strength of the column. 



By definition a column supports a compressive load. That means it is standing vertically and the weight is placed on top. 





Our second diagram shows the cross-section of a Universal Beam, as you can see this guy is a little taller than his brother, but not necessarily better looking. Jokes aside, the Universal Beam is primarily used a horizontal load bearer, such as a support in the roof of a residential build. 



By definition, a beam supports a bending load. That is, it is placed horizontally with supports at either end and the force is placed atop the beam. 



The genius of both of these steel products are their efficiency in load carrying, that is, the amount of weight they can hold compared to the amount of steel used. This has been proven for both bending and shear load bearing. Where the two don’t perform best are in cases that require torsion or twisting pressure, so we don’t recommend using one to build a windmill anytime soon.

Knowing when to use each of these steel products is very much dependent on the job, so we recommend asking our team. Stronghold can handle all your steel needs, whether it is a couple of universal beams for a DIY project or an end-to-end structural solution.

Give us a call, we’d love to have a chat. 




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“Frantom Building has been in the custom building market in NSW for 15 years. We have worked with Scott and his team from Stronghold Fabrications in all aspects with steel, from design, shop drawings, and delivery. Their attention to detail has been proven in the perfection of the finish in their products and servicing ability. We look forward to moving into the future with Stronghold Fabrications.”

Ed Poulton Director Frantom Building Pty Ltd

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