When it comes to suiting a range of building demands, structural steel comes in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. From ornamental metal work to vast skyscrapers, engineers and builders have been able to create amazing results built on human ingenuity and the almost limitless potential of modern steel. There are thousands of possible dimensions for how to best complete your building, but in this blog post we discuss a few of the most common shapes to get things started.

If you’re looking for professional structural steel fabricators in Michigan to supply all of your project needs in an accurate and affordable manner, Sanilac Steel is ready to get to work! For more than 50 years, our structural steel design and fabrication team has worked diligently to deliver precise outcomes with safety and integrity at the heart of every project. We know how to get the job done right, and will work with you every step of the way to achieve an ideal result!

Keep reading to learn about a few of the most common structural steel shapes in use today, and be sure to contact us when you’re ready for a project estimate!


Shape, Description, Nomenclature

To organize the vast range of steel shapes into simple designations, many steel fabrication companies rely on the shape, descriptive name, or technical nomenclature. The shape is a quick visual description for easy recall (everyone has heard of an I-beam). The descriptive name explains what the steel shape does or represents (a channel beam, for example, represents a top and bottom flange in a channel shape). The nomenclature highlights the shape, nominal height, and weight of the product. For steel plates, tubes, and pipes, this figure will consist of three numbers — height, width, and thickness.

The letters found in the nomenclature will vary based on the original shape the steel is cut from. If you notice that the nomenclature below does not match what you know, it is likely because the dimensions vary from project to project.

S-Shaped – American Standard Beam (S12x50)

S-beams consist of two equal flanges connected by a web to provide depth. These flanges tend to be narrow and sloped, providing ideal resistance across many applications. A designation of S12x50 will mean that your S beam will have a depth of 12 inches and weigh 50 pounds per linear foot.

H-Shaped – H-Beams (HP14x73)

Available with wide, medium, or narrow flanges, H-beams come in a variety of sizes to provide a versatile range of building support, such as use in bearing piles. H-beams feature parallel flanges with a thickness equal to the web. This provides ideal support for heavy structures. H-beams can also be used for bridges, machinery, and even frames for heavy-duty trucks.

L-Shaped – Angle Beam (L6x3x0.5)

Structural angles are available in a wide range of sizes to meet a variety of building needs. Featuring a 90-degree angle, these beams are commonly used to anchor floor systems, as they provide ideal support without a lot of depth. L-beams can be used in masonry applications and repair projects, consisting of light weights to minimize your load.

C-Shaped – Channel Beam (C12x30)

Often referred to as C-beams or structural C channels, this structural steel component features a C-shaped cross-section with flanges on one side. Typically featuring sloped inner flange surfaces, C-beams are often mounted to a different flat surface to maximize surface contact while providing superior strength. You can depend on the reliability of channel beams for walls, roofs, framework, trailers, and even vehicle frames.

T-Shaped – Tee Beam (ST12x38)

Tee beams are typically used in load-bearing applications to reinforce other building materials. While not as commonly used as other shapes, T-beams can provide serious support when implemented by professionals. You can think of this steel piece as an I-beam that has been cut in half, with the web now serving as a stem. The shape of your T- beam will depend on the original beam it was cut from, which can include WT beams (wide flange), ST beams (from S-beams), and MT beams from other shapes.

HSS – Hollow Steel Section (HSS12x6x0.5)

Often referred to as hollow structural sections, HSS beams come in a variety of shapes, grades, and sizes. Consisting of a circular or square shape, HSS has been growing in popularity in recent years. Builders have come to rely on this shape for truss structures, vertical bracing, columns, and more. While not as strong as typical steel beams, HSS components offer superior resistance to lateral-torsional buckling.

Ready to Get Started?

Sanilac Steel of Marlette, Michigan is here to serve as your structural steel fabricators for any project. Over the decades, we’ve refined our structural steel design, fabrication, and erection services to deliver prompt and professional results to each of our clients. If you’re ready to learn more about our company, or you want a project estimate, be sure to contact us today!