Difference Between Lintel & Beam in Structural System!

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Every building has mainly two components i.e. structural components and non-structural components. Amongst the both, the structural components have a more prominent role to play as compared to the non-structural components. Structural components are those part of the building that takes load imposed on the structure and transfers the same from one element to another through the shortest path and ultimately to the soil. It is very imperative to connect structural components properly to transfer load safely to the ground. Both lintel and beam are an example of the same.
Lintel and beam both are structural components of the structure. Though both the lintel and beam are horizontal or flexural member, yet they both are different from each other according to their structural behaviour, load carrying mechanism and the purpose for which they are used. Here in this article, we have tried to differentiate both the terms beam and lintel.

Beam & Lintel

01. Definition

  • According to ‘Frederick S. Merritt & Jonathan T. Ricketts’ (Author of Building Design and Construction Handbook), beams are the horizontal members used to support vertically applied loads. In a more general sense, they are structural components that external loads tend to bend or curve.
  • According to ‘Frederick S. Merritt & Jonathan T. Ricketts’ (Author of Building Design and Construction Handbook), lintels are horizontal member used to support masonry over windows, doors, and other openings in a wall. Technically speaking, they too beam but with a definite purpose and used at a certain location.

02. Function/Purpose

  • It is required to transfer load from slab to columns/walls.
  • The beam provides support to the slab resting on it. It also provides support for the floor and ceilings.
  • Theoretically speaking, it is a sort of beam but technically speaking, it has a supportive role. Its main function is to support the masonry wall above the openings/door/window and transfer its load to sidewalls.
  • The lintel provides support to the load of the portion of the wall situated above it. In some cases, it also provides support to weather shades.

03. Load Transfer Path

  • The beam carries the load from slab/floor/roof and transfers it to the column. From column it is transferred to the footing, and from footing finally to the soil.
  • Lintel carries the load of the wall above the openings/door/window, and transfer it to the walls only.

04. Behaviour

  • It may act as a fixed beam or simply supported beam based on support condition.
  • It generally acts as a simply supported beam.
Also Read: Difference between Column & Shear Wall

05. Geometry

  • Beams may be straight, curved or tapered in plan.
  • Lintels may be straight or curved in plan. But the latest trend is to avoid lintel & provide a deep beam i.e. up to the top of door/ window frame which results in saving time, and offer more sound and durable construction.

06. Width

  • Its width can be equal to or more than the size of the wall below. It depends on the load.
  • Its width is equal to the size of the wall below.
Also Read: What is Lintel? | Definition, Types & Purpose!

07. Length

  • They may be of long span/short span depending upon structural configuration. Length of the beam is much longer as compared to its cross-section.
  • Length of the beam varies as per design.
  • They are basically short span member. Length of the lintel is not much longer as compared to its cross-section.
  • Length of lintel should be 200 mm (minimum) over span. According to ‘SP 7’ (NBC 2005), length of bearing of lintel at each end shall not be less than 90 mm or one-tenth of the span, whichever is more.
Also Read: Difference Between Concrete Beam & Column

08. Cross-Sectional Area

  • Its cross-sectional area is more compared to lintel.
  • Its cross-sectional area is less compared to the beam.

09. Location

  • The beam is supported on column and wall.
  • The beam is a horizontal member placed parallel to slab.
  • The beam is normally provided at floor height of the storey.
  • It is a framing member and part of the structural frame.
Also Read: What are the Building Structural Systems?
  • The lintel is placed on door or window frame or sometimes on the wall.
  • The lintel is a horizontal member placed across the opening/door/window.
  • The lintel is normally provided above the openings, i.e. above doors/windows.
  • It is normally not a framing member and not a part of the structural frame.

10. Use

  • Though it is primarily a structural member, it can also be used as a decorative architectural element.
  • Though, it is also structural member, but not a part of the structural frame.

11. Quantity of Steel Required

  • Steel is almost like an integral part of beam. The quantity of steel will depend on various factors based on structural design. Normally it will have a minimum percentage of steel as it is a structural member.
  • Normally it has nominal steel.
Also Read: Difference Between RCC Framed Structure and Load Bearing Frame?

12. Construction Process/Method

  • The beam is normally casted with the slab as a whole.
  • It has to be casted on site except in the case if it is a precast beam.
  • Beams are not simple and easy to construct as compared to lintel.
  • The lintel can be casted separately during the construction of a masonry wall.
  • The off-site casting of the lintel is also possible. Precast lintels can also be used.
  • Lintels are simple and easy to construct as compared to the beam.
Also Read: Types of Lintels | Their Uses in House Construction

13. Importance in Structure

  • The beam is the most crucial component of the building and, hence it needs due consideration while designing.
  • Most of the time lintels are neglected. At times, these structures are not even provided; which ultimately leads to diagonal crack at openings. But they can be advantageous in reducing heat loss from a building and can restrict the occurrence of dampness and condensation.

14. Types

  • The different types of beams are cantilever beam, simply supported beam, fixed beam, overhanging beam etc. They can be of different materials.
  • Lintels are mostly in supportive role. Normally they are simply supported. Types of lintels are wooden lintel, concrete lintel, stone lintel, brick lintel, steel lintel etc.
Also Read: Importance of RCC Bands in Load Bearing Structure (Masonry Building)

15. Material Used to Construct

  • It is usually in the form of RCC. According to ‘R. Barry’ (Author of The Construction of Buildings), practically all beams today are of concrete, which is usually reinforced with a steel reinforcement.
  • According to ‘R. Barry’ (Author of The Construction of Buildings), in past it was a common practice to support the brickwork over openings on a timber lintel.  Wood lintels are not used today because the wood is liable to the damages during a fire and hence may cause the collapse of the wall above it and also because timber is liable to rot, again causing the wall over it to collapse.
Also Read: Various Reasons of Buildings Collapse you need to Know!

16. Feasibility in Design

  • Design of beam is not easy as compared to lintel as it is a part of the structural frame. But nowadays the job has been become easy as many 3D software are available for design.
  • Design of lintel is easy as it is not the part of the structural frame.

17. Miscellaneous

  • It is usually misunderstood with roof band. But that is the mistake which needs to be avoided.
  • It should not be misunderstood with lintel band. It is not required to be designed for horizontal loads but has to be designed for any cantilever chhajjas, pardi, etc. provided.

The above article cites the difference between beam and lintel. It is apparently clear from the above article that though both lintel and beam are horizontal members of the building, still they are different from each other. Both have different functions and vary in technical aspect as well. Thus, they are functionally and technically non-identical. Hope, this gives you a clear idea about the terms “beam and lintel” and, we hope, you shall not get confused with these terms any more.

Must Read:
What is the Difference Between Structural Analysis and Structural Design? 
Difference Between Flat Slab & Conventional Slab-Beam System
Difference between One-way Slab and Two-Way Slab

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