An I-beam, also commonly known as H-beam, W-beam, I-joist, girder, wide beam, universal beam or double T, is a structural support material common in a broad range of residential and commercial construction projects. Their structure, design, and build give them unique and exceptional ability to handle a variety of loads.
I-beams get their name from their distinctive letter “I” shape. They are made up of two horizontal planes known as ‘flanges’ that are connected by one vertical component known as the ‘web’ or ‘core’. The pieces fit together to form a beam whose cross sectional view looks like the capital letter “I” written with hyphens at its top and bottom.
Types of I-beams
There are many types of I-beams, although steel I-beams are the most prevalent type. Other types of I-beams include aluminum beams, wood beams, and wood composite beams. Steel is preferred in heavy construction engineering such as in the constructions of bridges because of its solid structural composition and durability. However, steel I-beams are excessively heavy for use in residential applications. They are also very expensive compared to aluminum, wood and wood composite options.
For light, economical, and eco-friendly I-beams with adequate tensile strength and durability that is almost similar to that of steel, hardboard is the alternative I-beam material to opt for. Most I-beams constructed from timber products are made with high tension strength materials such as LVL (laminated veneer lumber) or solid sawn timber making up the top and bottom flanges, while structural plywood, OSB (oriented strand board) or hardboard make up the web.
Light hardboard I-Beams
Structural plywood and OSB boards make good materials for wood composite I-beams, but hardboard or high density fiberboard is even better. Hardboard, also commonly referred to as a high density fiberboard, is an ecological product made from natural wood materials and compressed at very high temperatures and pressure to create a wood composite product with the highest density. The web section in an I-beam serves as the medium to transmit shear stress within the beam, and hardboard has better shear properties than the other two materials.
HDF fiberboards create a lightweight I-beam which is both strong and durable, while at the same time guaranteeing eco-friendliness in a framing member that is simple to install in residential and light commercial projects. Its flanges enable the beam to resist bending, tension, and compressive pressure, relying on LVL’s enhanced sturdiness and rigidity properties. The web on the other hand serves as the medium to transmit shear stress, while relying on the hardboard’s shear ability and dimensional stability.
Although I-beams made of OSB or plywood may be painted or finished accordingly to improve their aesthetic appeal, hardboard beats them in appearance because it has no glue-lines or joint-lines showing. It can therefore be used with minimal finishing requirements, but if finishing is required, it can easily be done or HDF board can be ordered pre-painted.
Factors to consider when choosing I-beams
I beams come in a wide range of weights, flange widths, web thickness, section depths, and other specifications depending on the desired application. When ordering light I-beams, buyers categorize them by their material-make and dimensions.
Additionally, builders also consider:
- Vibration– A certain amount of mass and stiffness in a beam determines if it can absorb vibrations in its application.
- Bending– The cross sectional strength of the I-beam should withstand yield stress.
- Deflection– The beam’s thickness should be capable of minimizing its deformation.
- Buckling– The flanges should be strong enough to prevent buckling.
- Tension– The I-beam should have an adequate web thickness to avoid buckling or rippling under tension.
The general design of an I-beam enables it to bend under high stress instead of buckling. This is achieved by locating most of the material in it at regions along axial fibers, areas where most stress is experienced. I-beams have minimal cross-sectional areas, ensuring less material are used in their construction while still achieving the desired beam-shape.
Uses and benefits of light hardboard I-beams
Light hardboard I-beams are extensively applied in residential roof and floor framing. They are great for long spans and because they offer exceptional straightness, builders can easily maintain a level framing surface when using them. Builders also love them because they are light to install with minimal labor requirements unlike with steel I-beams. The immense power of I-beams eliminates the need to have numerous support structures, saving time, money, and making a structure more stable.
Most wood composite I-beams also come with knockouts to run wires and plumbing through in order to save time on drilling. They also offer limitless customization opportunities with paints or finishes, and allow a person to hang furnishings on them which is difficult or impossible with steel beams. Hardboard I-beams are also eco-friendly because they are made from 100% HDF wood boards like Tablex, a strong, highly resistant, and affordable ecological hardboard manufactured by Betanzos HB.
If you are interested in develop hadboard I-beams in North America, please contact with our international sales team. Betanzos HB has the ability to develop structural hardboard products uppon request, despite having them in our current Tablex catalog. Therefore Betanzos HB is looking to expand our network of commercial contacts between importers, timber dealers and wood industry.