18th Nov 2022 -

Lintel beams offer support over the windows and doors within a building, ensuring strength and stability. When looking for lintels to use within a building project, you’ll have to decide between steel and concrete. In this guide from Building Materials Nationwide, we’ll explore the pros and cons of steel and concrete lintel beams, alongside the reason wood lintels are rarely used.

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What Are Lintel Beams?

Lintel beams are a load-bearing construction element designed to support openings within masonry walls. If a window or door is installed without support the structure will be compromised as these elements will not be able to hold the weight. Instead, a lintel beam will be installed above each opening, designed to support all the weight of the building above, which will include all bricks, floors, and the roof. Lintel beams are essential in all buildings and will need to be strength graded for their specific application, with heavy-duty options available. All lintel beams, regardless of material, will be wider than the opening they are supporting, with a minimum of 150mm overlap allowing them to be firmly secured within the masonry. As the exterior walls of most modern properties are cavity walls, comprised of two brick layers with a void in between, lintels will be designed to cover both sides of the outer wall.

What Types of Lintel Beams Are Available?

Lintel beams are made from 3 main materials, steel, stone, and reinforced concrete. Each of these brings its own benefits and drawbacks to a building project. Wooden lintels have been used historically, but are restricted within modern buildings.

Steel Lintels

Steel lintels will be used for load-bearing within masonry buildings for everything from small windows to multi-pane doors. In cavity walls, metal lintels will have flat faces on each side, with a larger raised section within the void. This means that bricks can be installed over them, effectively masking the lintel within construction. Within solid walls, there will be options for box lintel beams, with a larger rectangular box that will be hidden and a flat edge for the outer wall that can be obscured within bricks.

Alternatively, inverse T lintels are designed to fit under and between a solid wall with two layers of bricks. Other steel lintel shapes exist, with options designed around the eaves of a building or wooden walls with an outer timber framing. Steel lintels offer higher strength than concrete, especially when looking at heavy-duty options. They come with a higher price tag though. When it comes to cavity walls, steel lintels can come in one piece, offering another advantage over concrete.

Concrete Lintels

Concrete lintel beams will be constructed from poured slabs of concrete and reinforced with steel rebars, leading to the term precast concrete. This reinforcement is due to concrete having poor tensile strength and will be used within all strength-based concrete applications to avoid cracking and degradation. Unlike steel lintels, concrete lintel beam designs will be large and cuboid in shape, meaning they are visible within a finished construction. They can be decorated in a variety of ways, including with brick slips to give the appearance of a solid brick wall.

Concrete lintels will not usually offer the same level of strength as steel lintel beams but will be perfectly fine for many applications. They also come at a lower cost than steel, which can save a great deal of money over a large-scale building project. In addition, precast concrete lintels can also be less susceptible to corrosion than steel options.

A builder wearing a black cap and grey outfit adhering to lintel compliance during the installation process.

Stone Lintels

A more expensive option with an attractive look, large pieces of stone can be used as an alternative form of lintel. If looking for an uncovered lintel this can be an advantage, with sandstone or other natural looks bringing a timeless quality to your outer walls. However, the price means that this is likely to remain a specialist choice.

Wood Lintels

While timber lintels from wood such as oak have been used historically within buildings, today they are prohibited by the NHBC (National Home Building Council) unless they are protected from weather and are not being used to support masonry. While the wooden lintels within older buildings can offer an attractive rustic look, they cannot be considered for modern buildings.

What Do Lintel Beams Cost?

We stock a range of both concrete and steel lintel beams through our website. The following prices were correct at the time of writing but may have since changed. A 900m length standard strength steel box lintel for solid walls will cost £26.35 before VAT. To compare this to concrete, our lintel beams in 900mm length start at £11.74 before VAT.

Durable Lintel Beams For Sale

Whether looking for steel or concrete lintel beams, we stock a huge range through our site. Building Materials Nationwide works with professional builders across the country, aiming to save our customers time and money by being the one-stop shop for all of their building supply needs. We pride ourselves on our excellent customer service, with our team able to answer any questions you may have, and also for our dedicated account managers, who can help professionals with large or specific orders, including organising express delivery.

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