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The Disadvantages of Steel Beams

Updated November 21, 2016

Wood beams, concrete beams and steel beams are all involved in the construction of buildings ranging from housing to skyscrapers. Steel beams are strong and versatile, but they do have some disadvantages when compared to wood beams. Steel beams have a high cost, are heavy, will rust over time and pollute the environment.

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Steel beams are generally more expensive than reinforced concrete and wood beams. While steel beams cost more per lineal foot than wood beams, they also often require more labour costs because welders are needed for installation.


Steel beams can retain moisture and condensation in a structure, while wood beams are able to absorb it. This can lead to potential problems involving rusting. Wood, in contrast, won't rust but can lead to potential termite problems.


Steel beams are much heavier than wood beams and are thus more difficult to work with. The heavy weight of steel makes the beams more challenging to manoeuvre than wood beams.


Steel beams can be unattractive when left exposed. Thus, steel beams are usually hidden by architectural treatments, while wood beams can help create dynamic open areas with a rustic look.


The production process of steel beams releases pollution into the air. It also requires a substantial amount of water in the manufacturing process, which could contribute to potential water shortages.

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About the Author

Aubrey Warshaw has experience working in federal, state and local levels of government. He has a Master of Public Policy and a Bachelor of Arts in political science. Warshaw's written work includes policy briefs for a 9-12 institution, letters to constituents and various reports involving policy issues such as education and poverty.

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