Shapes and Dimensions for Structural Steel

Shapes and Dimensions for Structural Steel

Shapes and Dimensions for Structural Steel | Structural steel is one of the most versatile and widely used construction materials on the planet. It is a category of steel that is produced with a specific shape, chemical composition, and value of strength. In advanced countries, its composition, shape, strength, storage, and size are regulated or controlled. 

This material is used widely in both civil and marine engineering projects. Thanks to them, engineers have been able to accomplish feats that were once thought impossible. Some of them include the skyscrapers and long-stretch bridges that appear to be common these days. Click here to learn more about the importance of steel in construction.  

Steel is known for its remarkable strength and structure-providing characteristics when it comes to construction. It remains a fact that the potency and durability it provides cannot be matched by concrete or wood. With its many advantages, it is no wonder that steel is the material of choice for most construction work. 

Composition of Structural Steel

Structural steel has a carbon content of about 2.1% by weight. Carbon is the second most important element in steel, right behind iron which is the most important. By increasing the carbon content in steel’s composition, manufactures can produce materials with high strength and low ductility. However, the carbon content that will be present usually depends on how the steel will be used. 

Also known as mild steel, the low-carbon option is the most widely used form of carbon steel in construction. It typically contains between 0.004% and 0.30% carbon content which makes it more ductile without its strength being compromised. Although the medium and high-carbon options (steel with carbon composition ranging from 0.31% to 1.50%) are also classified as structural steel, they are more commonly used in mechanical engineering projects and applications.  

Shape and Dimension

Thanks to its ductility, structural steel can be made into a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and thicknesses. As a matter of fact, all of these can be customized to meet the specific needs of a project. Of course, you’d pay more to get custom shapes and dimensions for structural steel; the fact that these specifications can be customized explains how versatile this material is. 

Structural steel used in construction can come in a wide variety of shapes. That said, there are a few that are more common than others. 

Bearing Pile (H-Shaped)

These are the go-to option when builders are unable to find a structure on shallow foundations. In such cases bearing piles are used to design a deep foundation system. H-shaped, their design allows them to effectively transfer load through the pile and to the tip with each pile capable of bearing up to 1000lbs of weight. However, we must mention that bearing piles are most effective in dense soils. 


An I-beam, also known as a universal beam or H-beam, has two horizontal elements called the flanges and a vertical element called the web. Both elements have varying functions that help maintain the beam’s durability. The flanges are responsible for resisting most of the bending movement made by the beam while the web resists shear forces. I-beams are widely used in the construction industry as they are very effective in carrying shear and bending loads. 


These beams typically look L-shaped as they have two legs joined to form a 90-degree angle. They are manufactured in equal and unequal legs sizes. For instance, an unequal angled beam may have one leg of 1×0.6×0.1 and the other of 2.5×1.5×0.3. Due to their reduced structural depth, these types of beams are mostly used in-floor systems.  

Hollow Steel Section (HSS)

This is a metal profile with a hollow, tubular cross-section. This steel unit can be circular, rectangular, or square. A circular hollow section comes as a hollow tubular cross-section and has a high resistance to torsion. The uniformity in the density of the walls with the circle makes it ideal for multi-axis loading processes. 

Rectangular hollow sections are like their circular counterparts only that they have rectangular cross-sections. Having flat surfaces, they are typically used for metal fabrication and joining, and in many civil and mechanical steel applications. 

Also known as box sections, square hollow sections are typically used in smaller applications like posts and columns. Their shape makes them unsuitable for use as beams as they are difficult to bolt into other types of shapes. Visit to learn more about columns. 


C-beams have a C-shaped cross-section. Channels have upper and lower flanges with a web that connects the two flanges. With structural size usually available as 60ft, lengths, C-shaped beams are ideal for short-to-medium-span structures. Channels are not ordinarily used as beams, but their flat face makes it easy for them to be bolted with other flat faces. They were originally intended for bridges but have become popular in other building applications. 

Final Thoughts

There are several other steel shapes like the S and T shapes as well. As we mentioned above, structural steel can be custom-made into different shapes to suit any project. This allows builders and architects the freedom to come up with complex building and construction designs that blow the mind. If you can imagine the shape you want, odds are you can bring it to life with the help of an experienced metal fabricator.