Steel vs. engineered beams

Written by arlene miles
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Steel vs. engineered beams
Steel beams can support heavier loads than engineered wood. (Building site image by Hedgehog from

Steel beams and engineered wood beams are two common types of structural components that bear the weight of floors or columns. The most common types are I-beams, which have a thin centre section sandwiched on both ends by wider flanges.

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Steel Beams

Steel beams are manufactured via hot-rolled, cold-rolled or extruded processes to result in a strong, one-piece structure. A newer type, called a lightweight structural-steel beam, is manufactured through a cold-formed process that combines the strength of traditional beams with the workability of engineered wood beams.

Engineered Wood

These beams are composed of traditional wood and a composite laminated material that makes the engineered structure lighter and stronger than an all-wood structure. They are engineered to maximise wood's natural strength, and have the ability to support floors without warping or squeaking.

Steel Properties

Steel handles heavier loads at longer distances and with less depth than wood. It is much heavier, however, making it inappropriate for custom applications. The newer lightweight steel beams can support the same capacity as hot-rolled steel, but are 40 per cent lighter and can be worked in the same way as engineered wood.

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