I-beams have a large variety of uses in the construction industry. They’re used as critical support trusses, which enables the even distribution of weight in a construct. I-beams can also serve as the main framework in buildings.

For heavy-duty jobs, you’ll want to upgrade to a wide flange beam. However, there are multiple wide flange beam sizes to choose from. How do you decide what the best wide flange beam dimensions are for your next project? Here are seven of the most common sizes in the market.

Wide Flange Beam Uses

A wide flange beam is a construction element much like a standard I-beam. The main differences between the two are their size and how much force they can handle. A wide flange beam’s shape is more similar to an H turned on its side. Meanwhile, an I-beam more resembles a letter I due to the shorter flange.

Some of the key characteristics of a wide flange beam include its weight and ability to take more force. You can use them for up to 330 feet and can build up with them. An I-beam is lighter and thinner. You can only use them up to 100 feet, and you can only build up with them to a certain height.

Generally speaking, you would use a wide flange beam to distribute weight over a wider area. They’re used to stabilize earth retaining walls, basements, and bridges.

Wide Flange Beam Material

A few of the different types of steel beams are A992, A588, and A36 low-carbon beams. A992 and A588 are both HSLA (high-strength low-alloy steel) beams.

The first of the two is made of hot-rolled structural steel and brings increased strength and weldability. With it, you can get a 50ksi minimum yield and 65 ksi minimum tensile strength. It’s also highly resistant to corrosion.

A588 beams are also resistant to corrosion but are also made with copper to lower their weight. You get a slightly higher 70ksi minimum tensile strength with this option. A36 low-carbon beans have some of the best weldability and machinability. You have to special order them, and they offer a 36ksi minimum yield and 58ksi minimum tensile strength.

Most Common Wide Flange Beam Sizes

There are many different sizes of steel wide flange beams, and which ones you use will depend on your project. The larger ones are better for ground structures and can support more weight. Their heavier weight may limit their use, though.

The W in the name is short for wide flange, and the number afterward is the section number. You may find different wide flange size categories that can handle the same weight per foot at similar sizes, with the depth of section being the main differentiator. You can use this wide flange I-beam load chart to better determine the size and weight capacity.


This size wide flange beam can carry between 10 and 67 pounds per foot, depending on the depth of section, width, flange thickness, and web thickness. The highest weight capacity option has a width of 8.28 inches and a thickness of 0.935 inches. The lowest weight capacity only has a width of 3.94 inches and a thickness of 0.205 inches.


W10 wide flange beams can carry between 12 to 112 pounds per foot. The depth of section for all of these averages around 10, though the flange width, flange thickness, and web thickness can run similar to other sizes. The W10 beam with the highest weight capacity measures in with a depth section of 11.36.


W12 wide flange beams can handle weights of about 14 to 336 pounds per foot. It has a wider range than W8 and W10, but the depth of section averages between 12 and 13.


W14 wide flange beams start off at about 22 pounds per foot but can go up to 730 with the larger sizes. You get a larger width and depth of section as well, which may limit its uses in your structure.


The W16 beams can handle weights of up to 100 pounds per foot. Although they can’t handle nearly as much weight as some of the smaller sizes, you get a longer depth of section to work with. They cover longer distances well while providing a thinner material. For example, the highest load-bearing option will have a width of around 10 inches, while the strongest option for W14 beams has a width of around 17 inches.


The W18 beams bring a longer depth of section as well as an even smaller overall width. The upper weight limit is 311 pounds per foot, but the flange width is surprisingly thin at about 12 inches.

In comparison, the W16 maxes out at 100 pounds per foot with only a couple of inches less width. One of the main differences is the flange thickness. The W16 has under an inch of thickness, while the W18 has over two and a half inches. As such, the W18 has a much better weight capacity but takes up more space as a result.


The largest size wide flange beam we can provide is the W21. This option brings with it the longest depth of section while providing an acceptable load limit. You can expect it to handle anywhere between 44 to 223 pounds per foot. In turn, the maximum flange thickness of 1.79 provides a thinner beam to work with.

Buying the Right Size

Construction projects require a lot of different parts that serve different purposes in a building. It takes an expert to choose the best wide flange beam sizes and know where to put them.

Intsel Steel West takes the time to learn what our clients need and add products or services to match them. We offer next-day delivery and inventory management. Contact us to learn more about our services or request a quote.

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