18th Nov 2022 -

Window lintels are a vital structural element found in all buildings, helping to maintain the integrity of a wall by supporting the weight above a window. In this article, we will explore the essentials of window lintels, covering why they’re essential, the types available, and what they cost.

What is a Window Lintel?

When windows and doors are installed within a solid wall these openings, and the windows and doors set inside, are not designed to support the immense weight of the roof and any upper floors. In order to ensure the structural integrity of a building, lintels will be used.

Window lintels are beams that run along the top of windows in order to support and properly distribute the structure’s overall weight. In the past, they would most often be found in masonry or brick structures, but nowadays they are a requirement in any building without proper weight support.

Here at Building Materials Nationwide, we have an impressive range of window lintels to choose from.

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The Different Types of Window Lintels

There are a variety of different kinds of window lintels, as there are different kinds of windows and architectural aesthetics. Not only that, but certain window lintels lend themselves to heavier structures and others to lighter ones. Choosing the right type for your window is important, so before you begin looking into lintel installation, make sure you understand the differences. 

When looking for window lintels it’s important to note that in a cavity wall, made from two solid walls with a cavity between them, the lintel will need to cover both sides of the wall or be installed as two lintels, one on each side. Most modern houses will have cavity walls.

Timber Lintels

By far the most traditional, timber lintels were some of the first to be used in Britain. Due to the limited access to good quality timber outside of rural areas, it is not so commonly utilised today. However, they can still be found, especially in heritage properties. Their unfavorability in modern construction is due to the fact they are not as durable or long-lasting as other lintels, they are more expensive, and they are combustible. There are building regulation restrictions around timber lintels, so you should consult an expert before considering installing them.

Brick Lintels

For lighter loads, brick lintels are a good choice. They are made from properly burnt, high-quality brick, and can be laid on their ends or horizontally. Openings must be small, spanning no more than 1 metre and with light loadings. For heavier loadings and wider openings, you can opt for reinforced brick lintels, strengthened with metal bars.

Steel Lintels

Best for much heavier loads and wider openings, steel lintels are one of the strongest types of lintels, offering a hardy choice for most builds. They are also extremely durable, thanks to steel’s natural resistance to rust and damage, and much easier to install than most other lintels. Lastly, most other window lintels are porous which makes them prone to dampness, whereas steel is a great damp-proofing solution. As steel lintels are thin they can be faced with bricks, offering a more attractive look in an external wall.

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Stone Lintels

Like timber, stone is less often used these days, and is instead reserved for stone masonry structures and heritage buildings. This is due to the complex nature of their installation and the difficulty in sourcing. Not only that, but stone lintels are very heavy, which makes them difficult to transport, and when it comes to fitting them, they take expert planning. Often they will be combined with timber lintels that lighten the load and give the lintel some give, especially for vibratory loads. 

Concrete Lintels

By far the most favourable and commonly found choice of window lintel. Their popularity is earned by how versatile they are, and how they are able to bear most loads and fit a variety of openings. Concrete is also a very durable choice that will last for a long time. One downside is that any cracks or damage that appears must be dealt with quickly – otherwise, water will be let in through the crack, which will then rust any metal reinforcements within.

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Window Lintel Q&A

  • Does every window need a lintel? – Window lintels are essential for distributing weight across the wall rather than entirely on the window itself.
  • Do upstairs windows need lintels? – If you are installing windows in the upper storeys of a building, it is still important to include lintels. Roofing is extremely heavy, even without the added weight of foot traffic. 
  • Does a small window need a lintel? – If your window opening measures less than 600 millimetres in width, it is possible that a window lintel will not be required, as the load will be limited. But it is always best to ask a structural engineer if you are not sure.
  • Does a round window need a lintel? – Round windows generally do not require a window lintel, due to existing arched support. Although, for larger portholes, there are circular lintels on the market.
  • How much is it to replace an existing window lintel? – If you have old lintels, it is possible to have them removed and replaced with fresh ones. Costs will of course vary from supplier to supplier, but you can expect to pay between £650 and £1,000 for the replacement.
  • How to tell if a wall is load-bearing or not? – You can check whether a wall is load-bearing by pulling up the floorboards and noting which way the joists run. If they are perpendicular to the wall, then it is load-bearing.

Install New Window Lintels or Refresh Existing Ones Today

Whether you have bay windows or cavity walls, window lintels can and should be installed. They are vital for load-bearing walls but can also be an attractive addition to walls that bear no weight and can prolong the life of a window and its surrounding masonry. Browse our full range of window lintels today; they are perfect for both professionals and skilled DIY installations.

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