The Various Types of Structural Steel Shapes

Structural steel is a versatile material that can be fabricated into many different shapes to support different needs. Engineers and builders rely on structural stainless steel for the supports of their buildings as well as other uses. It is important to understand the standard shapes, as well as the ability to customize structural steel to fit your unique design and support needs.

Fabricated Steel beams at job site.

American Standard Beam

The American Standard Beam contains a rolled section with two narrow flanges with a connecting web. These beams are designated by height and weight so the builder has the right details about the capabilities of the beam. For example, W 24×90 would indicate a beam that is 24 inches deep with a weight of 90 lb/ft. American Standard Beams are used for many different support systems and are one of the most popular beam shapes.

Angle Beams

Angle beams are also called L-shaped beams, as these beams form an L-shape, with two straight legs connected at a 90 degree angle. The legs may be equal or unequal in length. Angle beams have many different applications, but are primarily used for bracing.

Bearing Pile

Bearing Pile beams are composed of H-shaped beams and are used to support deep foundations. H-shaped beams and driven into the ground to provide foundation piling and transfer the bulk of the weight to the tip of the pile.

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Channel Beams

Channel beams, also referred to as C-shaped beams, feature top and bottom flanges with a connecting web. These beams are usually used as a cost-effective support for shorter buildings.

Hollow Steel Section

Hollow Steel Section beams look like large tubes or pipes, since, as the name indicates, the cross sections are hollow. These beams come in many shapes, such as elliptical, rectangular, and round. Engineers often use these beams within load bearing columns.

I Beam

Although I-beams and H-beams are sometimes used interchangeably, they are not the same. Both have two parallel flanges with a vertical web, but I-beams are tapered. This type of beam effectively resists shearing forces at the web and the flanges resist bending forces. These beams are cost-effective and used as structural supports in many buildings.


A pipe is simply a hollow, tube-like structure that can come in many sizes to work with the overall structure and support system to carry water, oil, or gas. Piping can be highly customized and integrated into any support system.


Tees are also referred to as T-beams. T-beams are steel beams that have been cut longitudinally through the web, resulting in a T shaped cross section, with the flange at the top of the cross section. Although I-beams are usually preferred because of the additional flange, T-beams are still considered one of the strongest structural shapes for load-bearing needs.

Custom Shapes

When a project requires specific design or support needs, steel fabrication shops are prepared for customized structural steel shapes that can work for any project. Every design ad project has unique needs, and a custom solution may be necessary for the best possible results.

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Working with a capable structural steel fabrication shop alongside your engineering and design teams can help you determine the right structural steel shapes for your unique projects. All shapes have their uses and can work together to create a strong support for your next fabrication project. Experience is key to the success of any fabrication project. With decades of successful builds, consider partnering with Swanton Welding Company. For more information about our extensive capabilities or to get a quote on your next metal fabrication project, contact us today.