The Difference Between H-Beams and I-Beams

Both are types of wide-flange beams, and they look similar enough to the untrained eye to easily confuse the two. There are subtle yet important differences between these two types of beams, though. And each type of beam is better suited to certain applications in heavy civil construction. Here’s an overview of what distinguishes H-beams from I-beams:

  • I-beams are smaller. Their flanges aren’t as wide as the flanges on H-beams. Similarly, the center web that connects the I-beam to its flanges is shorter than the H-beam’s center web.
  • The flanges on I-beams are tapered, while the flanges on H-beams are not.
  • The parts that make up H-beams are welded based on custom dimensions you select. I-beams typically only come in certain, pre-set sizes because they’re rolled or milled.
  • I-beams are one piece of steel, shaped to resemble an uppercase “I.” H-beams are made up of three different pieces attached together, resembling an uppercase “H.”
  • H-beams weigh more and are more load-resistant than I-beams.
  • H-beams can be utilized for spans up to 330 feet.
  • I-beams are best-suited for spans between 33 and 100 feet.
  • H-beams are ideal for use in the construction of bridges, large mezzanines and platforms, and machine bases.
  • I-beams are ideal for supporting frames and columns for trolley ways and lifts. They also are an ideal choice for the construction of relatively small platforms and mezzanines.
If you’re looking for the right H-beams or I-beams for your project, be sure to take a look at our selection of wide-flange beams!