3rd Aug 2023 -

Choosing the right lintel is a crucial aspect of any building project, as it directly impacts the structural integrity and overall durability of your construction. Lintels, which are horizontal support beams placed above doors, windows, or openings, play a pivotal role in distributing the load from the structure above, ensuring that the weight is evenly distributed to prevent potential structural issues. In this guide, we explore structural compatibility and outline the essential factors to consider when selecting the right lintel for your building project. Whether you are a builder or a seasoned architect, understanding these key principles will help you to make informed decisions and achieve a safe and successful construction outcome.

What are the different types of lintel?

Lintels play a crucial role in providing support and distributing the load. There are various types of lintels available, each tailored to specific project requirements and material preferences. Understanding the different types of lintels is essential in making informed decisions during the construction process.

1. Concrete lintel

Overall, concrete lintels are commonly used in modern construction. They consist of concrete with embedded steel reinforcement bars to enhance their strength and load-carrying capacity. Concrete lintels can support heavier loads and wider spans than traditional materials like timber or stone.

Where would you install concrete lintels?

  • Apartment buildings: In multi-storey apartment buildings, concrete lintels provide structural support for openings and help distribute loads throughout the building.
  • Retail shops: You can fit concrete lintels in retail shops, such as shopping malls and shops, to support storefronts and entrances.
  • Office buildings: Office spaces often use concrete lintels to support the façades and create openings for windows and doors.
  • Industrial warehouses: Concrete lintels can support the large openings and heavy loads found in industrial warehouse structures.

2. Timber frame lintel

A timber frame lintel is a horizontal structural member made of wood that spans an opening, such as a door lintel or window lintel, and supports the weight of the construction above it. It is commonly used in historical buildings where timber framing is prevalent. But due to limitations in supporting heavy loads compared to steel or concrete, timber frame lintels are less commonly used in contemporary construction.

Where would you install timber frame lintels?

  • Traditional and historical buildings: Timber frame lintels are prevalent in traditional and historical buildings constructed with timber framing methods.
  • Timber frame houses: Residential homes built using timber frame construction often use timber lintels to support openings.
  • Wooden cottages and cabins: Timber frame lintels are commonly used in wooden cottages and cabins, where timber is the primary building material.
  • Barns and agricultural structures: Agricultural buildings, such as barns and sheds, often utilise timber frame lintels in their construction.

3. Solid wall lintel

Commonly referred to as a brick lintel, a solid wall lintel is used in masonry construction where the wall above the opening is made of solid masonry, such as bricks or stones, without any gaps. The lintel can be made from various materials like wood, steel, or reinforced concrete. It is positioned horizontally across the opening to bear the weight of the masonry or construction above it. 

Where would you install solid wall lintels?

  • Cottages and farmhouses: Traditional cottages and farmhouses with solid masonry walls often incorporate lintels for structural support.
  • Load-bearing masonry structures: Buildings with solid masonry walls, where the walls themselves carry the vertical loads, require lintels to distribute loads around openings.
  • Traditional masonry construction: In buildings constructed using solid brick or stone for the walls, lintels are essential for creating door and window openings.
  • Low-rise residential homes: In low-rise residential buildings with solid masonry walls, lintels are commonly used to support the weight of masonry above doors and windows.

4. Cavity wall lintel

A cavity wall lintel is designed specifically for buildings with cavity walls. The lintel used in this construction has a special design to bridge the cavity and provide support for the outer and inner masonry leaves, distributing the load safely. Cavity lintels are available in various materials, such as steel or concrete.

Where would you install cavity wall lintels?

  • Entertainment venues: Theatres, concert halls, and other entertainment venues often utilise cavity wall lintels for architectural openings.
  • Sports facilities: Sports stadiums and arenas use cavity wall lintels to support entrances and openings in their structures.
  • Hotels and hospitality venues: Hotels, resorts, and hospitality establishments use cavity wall lintels for openings in their constructions.
  • Public facilities: Government buildings, community centres, and public facilities also use cavity wall lintels for supporting masonry above openings.

5. Eaves lintel

Also known as a steel lintel, an eaves lintel is used to support the outer edge of a roof where it overhangs the walls of a building. It is positioned horizontally along the eaves (the lower edge of the roof) and provides structural support to the roof's edge. It also serves as a transition between the roof and the exterior walls. Eaves lintels can be made from various materials, such as wood, steel, or concrete. 

Where would you install eaves lintels?

  • Bridge construction: In bridge construction, eaves lintels can be used to support roadway beams and distribute the load.
  • Historical building restoration: During restoration projects, eaves lintels may be used to replace or reinforce traditional materials in historical buildings.
  • Industrial facilities: Eaves lintels are used in industrial buildings, warehouses, and factories to support large openings and heavy loads.
  • Façade upgrades: When upgrading building façades, eaves lintels are utilised to accommodate new architectural features and improve your building's appearance.

How to determine which lintel is best for your project

A timber frame lintel used for a timber construction with a tree in the background against a slated roof.

From understanding load demands and span measurements to choosing the right materials, a well-informed lintel selection process is essential. Below, we reveal some top tips to help you determine the best lintel type for your project and ensure you achieve a structurally sound and aesthetically pleasing outcome. 

1. Understand span and load requirements

You need to determine the total load that the lintel needs to support, including the weight of the wall and any additional loads from the structure above. This will help you identify the required load-bearing capacity of the lintel. 

2. Measure the span

Be sure to measure the span of the opening, such as doors or windows, that the lintel will be supporting. Longer spans may require more robust lintels. 

