Beam Structure (With Definition, Importance, and Types)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published June 9, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Beam structures are an essential type of structural element that construction professionals and certain kinds of engineers are to be acquainted with. These structures play a key part in how weight gets transmitted and guarantee that a building's foundation is in the ground securely. Learning about these structures can help you understand more about how they work. In this article, we explore what a beam structure is, discuss why it's important to understand these structures, and list the most common types of beams used by construction employees and engineers.

What is beam structure?

A beam structure, or simply a beam, is a form of structure used in construction and engineering to create a safe and efficient load route that properly distributes weight across a building's base. These beams resist being bent as a result of the load's pressure. Beams resist this force lateral to the axis. The load distribution pattern is typically comprised of a slab, beam, column, and foundation. This means that the beam gets inserted below the foundation and column to provide more comprehensive support throughout the structure. The fundamental functions of these structures are:

  • Offsetting shear forces and/or beam momentum

  • Resisting loads

  • Distributing loads uniformly

  • Uniting the structure together

There are many types of reinforcements used in these structures, depending on the building being constructed and the function of the beam. The most often used reinforcements are:

  • Main bars: This type of reinforcement is used to carry loads.

  • Support bars: A support bar is a reinforcement that is set in the top part of the beam and works to hold the beam's stirrups in place.

  • Stirrups: This type of reinforcement is used to offset the sheer force or shear stresses of the structure.

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Why it's important to understand beams

Understanding this type of structure is critical in construction and structural engineering since these beams support most of the weight of the building. Beams provide a stable load-path at the building's base, supporting the weight of the building's roofs, ceilings, and floors. Construction and engineering experts are to understand the most suitable kind of beam for a project and how to place beams correctly to guarantee the structure being created can sustain its own force. For instance, if a building is taller, it's likely that heavier and larger beams may be necessary to effectively support the load.

Smaller constructions need smaller beams, since they typically carry a lesser weight and require less support. Choosing the incorrect type of beam can result in the structure being unable to support its own weight, which can be detrimental to the building's longevity and safety. Beams require an understanding of engineering statics and fundamental physics. This understanding enables construction and engineering professionals to effectively identify the loads acting on the beam and select the appropriate size, shape, and material for the required beam.

Types of beam structures

There are a few primary types of beams used in construction and engineering. You can typically classify these beams based on their length, equilibrium and cross-section and include:

Continuous beams

A continuous beam is one that has two or more supports that reinforce the beam. These supports are useful under and between the beams and are typically vertical in nature. Continuous beams are usually more economical when compared to other beam types.

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Simply supported beams

Simply supported beams are those that have supports at both ends of the beam. These are most frequently utilized in general construction and are very versatile in terms of the types of structures that you can use them with. A simply supported beam has no moment resistance in the support area and you can place them in a way that allows for free rotation at the ends of columns or walls.

Deep beam

Deep beams are structural elements that professionals load similarly to simple beams, except that they transfer a considerable portion of the load to the supports by a compression force that combines the load and response. Because they are often significantly broader than ordinary beams, deep beams may help to redirect the load on the beam. Professionals use these beams to create shear walls, floor diaphragms, and the lowest floors of high-rise structures.

Overhanging beams

An overhanging beam is one that is supported in two different areas, typically at one end and in the middle of the beam, but does not have support at the other end of the beam, leaving it hanging. This type of beam extends beyond the walls or columns, and the overhanging section of the beam is unsupported. An overhanging beam is a combination of a simply supported beam and a cantilever beam.

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Cantilever beam

A cantilever beam is one that is free-hanging at one end of the beam and fixed at the other. This kind of beam can support loads with both bending moment and sheer stress and you can use it in the construction of bridge trusses and similar structures. Typically, you attach the fixed end to a column or wall. The tension zone of a cantilever beam is at the top, while the compression zone is at the bottom.

Fixed beam

Some people refer to fixed beams as built-in beams. You can secure them at both ends and they're also immobile. This supplies the structure with very stable support. When experts construct column-like buildings, they use fixed beams.

Trussed beam

Professionals refer to any beam strengthened with a truss as a trussed beam. A truss is a triangle-shaped structural member. Professionals in construction and building design categorize trussed beams according to these support criteria. Experts construct certain bridges and industrial structures, such as warehouses using trussed beams.

Elastic foundation beam

Experts classify elastic foundation beams by their support method. These beams receive support from an elastic foundation that gives equal parts of the beam stability. A railroad track is a typical use of a trussed beam.

Steel beams

Professionals define steel beams according to the materials used to construct them, rather than the circumstances under which they sustain. Professionals in a range of applications use these beams for various purposes. Typically, steel beams comprise two parallel pieces that run horizontally and join to a single vertical segment. This results in the form of steel beams like the capital letter "I."

Reinforced concrete beams

Reinforced concrete beams are structural components used to support external transverse loads. These beams are a support structure that is encased in a concrete slab for protection. These strong beams are used by professionals for larger-scale and load-bearing buildings such as dams, parking garages, stadiums, and piers.

Timber beams

Timber beams, which are made of a variety of wood species, sometimes include trusses. While wood beams may be useful in building, experts often utilize beams made of steel or concrete. Since wood beams are often visible, building professionals may incorporate them into the interior design of a house.

Cast in situ concrete beam

To provide customized conditions, professionals cast in situ concrete beams on the building site. Contractors create these beams by pouring concrete into a mould and letting it to dry on-site. For concrete slabs and foundations, and also structural components such as beams, columns, walls, and roofs, cast-in-place concrete is the preferred method.

Precast concrete beam

In contrast to a cast in situ concrete beam, plants or factories manufacture precast concrete beams. They then transport them to a selected construction site. Prior to delivery, manufacturers meticulously test and treat these beams to ensure a high-quality output.

Girder beam

A girder beam may take on the form of a square or rectangle and get attached to other beams and trusses through other beams and trusses. Professionals often utilize these beams because girder beams can support far greater weight than other types of beams. Construction employees and engineers sometimes use girders to construct bridges and flyovers.

T-section beam

The design of T-section beams gives them their name. Professionals classify this beam according to its cross-section. T-section beams have the potential to be more cost efficient and versatile than other types of support beams. When utilized properly, t-section beams may reduce a room's floor-to-ceiling height, enabling contractors to use them when space and monetary considerations are not enough.

Statistically determinate beam

Engineers, architects, and construction employees classify statistically determinate beams according to their equilibrium states. This may assist specialists in determining the amount of force that a beam can bear. These beams are used to create buildings and structures that are subjected to varying degrees of stress, such as bridges.

Statistically indeterminate beam

Professionals describe statistically indeterminate beams similar to statistically determinate beams based on their equilibrium conditions. Beams that are statistically indeterminate get more reinforcement than is necessary. This guarantees that the construction is completely stable.

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