Structural stainless steel is an incredibly versatile material that can be fashioned in a wide variety of shapes. Architects and builders primarily rely on structural stainless steel as a material for structural support apparatuses, but it has other common uses in construction as well. This blog post will explore the various types of structural steel components, their uses, and their benefits.

Structural Steel Categories

The most common structural steel shapes fall into one of nine categories:

  • American Standard Beam. This type of structural shape contains a rolled section with two narrow, parallel flanges with a connecting web. American Standard Beams are designated by height and weight to give the contractor vital details about each unit’s capabilities. For instance, a specification of W 24 x 90 would indicate a beam that is 24 inches deep, with a weight of 90 lbs./ft. 
  • Angle (L-Shaped). These beams form an L-shape, with two straight legs at a 90° angle. The legs may be of equal or unequal length and are tapered.
  • Channel (C-Shaped).  Channel-shaped beams feature top and bottom flanges with a connecting web. They are frequently used as a cost-effective support in shorter buildings.
  • Bearing Pile (H-Shaped). Construction engineers and builders typically use bearing pile beams to support deep foundations. H-shaped beams are driven into the ground to provide foundation piling and effectively transfer the bulk of the weight load to the tip of the pile. This type of beam is most suitable for use in dense, hard-packed soil.
  • Hollow Steel Section (HSS). As the name suggests, Hollow Steel Section beams have hollow cross sections and look like large tubes or pipes. HSS beams come in a variety of shapes, such as elliptical, rectangular, or round. While HSS beams do not carry fluid (differentiating them from pipes), engineers frequently use these beams within load-bearing columns, such as Lally columns.
  • I-Beam (or H-Beam). I-shaped beams have two parallel flanges with a vertical web. This type of beam contains a web that effectively resists shearing forces, while the flanges resist external bending forces.
  • Pipe. This is a hollow, tube-like structure that can come in many sizes. Piping is an important component of almost any industrial delivery system that carries water, oil, or gas.
  • Tee (or T-Beam). This is a steel beam cut longitudinally through its web, thus resulting in a T-shaped cross section. The flange is considered to be the top of the cross-section. Engineers can derive many advantages from using the T-beam in slab-beam construction, though the extra support offered by the additional flange on the I-beam is preferred in certain instances. Tee beams feature a reduced functional capacity in some applications but are still widely considered the strongest structural formation for load-bearing cases.
  • Custom. Today’s engineers have access to a variety of innovative tools and technologies, such as water-jet or plasma cutting. This enables the fabrication of highly customized structural stainless steel shapes that address specific design needs.

In general, structural steel shapes are manufactured for use within construction applications. These shapes are often classified according to European Standard terminology, such as:

  • S – structural steel
  • 235 – The minimum yield strength of the steel, tested at a thickness of 16mm, which indicates how much stress the steel can be subjected to before it is deformed
  • J2 – Indicates that the Charpy impact test was performed to 27 joules minimum at -20° C
  • K2 – Indicates the Charpy impact test was performed to 40 joules minimum at -20° C
  • JR – Indicates the Charpy impact test was performed to 27 joules minimum at room temperature
  • JO – Indicates the Charpy impact test was performed to 27 joules minimum at 0° C
  • C – Cold-formed steel
  • Z – Structural steel with enhanced strength perpendicular to the surface
  • W – Weathering steel, which is highly resistant to corrosion

Applications and Benefits for Steel Structural Shapes

Steel structural shapes serve as foundational components for a broad spectrum of construction projects. Common applications that utilize T-beams, I-beams, Channel beams, and other structural types include:

  • Marine piers
  • Ship construction
  • Architecture and building construction (often commercial)
  • Wastewater treatment plants
  • Nuclear industry
  • Pharmaceutical plants
  • Truck trailers and shipping containers
  • Industrial equipment
  • Furniture

Structural stainless steel offers a variety of benefits for construction, such as:

  • Durability
  • Long service life
  • Corrosion resistance
  • Versatility

Structural Stainless Steel From Stainless Shapes

Stainless Shapes, Inc. is a family-owned and family-run company with more than 25 years of experience providing structural steel solutions for building applications. If you are in need of high-quality, customized structural steel shapes for your next construction project, please contact us or request a quote.

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