Steel I Beam Load Capacity Chart
The table below shows the maximum weight a steel beam can support. Steel is used for construction because it’s strong, lightweight and easy to work with. Steel beams are usually made from one piece of material, which makes them stronger than other types of materials such as concrete or masonry.
However, they’re not as light as aluminum or even some lighter metals like magnesium.
When you need to build something heavy, you’ll want to use a heavier metal such as aluminum or even concrete. If your project doesn’t require stability, then you might consider using wood instead of steel. Wood is lighter than steel but still strong enough for most projects.
You can learn more about building with wood here: How To Build A House With Wood?
What Is The Maximum Weight A Steel Beam Can Support?
The maximum weight a steel beam can support depends on several factors. These include the type of steel, its thickness, the diameter of the opening (for example, if it’s a 10-foot wide opening), and many others. For instance, if you have a 20-inch thick steel beam and you make it into a ladder with 2 feet of space between each step, then that would allow you to climb up to 40 pounds per foot.
In order to answer this question, you have to understand what exactly a steel beam is. A steel beam is a structural member consisting of two pieces of material joined together at their ends. These two parts are called the “column” and the “railing.” The column is usually made up of several small sections connected together by bolts or screws.
The rafter is another type of structural member composed of many smaller sections joined together by bolts or screws.
A general rule of thumb is that a beam can support up to 1.5 times its weight. So for most beams, up to 900 pounds would be a safe weight.
If you’re welding the beam into place, then you can safely add another 50% on to that number. So in our example above, a 1000-pound person could be supported by a 20-inch thick beam that’s welded at both ends. The same person could be supported by an 18-inch thick beam that’s bolted in place at both ends.
Another thing to consider is the distance between the supports. If you’re building a bridge or some other large structure, then you want to leave at least every column a certain distance apart from each other. If not, then the bridge could fall down.
Keep in mind that these are very general guidelines. It all depends on how the beam is being used and other factors like the type of bolts, screws, welding, and support. Always consult a structural engineer if you have any doubts about your specific situation.
How Stable Are Steel Beams?
If you’re only building something small then using wood is probably overkill. For our bridge, we leave at least 4 feet between each column. Using our 1000-pound example from above, you can see that if the column is more than 4 feet away from another column, then it can only support up to 500 pounds.
How Much Does A Steel Beam Weigh?
The weight of a steel beam varies greatly depending on several factors. These include the size and thickness of the beam in question. The big advantage to wood is how cheap it is and how easy it is to use.
Even though steel is stronger than wood, you don’t need to use steel to build small projects. As long as you’re using common sense and your wood isn’t exposed to the elements, it will hold together just fine.
Steel is much more rigid than wood. That makes it a better choice for building things like houses and skyscrapers where you need the entire thing to be stable and strong. It also depends on whether you’re using a flat sheet of steel or a round beam.
For our purposes, we’ll be using 1/2″ thick steel plate as an example.
One thing you should know is that most metals including steel are usually measured in pounds per cubic foot (PCF). This is how structural beams are typically measured. Since we want to measure a 1/2″ thick sheet of metal in pounds, we can divide its weight by 0.5.
If you’re wondering why we don’t have cities filled with skyscrapers made of wood, then you’re asking the right question. The main reason is that it’s much easier to use steel instead of wood since steel is stronger and more rigid.
For your specific example, I’m going to have to do a lot of guesswork. If you’re making a bridge out of wood then I think it’s way too weak. If our half inch steel plate weighs 20 pounds, then that means it weighs 10 PCF.
You can use this calculator to learn more about PCF.
Did you know? There is no such thing as strong metal. All metals can only support a certain amount of weight depending on the specific properties of that metal. Even though you’re using wood, you should be able to make it stronger.
Most house frames are made out of 2 by 4s which are 1 inch by 2 inches. You can always make your beams thicker or wider if you want a stronger frame.
We’re going to say that each of your columns is a 24-foot long 2 by 6 (1″ x 6″). That means that each one weighs about 57.6 pounds.
How Much Does A Wood Beam Weigh?
To answer this, let’s use the same example of our 1000-pound person. How thick would your wooden beam have to be to support that weight? Well, it would depend on how far you wanted the person to walk. If you’re building a simple bridge directly across a small stream then using wood is probably fine.
The wooden bridge can only handle 180 pounds in the worst possible situation. If you use thicker wood or beams then it can easily hold way more than that. That’s twice as much as what you need for your bridge!
There is another advantage to using wood and that’s weight. Wood is much lighter than steel so it’s much easier to transport to your construction site. This is why most builders prefer to build smaller structures out of wood rather than steel.
If you’re using a 2 by 6, then it’s going to be 3.5″ thick and weigh around 55 pounds. If you use a 2 by 8, then it’s going to be 5.25″ and weigh 77 pounds.
Keep in mind that these are just examples and you can always make the wood thicker if you want a stronger bridge.
Here is another good example of using wood for building a small bridge across a creek.
You use what nature provides and wood has the strength to give us everything we need.
Weighing Your Options
Now you have all the information you need to make your decision. Let’s see what kind of bridge you’re going to build! The bridge did just fine even though it only had a 3.5′ span.
Check your Calculations!
Whenever you’re building a project, it’s always good to double check your work. Wood is a little different than steel in that it can be very sensitive to changes in weight or location. Always check everything before you start cutting wood and keep good records of everything.
If you find that a beam is too weak then adding supports is the best thing to do.
If you’re still interested in building a steel bridge, then you’ll want to go to the next page… This is really easy for wood since you can just lash on another beam on the underside of it.
