How to Order Steel Beams

Cassandra Tribe

Steel beams are engineered support elements that, although they may look identical, can very greatly in the load they can carry and the tension and torque they can withstand. For this reason you must use great care when you order steel beams to make sure that the beams ordered match the engineer-approved prints for the beam installation. No substitutions should be made without the engineer's approval.

Get the right steel beams for your project.

Step 1

Locate the beam you wish to order on your steel drawing plans and turn to the general instructions at the front of your building plans. Even if you are going to be ordering several beams, go through this process one beam at a time so you do not miss anything.

Step 2

Note down on your piece of paper the type of flange of the beam. The flange is the shape of the beam as seen when you look at the end. For example, an I-beam looks like a capital 'I' when seen from the end. There will be a notation on your steel installation sheet stating the specific type of flange of the beam (I, S, channel, angle and so on).

Step 3

Note the measurements of the flange. You can find these on the steel beam installation plans in the same area where the flange was detailed. You want to write down the end depth of the beam (d), which is the measurement from the top to the bottom of the beam from the outside edges of the flange (the flange refers to the flat top and bottom of the beam); the center beam depth (y), which is the depth from the top to bottom of the beam at its center (where the main body of the beam is); the center width of the beam body (x); the width of the flange (tf); the width of the beam body (tw); and the overall width of the flange (bf). The letters are industry standard labels for these measurements, and you will be asked to fill these out when you order your beam.

Step 4

Write down the weight per foot of the beam. This will be noted in the same area of the steel beam installation drawings as the other measurements. The weight per foot is what determines the strength, tension and torque of a beam. Look at the general notes section of your building plans under steel and verify that the required weight per foot for a beam in that area of your building (floor joist, ceiling joist and so on) matches the weight per foot detailed on your installation plans. If it does not, stop and call the project engineer immediately and verify that there has been a change or that there is an error. If the numbers agree, note the weight per foot under the other measurements.

Step 5

Write down the overall length of the beam as detailed on your steel beam installation drawings.

Step 6

Turn to the detail page in your steel beam installation drawings and your building plans that shows the types of connections for your beam. Typically there will be a small circle next to the drawing that you have been taking the measurements from with two sets of numbers written inside, one on top of each other. The upper number will match one of the detail drawings on the connection page (telling you which detail to look at for that beam) and the bottom number will tell you on which page in the plans you can find these details. Copy down all the information about the connection listed in the details. You can now call your steel supplier and place your order.