3. Material selection

Choose the appropriate material for the lintel based on the requirements of your project. Each material has its pros and cons, so you should consider factors like strength, durability, cost, and local building codes.

4. Consult structural engineers

It is essential to involve structural engineers early in the project. They can assess the specific needs of your project, analyse the load distribution, and recommend the best lintel type accordingly.

5. Comply with building codes

Ensure that the chosen lintel type complies with the relevant building codes and regulations in your area. These codes are in place to ensure safety and structural integrity. Contact your local council’s planning office or learn more from the National House Building Council

6. Consider thermal performance

For projects with a heavy focus on energy efficiency, consider lintel materials that offer good thermal performance and help reduce heat loss or gain, such as eaves lintels

7. Weather resistance

If your project is located in an area prone to severe weather conditions, select lintel materials that can withstand such elements without deteriorating quickly. For example, concrete lintels can withstand tough weather conditions effectively and are known for their durability. 

8. Fire resistance

In areas where fire safety is a concern, choose lintels that have appropriate fire resistance ratings. Concrete lintels can maintain their structural integrity in the event of a fire, and fireproof sprays or intumescent paint can be used on eaves lintels to enhance their fire resistance. 

9. Ease of installation

Opt for lintel types that are easy to install and integrate seamlessly into the construction process. In particular, timber frame lintels are simple to install because you can easily drill, cut and shape on-site to fit specific openings.  

10. Account for long-term settlement

Anticipate any potential long-term settlement in the structure and select lintels that can accommodate such movement without compromising the overall integrity. A concrete lintel is a good example because it withstands minor settlement without cracking or failing.

11. Consider aesthetics

While structural performance is critical, aesthetics also play a role, especially in architectural projects. Choose lintels that blend well with the overall design and style of your building.

12. Budget and cost

Take into account the budget constraints of the project and choose a lintel type that offers the best balance between cost and performance. For example, timber frame lintels are a cost-effective choice, especially for smaller openings and low-load applications.

13. Evaluate maintenance requirements

Consider the maintenance needs of the chosen lintel type, including any periodic inspections or repairs required over its lifespan. Although it is a cost-effective choice, timber frame lintels can be difficult to maintain, especially when exposed to high levels of moisture.

What is the load-bearing capacity of each lintel type?

The load-bearing capacity of lintels is a critical consideration in construction, as these horizontal structural members play a crucial role in supporting the weight of masonry or construction above openings like doors and windows. It is important to note that the load-bearing capacity of each type of lintel below is an estimate and other factors such as the lintel’s size, design and material strength should also be considered. 

Lintel typeLoad-bearing capacity (kg per ft)
Cavity wall lintels2,200 - 6,800
Eaves (steel) lintels9,000 - 27,000
Solid wall lintels4,500 - 11,300
Timber frame lintels450 - 910
Concrete lintels4,500 - 13,600

Can you use more than one lintel type for a building project?

Two male builders installing a lintel above a door frame on an outdoor construction against a blue cloudy sky.

Yes, it is possible and quite common to use more than one lintel type in a building project.  When you use different lintel types for a building project, several important considerations should be taken into account to ensure structural integrity, safety, and overall efficiency of the construction. Here are some key factors to think about. 

1. Load-bearing capacity

Each lintel type must be capable of supporting the specific loads imposed on the openings they are intended to span. Consider the weight of the structure above the opening, as well as any additional loads, such as snow loads or wind loads. Ensure that each lintel is adequately sized and designed to handle the expected loads without structural failure.

2. Compatibility with building materials

Different lintel types may have different compatibility with the building materials used in the construction. Ensure that the lintel material you choose works well with the surrounding construction materials, as well as provides a secure connection for load transfer.

3. Thermal considerations

If energy efficiency is a concern, evaluate the thermal properties of each lintel type. Some materials, such as uninsulated concrete, may cause thermal bridging, leading to energy loss. Consider using lintels with thermal breaks or materials with better insulation properties for areas where thermal efficiency is a priority.

4. Coordination and integration

It is important to ensure that lintels of different types are appropriately connected and seamlessly integrated into the surrounding structure. The connection points must be structurally sound and free from potential thermal bridging.

5. Durability and maintenance

Consider the durability and maintenance requirements of each lintel type. For example, materials like steel might require periodic maintenance to prevent corrosion, whereas timber frame lintels may require protection against weathering.

6. Long-term performance

You should think about the long-term performance of each lintel type. Make sure you consider factors like material degradation, the potential for settlement or deflection over time, and overall service life. 

7. Engineering expertise

If your experience of working with lintels is limited, try engaging with qualified structural engineers. They can provide you with expert advice and calculations to ensure that each lintel type is appropriately selected and designed for its intended purpose.

Choose the best type of lintel for your project

At Building Materials Nationwide, we take pride in offering a diverse and top-quality range of lintel products to cater to your specific construction needs. Our carefully curated selection includes a wide variety of lintels, from traditional steel and concrete options to more innovative and eco-friendly choices. Whether you require lintels for residential, commercial, or industrial projects, our comprehensive product range delivers exactly what you need. Confidently select the ideal lintel that seamlessly integrates into the design you build. 

If you are a trade customer looking seeking a convenient way to shop for tools and materials, opening a trade account with us is the way forward. As a registered trade customer, you gain instant access to competitive trade pricing and the assistance of your own dedicated account manager. To open a trade account, apply online and complete the quick application form. Once approved, you can enjoy seamless transactions, efficient order processing, and personalised support. If you would like to learn more about what we can offer, give our team a call for a friendly chat.