If you really need to reinforce your bridge then consider adding a steel framework inside the wood or make the wood thicker. Think about what you really need and try to keep everything as simple as possible. The more complicated you make it the more likely that something is going to go horribly wrong!
Are you ready to build your bridge?
Building A Steel Bridge
Steel is an extremely strong material and can support a lot more than you might think. Keep in mind that steel is going to be much heavier than wood so you’ll want to use the lightest steel possible in your construction. You’ll also need certain tools such as a welder, rivet gun, and drill.
You can learn about building a truss bridge from this webpage. If you really want to build a steel bridge then head over to the next page, if not then you can try using good old fashion wood instead!
You should always make sure that you know exactly what you’re doing before starting any construction project. Always use common sense and take safety precautions whenever possible.
Due to the potential dangers involved in working with electricity, it is highly recommended that you consult a professional if you are not fully confident in your abilities. If working with High Voltage is required, it is also recommended that you do not attempt this project unless you have had formal training from a qualified electrician.
Truss bridges are extremely common and you’ve probably crossed many of them in your life. There are different variations of them but they’re all built the same way. It’s really just a matter of getting the right materials and putting them together which is something you know a thing or two about!
These bridges consist of an array of triangles that extend from one side of the river to the other. Each triangle or “truss”
That should be more than enough information to help you get started. Check out the next page to learn about how to construct a simple, yet functional truss. is formed by laying two beams parallel to each other with a third one laid across the top of them.
Take a look at the picture here and you can see exactly what I mean. To make it even stronger some trusses can have up to 5 beams used in them and they can be angled in different directions for extra strength.
These bridges don’t require a rigid structure on either side like the ones you made out of wood do. That means you can just build them right over the water and not have to worry about supporting the land on either side. You can just build them right into an existing bridge or even have one end sitting on land and the other going out over the river itself.
Building A Truss Bridge
Okay, so now that you have a good idea of what you’re going to build let’s start gathering up the supplies we need and get started. You should already know the basic premise of what you’re going to build so let’s get right into collecting the supplies and then actually building it.
You’ll need quite a few supplies for this project as any good bridge should be built to last. You won’t need as much as when building a house but it will definitely still be a sizable investment I’m afraid. Instead, they are supported along their length by steel towers on each end.
These towers don’t have to be very big since the bridge is quite light. In fact, a single thick column will do. The bridges are also lighter because they aren’t made out of wood so you won’t have to deal with termites and other insects destroying your work.
There are some problems with a steel bridge though. The biggest one being the cost. They aren’t exactly going to be cheap to build since you’ll need a lot of steel and someone with the right kind of tools to do the job.
Also, they are heavier which means you’ll have to build stronger supports so it evens out I guess. You can also forget about having a rainbow or pink one!
You aren’t really required to use a truss bridge either. You could go with a more traditional style of bridge if you wanted to. Since your skills have improved so much since the days when you first built that out of wood, you could try your hand at building one out of stone!
It would certainly last a very long time and look nice too as long as you kept it maintained. This might be a better solution than the steel bridge as far as cost since stone is cheaper than steel after all.
Stone Bridge: (Stone can be found in large quantities along the banks of the river)
This is definitely going to be more work and take more time than building the truss bridge but as I mentioned, it will also be cheaper and look nicer in the long run. You can make it any color you want since you can add different minerals to change its appearance. To make a bridge out of stone, you’re going to have to be able to cut and shape it first though.
This means having the right tools for the job.
You aren’t going to need as many of the big power tools you thought at first though. It turns out that your old pick and hammer from last year are all you really need for shaping and cutting the stone. It’s mainly just hard labor since the rocks aren’t going to exactly cut themselves!
Getting stone from the banks of the river and carving it into roadblocks on the road isn’t exactly the safest job either. Since you’ll be working pretty close to the road you could get hit by a car, or one might go out of control and go off the road and hit YOU. (They do that enough as it is! Why do you think that so many trees have been knocked over on the nearby roads?)
Speaking of trees, you’re going to have to clear some of them for the bridge supports. That’s another danger of this project since you’ll be working with an axe near power lines! You really should be careful about that.
Anyway, after shaping and cutting the stone to proper size for each support (and making sure it matches so they all look uniform) then you’re ready to build! You’ll start off by digging holes for the bridge supports. You should make sure they are exactly where they need to be, because you aren’t going to move them!
After that you start placing the stone. It’s a slow process since you want each layer to properly settle before adding the next one to prevent cracks from forming.
In all, building the bridge out of stone is actually less dangerous than using trusses because there aren’t any power tools involved.
Sources & references used in this article:
- Prefabricated connection for steel beam and concrete-filled steel tube column (C Ding, X Pan, Y Bai, G Shi – Journal of Constructional Steel Research, 2019 – Elsevier)
- Experimental investigation of behaviour of axially restrained steel beams in fire (TCH Liu, MK Fahad, JM Davies – Journal of Constructional Steel Research, 2002 – Elsevier)
- Shear in steel beam-to-column connections (DJ Fielding, JS Huang – Welding Journal, 1971 – app.aws.org)
- Response of steel beam–columns exposed to fire (VKR Kodur, MMS Dwaikat – Engineering Structures, 2009 – Elsevier)
- Experimental and analytical study of prestressed steel–concrete composite beams considering slip effect (JG Nie, CS Cai, TR Zhou, Y Li – Journal of structural engineering, 2007 – ascelibrary.org)
- Detecting debonding between steel beam and reinforcing CFRP plate using active sensing with removable PZT-Based transducers (J Jiang, J Jiang, X Deng, Z Deng – Sensors, 2020 – mdpi.com)