Lintels are true workhorses within a home or building’s frame, even if they do not get as much attention as the other construction components. The next time you find yourself looking at newly built homes and admiring the windows, or passing by a newly constructed bank in your town and noticing the grand doorway, remember that lintels (and often steel lintels in particular) make these things possible!
Steel lintels are incredibly important structural supports that are ultimately forgotten post-construction when they are done right. If your lintel selections or applications in construction are off, you could be in for a world of trouble. This could mean everything from exceeding your overall construction budget or violating the local building codes to the worst possible scenario, which would be a partial or totally collapsed structure.
Long ago, most of the lintels used in construction were timber, and it is, in fact, still used today by those who prefer its aesthetic. But you cannot beat steel lintels for their durability (and affordability), which is why the market for them in construction jobs is vast.
Because it can be overwhelming to choose the right steel lintels for your particular job, we have provided the four pro tips you should follow to ensure you make the right lintel choice.
Steel Lintels Pro Tip #1: Define Your Wall Construction Type
To determine the correct selection of steel lintels for your job and budget, you need to know the type of wall you are working with in each scenario. The lintel you need for an internal partition may differ from the one you need for a cavity wall, for example.
Ensure you know all of the specific materials and types of wall construction before setting out to choose your steel lintels.
Steel Lintels Pro Tip #2: Know Your Measurements (and Measure Twice)
While this holds true for virtually every aspect of building construction, measurements are crucial for steel lintel selection and application. To determine the length of the steel lintel needed, you must accurately measure the clear span between masonry supports. Then you will need to add to that clear span measurement at least 150 mm on each side for the steel lintel.
Steel Lintels Pro Tip #3: Determine Your Load Support
To choose the right steel lintel, you must understand the load to be supported by the lintel. This piece is incredibly important to avoid any kind of collapse or safety hazard.
The loads a lintel supports come from masonry, the roof, the floor, and more. This can be a complex figure to determine, and you should seek out expert assistance if you are unsure about lintel load spans and what goes into a “Safe Working Load” (SWL) measurement.
Steel Lintels Pro Tip #4: The Load Ratios
The load ratios are also critical to choosing the right steel lintel, which goes back to the need to determine load support and load spans. If you are new to this, spend time mastering the use of load span tables; once you understand how the tables work, you will be able to apply the ratios, and in turn, you will find it much easier to select the correct lintels going forward.
Why Steel Lintels?
Customers often ask us why they should buy steel lintels over the other lintel choices in the construction market. There are certainly some valid reasons why builders would choose the lintel types below, whether it is because of the build’s overall aesthetic, a specific request from the building owner, or even the local availability of the product. Certainly, budget plays a big part in any job, and that goes right down to every door, every window, and yes, every lintel.
We have outlined the drawbacks of these lintels to highlight the reasons why steel lintels are often preferred.
This “old fashioned” lintel was certainly the go-to before steel lintels were available, but the challenge in using them remains that they are not only expensive, but they have a short life span as well. It is hard to argue that “aesthetic” should rule when a product is expensive AND will not last as long as an alternative. Finally, we should also point out the obvious danger of timber as a fire hazard, which is one of the many reasons they are no longer the norm.
A stone lintel beats a timber lintel in terms of cost-effectiveness. Because stone is widely available, it is often used in lintels. It eliminates the fire safety issue, but it still has its own drawbacks. A stone lintel offers little in the way of flexibility, so you can expect them to crack over time. If you want to leave no stone unturned in your lintel selections, you should really consider steel before committing to stone.
Brick lintels are another popular option in building construction; they will not break the bank, nor will they be the cheapest. These are moderately priced lentils that get the job done. But there is indeed a drawback: brick lintels are typically only used in small openings. In other words, you will not have as much flexibility in terms of how and where these lintels can be used in your project.
Reinforced Concrete Lintel
Reinforced concrete lintels are widely used and popular for many reasons—the fact that they are fire-resistant and incredibly strong rank at the top of that list. However, reinforced concrete is subject to shrinkage over time, leading to cracks developing and an overall loss of strength.
The right steel lintels are important for your job, and we want to help you find them; contact Vitz Metals for expert guidance on our products and let us help you choose the best products at the best prices.