H-beam vs I-beam – Difference Between H-beam and I-beam

H-beam and I-beam looks quite similar that makes it confusing to many who is not concered about the differences between h-beam and i beam. Lets discuss about these two structural members.


H-beam is a structural beam made of rolled steel. It is incredibly strong. It gets its name because it looks like a capital H over its cross section. The H-beam has wider flanges than an I-beam, but the I-beam has tapered edges. The width is the flange, and the height is the Web. The difference between both H-beams and I-beams is the flange by web ratio. The H-beam tends to be heavier than the I-beam, and that is why some say that it is better than the I-beam, but that is subjective, as the H-beam is generally heavier.

H beam


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I-beam has tapered edges where an H-beam does not. It gets its name from the fact that it looks like a capital I when you see it from its cross section. With an I-beam, the height of the cross section is higher than the width of its flange. The I-beam is lighter than the H-beam, which means a H-beam is not always ideal.


The thickness of the center web is what is the most important, as that is what takes the force of the weight placed upon it, and that is why a lot of buildings require a H-beam over an I-beam. An I-beam is made by rolling or milling steel which means the I-beam is often limited by the capacity or size of the milling equipment. H-beams are built up; so they are able to be made at any size or width.

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Difference between I-beam and H-beam

It does seem that the H-beam is the better beam. But that is not always the case as it does depend on the use of the beam and the building/structure you are planning to put it into. Here is a closer h-beam vs i-beam comparison of the two beams.



  • An H-beam has a thicker center web, which means it is often stronger.
  • An I-beam often has a thinner center web, which means it is often not able to take as much force as a H-beam.
  • An H-beam may be built up, meaning it can be built up to any size or height.
  • An I-beam may only be built up as much as the manufacturers milling equipment allows.
  • The H-beam is often a lot heavier than the I-beam, which means it can take more force.
  • The I-beam is often lighter, but this is desirable in some buildings where weight and force on a wall may pose a structural issue.
  • The manufacture process means that H-beams can be used for spans up to 330 feet.
  • An I-beam may be used for spans of between 33 and 100 feet. Longer I-beams are not often an option as they are tough to manufacture.
  • The H-beam has a bevel where three pieces of metal come together and look like one piece of metal.
  • An I-beam is just one piece of metal throughout and is not made by welding or riveting sheets of metal together.
  • H-beams have top and bottom flanges that stick out further from the web than the flanges on I-beams.
  • I-beams have top and bottom flanges, and they are shorter and are not as wide as H-beams.

1 thought on “H-beam vs I-beam – Difference Between H-beam and I-beam”

  1. Heavier does not mean stronger. I find it crazy that inertia was not even mentioned once on this page. Any sophomore engineering student can tell you that a H beam will be stronger if you use it as an I beam. The inertia of an I is greater than the inertia of an H with the same dimensions.


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